Rose pink for the 3rd week
Advent is best season of the year, in our humble opinion.
When family and friends hear this, they think we are crazy. After all, this
is the time of high stress, parties, and all the hectic Christmas
preparation. How can this possibly be the best of times?
When you start celebrating Advent, your whole perspective
changes. The season achieves its purpose of quiet expectation, penitence,
and joy. Here's how we got started.
When my husband and I first got married, we tried to
incorporate both of our family traditions into our Christmas celebration.
His family put up a Christmas tree soon after Thanksgiving, my family on
Christmas Eve. My family had lots of other holiday decorations, not so many
in his family. At first we did it all - a small early Christmas tree, lots
of holiday decorations, and a grand Christmas Eve Christmas tree. I loved it
all at first; he was a bit of a Scrooge because there was too much "junk"
everywhere. After our first child was born, I had to agree with him. She got
We decided to just focus on Advent for a change. It took
several years to feel comfortable with backing away from the traditional
pre-Christmas hype, but it has made the actual Christmas season fantastic.
Focus on Advent
The Advent wreath is simply an evergreen wreath surrounding 4
candles. Traditionally there are 3 violet candles and 1 rose candle,
although sometimes we do see 4 blue candles used. The first week of Advent
we light the first violet candle. The second week, the first and second
violet candles. The third week we light the rose candle in addition to the 2
violet candles. Rose symbolizes joy - the darkness is ending and we now have
more light than dark, since now more than half of the candles are lit. The
fourth week we light all the candles. The Light of the world is coming soon!
The Advent calendar is also fun. Some calendars have little
windows that can be opened up every day from December 1 through December 25.
We have a felt calendar that we re-use each year. The kids take turns
putting felt decorations on the felt tree. I know this calendar is not as
religious as some, but at least the decorations for the tree are angels,
bells, candles, etc. Okay, we admit it, there is also a felt Santa Claus!
The Jesse Tree is an old tradition, but
relatively new for us. This year we have an artificial table-top tree to
decorate. Each day of Advent we put the special home made ornament on the
tree and read the corresponding Bible story. Some days we feel creative, so
draw our own pictures. Other days we use the ornaments that are already
decorated. Feel free to use the paper ornaments we've made. (See below)
Step 2: Delay the Christmas tree!
This is probably the most difficult for most people to imagine - putting
up the tree just before Christmas! I've heard lots of excuses for putting up
the tree early. Getting to enjoy it longer, it's an expected decoration for
parties, it's one less thing to worry about as Christmas approaches...
Give delaying the tree until the 4th week of Advent a try for a year or
two. You may be surprised how much more relaxing December can be. If you
prefer artificial trees, waiting should not be a factor - you can put it up
and take it down whenever you want. If you prefer real trees, waiting has a
definite advantage - saving money! Tree lot owners would rather sell
Christmas trees at a cheaper price later than just throw them away. Just
don't wait until the tree lots have closed! Cutting down your own tree can
also be a great family adventure if you ever get the opportunity.
We have learned that it is best for us to put the tree in the stand as
soon as we get it to keep the tree as fresh as possible and make sure the
stand fits. We've had a few panicky Christmas Eves when the tree trunk was
the wrong size for the stand. My husband has built a few last-minute stands
out of the scrap wood in the shed. I suppose it is a good thing he is a pack
We still put up other holiday decorations, but little by little, rather
than all in a rush. By the time Christmas Eve arrives, we are ready for the
real Christmas spirit!
Step 3: Have a decorating party
Pick a convenient day during the 4th week of Advent for the entire family
to help decorate the tree. Have special food that you only make on Christmas
Eve (We eat hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls, shrimp with cocktail sauce,
and fudge, but probably should not admit it). Reminisce about your favorite
ornaments. Enjoy all the traditions that work fine early in the season;
they'll work just fine a little later, too.
One year we were decorating and several neighborhood kids dropped by.
They were all shocked that we were only beginning our holiday decorating.
They all ended up helping and we had a great time. Fortunately, we had
plenty of food!
Put up the manger around this time, too. We like to wait until Christmas
Day to put the Baby Jesus in the stable. We wait until Epiphany to add the
Wise Men. (More on this during the Christmas season)
Step 4: Minimize the Christmas gifts
If you're on a tight budget, this really helps. Better yet, it can
emphasize the real meaning of Christmas to your entire family.
For close friends we send cards and exchange small, often homemade,
gifts. My husband makes Limoncello, a lemon liqueur, which is
For our family members we try to give family-oriented gifts, like movies
and popcorn, pictures, etc. My sister-in-law likes to donate money in our
name to her local animal shelter. Believe it or not, our kids really
appreciate this. I doubt they want everyone to do this, but a little of it
gives them a good feeling.
We tell our children that we have so many wonderful gifts, there is no
need to ask for much for Christmas. They may ask Santa Claus for one gift,
and that's it. They do get gifts from other relatives, so it's far from bare
under our tree. Santa Claus usually adds a few family gifts, such as a DVD
for family night, as well. We just try to keep the focus on the birth of
Jesus. My husband and I do not give the kids extra gifts, but we do give
them gift certificates for dates. We schedule a time between Christmas and
Lent to go out with each child individually to a special place. Sometimes
it's the book store, sometimes McDonald's, or maybe the skating rink. We set
aside that special time to enjoy each other one-on-one. It is wonderful for
all of us, it makes the dark, cold winter cheerier, and it is much easier on
We started this when our children were very young, so never had to go
through the shock of an extravagant Christmas followed by a meager
Christmas. You may want to make this a gradual change over a few years if
you expect difficulty.
Step 5: Have yourself a merry little Advent!
Take some of the money you save by keeping Advent low key, and donate it
to Catholic Charities, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, or other deserving
Give yourself the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is often
the sacrament people avoid like the plague. If you haven't received this
sacrament lately, try again. The emphasis is no longer merely on confession,
although admitting your sins is still an important part of the healing
process. Now the emphasis is on reconciliation, overcoming your sins and
bringing you closer to God. What better way to lighten your soul and prepare
for the Light of Christ?
Give Advent a chance. Light your Advent candles at meal times, open your
Advent calendar every day, and keep the gift-giving low key. Practice some
charity and repentance. After all, Advent is a time to remember the first
coming of our Lord, as a humble human being. It is also a time to prepare
for the second coming of our Savior, in glory.