Advent has a way of getting lost in the holiday hustle and bustle. Probably because it starts right after Thanksgiving, when we’re shifting into high gear for Christmas.
As Catholics, we’re meant to spend Advent preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ. But that’s easier said than done. At this time of year, our senses are bombarded with holiday noise on all sides.
And when Christmas comes and goes, we say it happened too fast and we didn't get to appreciate it.
But it doesn’t have to be like that!
Here are five ways you can slow down and make the most of Advent this year.
1. The St. Andrew Novena
This is a beautiful Catholic tradition. You pray the following prayer 15 times each day from November 30 until Christmas.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, [mention your request] through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
Tradition holds that any intentions offered up through this novena will be answered.
Use this St. Andrew Novena Chaplet to learn the devotion and pray it more deeply.
2. The Jesse Tree
If you’re into Scripture, then you’ll love the Jesse Tree.
Each day of Advent, you read a Bible verse about someone in the Old Testament who’s an ancestor of Jesus.
Then you hang up an ornament with a symbol of that person. You can hang them on an actual tree, but you can also use window cling ornaments or magnets.
It’s a great tradition to do together as a family, especially if your kids are a little older and can understand the significance of it. Here’s a starter kit that makes it easy for you.
3. The Advent wreath
You’ve seen Advent wreaths with the purple and pink candles, but do you know the symbolism behind it?
The circular wreath represents eternal life. Evergreen branches symbolize God’s unchanging love for us. The purple color symbolizes prayer and penance. Purple was also the ancient color for royalty. The pink color represents joy, because Christmas is almost here!
When we light the Advent candles, we remember to prepare our souls to receive Christ the King, the light of the world, when he comes.
Bring this beloved tradition to your home with your own set of candles.
4. The Nativity scene
Every Catholic home needs a Nativity scene. (If yours doesn’t, here’s a beautiful one.)
If you do have one, here’s a fun twist on the tradition: When you set up your Nativity scene, don't put the baby Jesus in the manger yet. Wait until Christmas Day to make it feel extra meaningful!
Putting out a Nativity scene reflects how important the true meaning of Christmas is to you. When you’re surrounded by all the secular holiday noise, your Nativity scene keeps your heart and mind centered on the birth of Jesus.
5. Spiritual reading
There’s no better way to prepare your heart and mind for Christmas than some good spiritual reading during Advent. Two books we recommend are “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives” by Pope Benedict XVI and “A Catholic Family Advent.”
If you’re reading this after Advent started, don’t worry! You can do any of these things to make the most of the time left before Christmas.
We can tell you from experience: Putting some intentionality into your Advent – and then sticking with it – totally improves your experience of the holidays.
Have a blessed Advent!