Advent is one of the most important parts of the liturgical year for Catholics and it symbolizes the time of preparation and waiting before the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day. The lighting of the candles is an important part of the Catholic tradition, done both at home and at church, and many families have plenty of rituals and traditions of their own as well.
Advent is often discussed as simply the lead-up to Christmas, but Advent is of just as much importance as Christmas itself for Catholics. In a larger sense, Advent is also meant to represent the period of waiting before Christ’s second coming in the future. All that in mind, let’s talk about a few of the most popular family traditions for the Advent season!
Most kids grow up getting excited about a new treat every day when they open their Advent calendar. An Advent calendar has a door for each day leading up to Christmas, usually filled with chocolate and a part of a holiday tale. By Christmas Day, you’ll have read the biblical Christmas story and collected a lot of chocolate.
There are plenty of different kinds of Advent calendars you can buy now, themed after all your kids’ favorite TV shows and movies. The more traditional Advent calendar depicts the nativity and quotes pieces of the Christmas story from the bible, all leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.
Wreath and Candles
Lighting an Advent wreath and keeping it in the home is normal for most Catholics, and an important way to honor the season. In order to do this, you’ll need a wreath first. Different leaves symbolize different things. Laurel represents victory over persecution, holly and yew represent immortality, and cedar shows strength and healing. Your wreath will also need to hold four Advent candles.
The four candles all have specific meanings. The first candle symbolizes hope. The second candle symbolizes peace. The third candle, the pink one, is generally lit on the third Sunday of Advent and symbolizes joy. The fourth candle symbolizes love. Some Catholics use five candles, the fifth being a large white candle meant to represent Jesus. If you use a Christ Candle, it’s typically lit on Christmas Day.
A Family Meal
Many families turn the weekly lighting of the new Advent candle into a night to come together for a special dinner. Go to the liquor store and purchase some traditional red wine, and set the table with holiday favorites. Fine wine has been a part of Catholic celebrations since they began and large feasts were popularized immensely in the Middle Ages. After you finish, consider sharing your leftovers with someone in need, or spending some time with your family volunteering at a food shelter. Charity is a hallmark of the Catholic tradition, sharing meals with the less fortunate around Christmastime is a perfect example of what Jesus would do. Especially in the Christmas season, remember to be grateful for all you have.
As you can see, Advent is more than just the couple weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s the start of a new liturgical year and an important period of reflection and preparation before the birth of Jesus Christ. Catholics also continue to use Advent as a time to prepare for what they believe is the inevitable second coming of Christ. Everything from the Advent candles to the wine to the wreath has an important symbolic meaning and place in the Advent season. Traditions like Advent calendars, the lighting of wreaths, and spending time with family keep the faith alive for millions of Catholics worldwide each December.