By Colleen Pressprich
Advent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons. It’s a season of hopeful anticipation, and one that always provides our family with the opportunity to recenter ourselves in faith, recommitting ourselves to family prayer and living within the rhythms of the Church’s year.
If you’re new to liturgical living, Advent is a perfect time to start. There are many options for how to celebrate this wonderful season as a family.
Hygge: a concept we can all get behind
This defining characteristic of Danish culture is one we can all embrace this Advent. While we may be confined to home more than usual this Advent season, we don’t have to view it as being “stuck at home.” In fact, just changing our mindset can make all the difference! This Advent, my family is going to embrace the winter in the way that the Danes do: by creating within our home a quality of warmth and coziness, an atmosphere of peacefulness and quiet waiting, one that mirrors the liturgical season.
So what does that look like?
For us it means that in the evenings we bring on all the cozy, comfy throw blankets we can find, we light some candles, and we lean into quality time. We read a lot of books during Advent, even more than usual. I switch our living room basket of books to ones that relate to the season – our Children’s bibles, stories of saints with December feast days, and even some Christmas books. I know that some families keep Christmas books away until the 25th, but I’ve found that there is a benefit to introducing them early: it helps my kiddos get into the spirit. (If you could use some new faith-based titles to add to your collection, Brother Francis has plenty of options to get you started!)
There’s some psychology and neurodevelopment behind this too: Because of the way that kids’ brains are wired, tying the liturgical season to feelings of warmth and coziness by adding lots of snuggles and quality time to your evening will attach those feelings to the memories and lessons about Advent you are trying to teach your children.
Up Your Game and Turn Your Routine Into a Ritual
A routine is a sequence of actions done in a set pattern. We all have them. Routines make the world go round, especially with kids. The bedtime routine at our house is especially important: medicine is taken, pajamas are put on, teeth are brushed, stories are read, hugs are given.
A ritual is also a sequence of actions done in a set pattern, but rituals involve our faith – they are actions done prayerfully and purposefully. It’s easy to turn a routine into a ritual, especially during Advent, because there are so many opportunities to plug prayer into routines that already exist.
During Advent, we add ritual to our evening dinner routine by lighting our Advent candles at the beginning of the meal. We say our Advent prayers before we begin eating as well. Check out the Brother Francis reader, The Days of Advent, for daily meditations, prayers, and activities for each day. It’s the perfect addition to your family’s Advent wreath ritual.
You can also add a ritual to bedtime, perhaps by starting a new family devotion that you can continue the whole year round. Our family enjoys a decade of the rosary before bed. Starting simply with a decade keeps the prayer time short enough for wiggly kids and allows them to stay engaged.
Switch Out the Secular
I mentioned above that during Advent I swap out the books in our book baskets in favor of religious-themed books. For important liturgical feasts and seasons, we try to make slight tweaks to our everyday and swap out the secular for the faith-based.
It’s easy to do! For example, instead of watching an episode of Wild Kratts for screen time, we might watch the Brother Francis episode Jesus is Coming or The Days of Advent.
Or when my littles sit down for some coloring while their big sister gets a homeschool lesson done, I’ll print out some of the Brother Francis Advent coloring sheets for them instead of a truck page. That way they’re absorbing the season even in their fun activities.
Lean into the Traditional
One of my favorite things about the Advent season is the way that it connects us to the larger Church, its present as well as its history. Advent is a time to remember our roots as Catholics and is perfect for leaning into traditional practices and devotions.
I mentioned our Advent wreath earlier, but other great options for traditional Advent activities include:
- The St. Andrew Novena: a traditional Advent prayer that is said 15 times each day from November 30th until Christmas Day
- The Jesse Tree: a set of readings that follow the course of Salvation History from Adam and Eve to Jesus
- The O Antiphons: These short prayers have been said in monasteries and convents throughout the world for centuries as part of evening prayer the week before Christmas
However you choose to celebrate Advent with your family this year, I pray that it is a blessed time of hope and waiting for you and your children!