On Sunday, December 2, the Church begins the season of Advent, the first season of a new liturgical year, and the time we set aside to prepare for the coming of Christ: both his coming into the world at Christmas, and his return in glory at the end of time.
One challenge facing us—and parents especially—is keeping Advent as its own season. All around us, the world seems steeped in Christmas, which for us doesn’t begin until Christmas Eve. With all the shopping, entertaining, and advertising we have to contend with, how do we keep Advent as a time of prayerful preparation?
I recommend the traditional Advent Calendar. These calendars, which you can find at most bookstores or online, usually feature a series of dated doors or pockets, which you open one per day, usually from the first of December until Christmas day. They come in hundreds of different styles, but the ones I prefer have a scripture verse for each day. Many families make it part of their evening ritual to open the day’s calendar entry, and say a brief prayer together. It’s hard to imagine a more effective counterpoint to the commercialism of the holiday shopping reason than a few moments of quiet prayer at the end of each day.
To celebrate the Year of Faith, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a Family Advent Calendar. The Calendar extends through the Christmas season and suggests a practical activity that parents and children can do each day.