Advent started on Dec. 2 this year. It can be easy to miss out on this liturgical season because of the hectic nature of the holidays.
Here are five ways to observe these important weeks before Christmas.
Make a Jesse tree
Create your own Jesse tree in the same way that you set up a Christmas tree. Each day, the Jesse tree can aid to remind you of the relevance of the Advent season. You can get creative with how you design your Jesse tree and what sort of ornaments you want to adorn it with. Try making your own ornaments with your children for the tree.
Make an Advent wreath
An Advent wreath is decorated with four candles, or five if you want to include a white one in the center. Each Sunday of Advent you light another candle (purple for the first two Sundays, pink on the third Sunday, and purple for the last Sunday). If you have the fifth white candle, that one is lit on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Keep an Advent calendar on display in your home so that you can keep track of the season. Make an extra effort to attend Mass on each Sunday so that you can fully appreciate the meaning of the season and how it instructs about Christ’s first coming and looks ahead to his second coming.
Celebrate the feast days that fall in the season of Advent
Take extra caution this Advent to be mindful of the feast days that occur during the season. Feast days that don’t fall on Sundays this year during Advent are:
- St. Francis Xavier on Dec. 3,
- St. John Damascene on Dec. 4,
- St. Nicholas on Dec. 6,
- St. Ambrose on Dec. 7,
- The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (a holy day of obligation) on Dec. 8,
- St. Damasus I on Dec. 11;
- Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12,
- St. Lucy on Dec. 13,
- St. John of the Cross on Dec. 14, and
- St. Peter Canisius on Dec 21.
Make a prayer chain
Develop a prayer chain that is 24 links in length and put the name of a person or cause on each link. For each day of Advent, pull off one of the links and pray for whatever is written on it. You can even use the Christmas cards you receive from family and friends for links in the chain.
Five Family Activities To Celebrate The Epiphany
The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated either on the 12th day after Christmas, Jan. 6, or on the first Sunday after Jan 1.
Beneath are some ideas you can incorporate into your celebration this year, inspired by some traditional practices.
Bake a king’s cake
The king’s cake is named in reference to the three Magi. You may have heard of it before in relation to Mardi Gras; Moreover, it is also a well- known traditional food for Christmas time in many places in the world such as France, Belgium, Spain, Latin America, and others.
Celebrate Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night gets its name because it takes place on the 12th day after Christmas Eve. It marks the coming of the Epiphany and is generally celebrated the night before Epiphany. Mostly this is celebrated by having a special dinner and makes for a great time to have your king’s Cake. Some cultures also use Twelfth Night as a time to take down their Christmas decorations.
Look at stars
Since the Magi followed the Star of Bethlehem to find their way to Jesus’ birthplace, many have discovered it fitting to take time on Twelfth Night to go out stargazing. If you have a telescope or not, this could be a great privilege to add a nice tradition to your celebration each year. There are a number of theories about what the occurrence of the Star of Bethlehem actually was. Was it a supernatural occurrence? Or can it be linked to the peculiar movements of Jupiter and Venus that occurred circa 2 B.C.?
Chalk the door
For the Epiphany, many traditions revolve around putting a chalk equation on the door of your house. The equation is written to be the first two digits of the year, followed by the initials C, M, and B, followed by the last two digits of the year. Each portion is split by plus signs. For this year, the equation would be written as “20 + C + M + B + 18.” The chalking holds two meanings. The C, M, and B, refer to the traditional names of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. The letters also stand for the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat” which means “May Christ bless the house.” The plus signs show the cross, and the 20 and 18 simply refer to the year.
Read the story of the Magi
You should take time on the Epiphany to study the Biblical account of the Magi visiting Jesus discovered in the Gospel of Matthew. If you have young children, you may alternatively want to buy a copy of a children’s book that recounts the story or search it in a good Catholic children’s Bible.