A beautiful season the Catholic Church has given her people to direct their hearts and minds to the ultimate gift – the Incarnation of Jesus Christ at Christmas. It’s designed to be a season filled with prayer, repentance, and most of all a JOYFUL anticipation of Jesus’ arrival.
I think it can be a hard season to fully embrace as a Catholic today.
Why do I think that?
Well, as soon as Thanksgiving is done (who am I kidding, its when Halloween is done) Americans get busy. They start decorating, shopping, feasting, partying, music-ing, etc. to celebrate the Christmas season. The problem is that Christmas hasn’t happened yet. Liturgically, we are supposed to be waiting, reflecting, anticipating, and slowing down to make room in our hearts for the arrival of Christ.
The Christmas season is coming…and all those things should happen.
Just not yet…right? Or can we do them while still waiting?
This is where my husband and I butted heads in a MAJOR way as newlyweds…and if I am being honest we revisit this topic Every. Single. Year.
You see, I want to just go along with what the culture is doing. I want to buy and decorate with ALL THE THINGS, listen to cheery Christmas jingles, host and attend parties, go caroling, bake until my oven breaks, and be so saturated with Christmas that by the time it arrives, I am really really really ready for it. Of course I want to do these things in addition to Advent devotions as well.
I blame it on my melancholic nature…I don’t shift gears quickly or easily so it’s actually hard for me to flip a switch and suddenly become excited about something. I need a buffer time to get excited before the thing actually happens. So in some ways, I NEED to begin the Christmas activities early so that I am actually ready when it arrives, right? 😉
But my better half wants to approach the season a bit differently and if I am being honest, he wants to approach it in a way that is liturgically correct. He wants to wait on Christmas music, decorations, baking, parties…you name it, he wants to wait on it until it’s officially the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Instead he wants to protect and preserve Christmas because it’s sacred and holy. He wants to give our family the gift of well prepared and quiet hearts to embrace Jesus at Christmas. He wants to make sure we haven’t Christmas-ed ourselves out before it even arrives and like the general culture, be done with celebrating December 26th when there are liturgically twelve full days to celebrate.
So this year we’re trying some new things. We’re two adults who respect one another’s opinions and are willing to experiment with how we ought to celebrate as a family. No one is a dictator around our neck of the woods and one person isn’t going to decide our traditions. We will mutually explore options and decide together.
What are we doing this year then?
We are decorating the house in pink and purple for Advent. We’ve got a Jesse Tree devotion we’re doing each evening around the Advent Wreath. We’re spending more time in prayer and plan to go to confession as a family. We’re keeping things simple so we can make room for Jesus at the “Inn” of our hearts. We will switch gears and bust out all the Christmas music, turn on the oven, and change the decorations…but we don’t know exactly when because we will be traveling on Christmas Eve and Day.
I want to clarify and say that I don’t believe this to be a moral issue. If you listen to Christmas music, you are not in sin. Please, nobody run off and take this post that far out of context. We’re just exploring this topic out-loud here on the blog as we process it ourselves. Yes, I continue to Google “How to be a good Catholic and be a?ble to listen to Christmas music” and Jonathan continues to interview families who’ve held off on celebrating.
We’re researching as a family and are trying to figure out what helps us enter more fully into Advent. That’s what this is about – being ready to receive our King into our hearts on Christmas. Whatever facilitates that best is what we will do in the Teixeira home.
I know this is a highly debated topic and I would love to hear from other perspectives in the comments. What have you chosen to do? What helps you get ready for Christmas? How do you embrace Advent?
I’ve had the deep desire to hold off on Christmas-y things until closer to Christmas this year as well. I loved this post and am very happy to see that there are others with similar desires 🙂 I don’t quite know what it is going to look like for me (and the roommates) yet either. I just know that I want things to be “normal” and not adorned until Christmas when Jesus’ birth is ripe for the celebrating. There is an element that I am looking at that is to be quiet (normal). I’ve been thinking about just meditating on what the last month of pregnancy might have looked like for Mary and put myself in her shoes as she prepared for the birth of her son. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Honest opinion from this Catholic- Advent is to Christmas what engagement is to wedding. Yes, the emotional preparation is what’s most important. BUT… you can’t wait until the day before your wedding to start booking photographers, buying dresses and tying all the bows. So I bake cookies, I decorate, and I sing… all through advent… and then during the 12 days I’m able to sit back and enjoy it all. The hard part is the looks I get from my neighbors for NOT taking my lights down before January 6. Wondering what my boss at work is going to say about the lights on my cube up after December 25th.
My husband talks about the idea of “progressive solemnity” in the liturgy, and we’re experimenting with it during Advent, too. So we start out fairly simple with just the Advent wreath and an Advent-themed prayer corner. St Nicholas Day means shoes with treats. Dec 17, when the O Antiphons start, we put up the tree with a purple ribbon for decoration (and some O Antiphon ornaments, if I can find where they got packed), and start putting up the nativity set one figure at a time. I would probably start my Christmas baking and other immediate preparations during this time – can’t do it all at the last minute! I also like to listen to Christmas carols on the Sundays during Advent – helps me remember what we’re preparing for, without being tired of them by the time Christmas actually arrives. Then Christmas Eve, we decorate the tree, and after evening prayer, it’s Christmas, so the celebration can begin! 🙂 Not sure yet if we’ll put Baby Jesus in the manger then or Christmas morning – probably the morning, to leave something to be excited about that day besides presents. 😉 I’m still contemplating how to really celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas, especially now with a kiddo in the mix. Maybe open a small gift each day? Put up another ornament on the tree each day? Read a part of the Christmas story each day? I know some people wrap books to unwrap one a day throughout Advent and Christmas…
Great post! My husband and I are figuring this out during our first Advent/Christmas as newlyweds! And we are JUST like you! I’ve always baked, decorated, sung, etc. and felt like I WAS “preparing” for Christmas. Those traditions mean Advent/waiting/preparation to me. I also do Advent devotions and this year I’m learning about the Jesse Tree. We did start doing an Advent devotion and a rosary by the light of our Christmas tree this year each night and that’s been beautiful. I’ll probably still bake and listen to music…
P.S. Connie- that’s a great example about the engagement season vs. Advent!