Advent is the first season of the Christian church year and the period of time in which believers wait for the coming Christ child. Many churches that observe Advent loop it into the Christmas celebrations, but some prefer to set it apart. Here are a few tips on preparing for Advent if you want to give the season its own significance.
There are different ways to celebrate the season, and many practices include some type of preparation or supplies. You can still observe Advent without buying anything, of course, especially if you use the same decorations every year. There are a few supplies to consider, particularly if you have children who are visual or spatial learners:
- Advent calendar
- Jesse tree
- Nativity scene
If you get a new Advent calendar every year, you can choose the traditional route or you can go with one of many other options. Having all family members choose the calendars that are the most exciting or meaningful to them is an easy way to add some extra fun to the season.
Change Your Decoration Schedule
Many families put up the Christmas tree and put out the rest of their holiday decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving (which is usually also the first Sunday of Advent) and leave everything up until New Year's Day or Epiphany. This way, they get to enjoy all their decorations for over a month, including their stockings and nativity scenes. Increasing the amount of time the decorations are out doesn't necessarily make them more meaningful, though, particularly if you are transitioning between holidays.
To mark the Advent season, consider waiting to put the tree up until Christmas Eve. Alternatively, you can put the tree up with just the lights and wait to add the other decorations until Christmas Eve. Since Advent is a period of expectation of the coming Messiah, perhaps wait to add the baby Jesus to the manger until Christmas officially begins on December 25. Just a few changes in your decorating schedule can help your family differentiate between the two celebrations more easily.
Plan Charitable Giving
Some use Advent as a time of repentance, and there may certainly be a need for that, particularly if your church is in the midst of making some major changes. Mostly, however, it is a season for focusing on different aspects of expectation, such as hope, peace, love and joy. A practical way to share these gifts of faith is through charitable giving.
You may already have a designated amount in your holiday budget for donations. If so, talk about where the money will go and choose an organization or two to bless as a family. If funds are tight and you don't have extra money to give, consider how you can volunteer your time to help those less fortunate. Involving the whole family in the decision process is a good way to stress the importance of helping others.
Choose a Special Book or Study
If you love to read or you want to explore a certain aspect of Advent together as a family during the season, there are many study guides and books that cater to that purpose. Set aside a specific time during each day to commit to a short reading and reflection. Music lovers may put together playlists to use during daily family time or when opening the next slot on the Advent calendar. Think about the resources that are likely to help you enjoy the season, and make sure you get them ahead of time.
For many people who celebrate Christmas, Advent is the perfect precursor. It builds anticipation into the season leading up to the birth of Christ, and giving yourself space to experience it on its own can make the rest of the holiday more meaningful.