A new liturgical year has begun! Happy New Year!! And with a new year we have a new season of Advent.
What are you doing this Advent? Do you have an Advent wreath? A Jesse Tree? Special devotionals for the season? Are you waiting until closer to the actual Christmas season to put up decorations or are they all up already? Any acts of penance?
We started our Advent by pulling out the Advent wreath from the attic and placing it on the kitchen table. The plants that were on the kitchen table have been moved to the living room. Luckily I had bought Advent candles a couple weeks ago, so those were ready to go and we lit our first candle tonight when we sat down for dinner.
At church this morning I picked up the Little Blue Book for Advent. Have you heard of the Little Books? There are several for different liturgical seasons. We usually get the Advent/Christmas book (blue) and the Lent book (black). Our church gets them and provides them to us for a $1 donation. The Advent/Christmas book has reflections and readings for all 27 days of Advent and the 16 days of Christmas. Each day has a reflection or historical info of some kind or customs and traditions or information on a particular feast day. Then on the second page for that day it has a Gospel reading (this year it is taking it all from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew) and usually some sort of question to reflect on. We've gotten into the habit of reading it each night after dinner.
As for Christmas decorations we decided to take things slow this year. I don't like the Christmas stuff to overtake Advent to the point that we forget the whole purpose of Advent. So, besides the Advent wreath hubby also put up the Christmas tree only. No decorations or anything, just the tree. So far that is it. My plan is to allow hubby (yes, I said "allow"*) to put up the nativity scene (except for the wise men and the baby Jesus) next Sunday. On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we'll put up the stockings and decorate the tree, and anything else hubby wants to do that I'm not thinking of. On Christmas Eve, assuming we attend midnight Mass, we'll put baby Jesus in the manger when we get home. We'll move the Wise Men in on January 2 when we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany in the Church. I imagine we'll take everything down around the 8th or 9th when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. I love that we can coordinate our decorations to the Church's feast days so well!!
Then there is shopping. What a way to ruin the spirit of Advent! I know several people who were on a mission this year to finish their shopping before Advent started so that they could enjoy the Advent season without the hassle (and frustration) of shopping for Christmas gifts. I didn't attempt this completely, but did get some of it done so that I could bring things to my family over the Thanksgiving holiday. So now my parents and my niece and nephew are done and I got gifts for my two godchildren as well. So all that is left now is my husband's family and, of course, hubby himself. I expect to knock all those gifts out pretty quickly. So my shopping this year will not be much of a hassle! I hope!
How about you?? Lots of shopping to do? Are you keeping things simple? Or are you already done?
The last thing, I'm going to take my time with Christmas cards as well. I've decided that since they are "Christmas" cards and not Advent cards, that I'm going to get them done over the next few weeks and put them in the mail the Monday following Christmas. This way people actually receive their Christmas card from us during the Christmas season itself. Yes, some people will think I procrastinated, but I don't care. I know what I'm doing and I'm planning it this way.
That's about it for us this year. The Advent wreath, Christmas decorations being put up slowly, not too much Christmas shopping to do, and getting Christmas cards out during Christmas instead of Advent. We are not doing the Jesse Tree, it's a tradition I'm still very unfamiliar with, but have been reading about it some on other blogs. I think I may look into it more when we have kids, looks like something good to do then.
What are your Advent traditions? How are you marking this season in anticipation of the birth of our newborn King? Whatever you are doing, I hope it is a holy and blessed Advent for you!!