I was recently asked by Terry Barber, an EWTN radio host and friend, if I celebrate Christmas any differently as a Catholic as opposed to when I was Protestant. It’s an interesting question.
I was actually supposed to be on Terry’s radio show this last weekend talking about this very thing, but I came down with a terrible flu. (As if there is a non-terrible flu.)
Because most Protestants have no liturgical calendar, everything (in my experience anyway) was mostly all about Christmas day. There’s little preparation. Little anticipation.
Frankly, I think this is one of the reasons that Christmas kind of always disappointed. There’s all kinds of build up to this one day – maybe go to a Christmas service, maybe read a passage from the Bible before you eat, people come over, you open some presents, you watch some tv, and it’s over.
And there’s always such emphasis on the presents that if you don’t get something really good, then it wasn’t really a good Christmas.
Of course, if I had been a more holy youth I would have been more focused on Jesus than presents. And I’m sure a lot of our Separated Brethren are far more focused than I was. But my point is that the lack of Advent preparation made it more difficult for me to focus in on what was most important.
The liturgical calendar helps us prepare. Just like Easter is sweeter when you fully embrace Lent, Christmas is more glorious when you dive into Advent.
So here are 5 ways to help you and your family prepare for Christmas:
1. Bring out a creche and hide baby Jesus. This helps the little ones understand that we’re awaiting Jesus’ coming into the world. Also, the kids like to play with the figures. So if you haven’t bought one, get one that’s not breakable. We have the Fontanini set. So during Advent and Christmas they often forget about Legos and play with Mary, Joseph, the animals, the angels. It’s great!
2. Pray around an Advent wreath every night. We sing “O Come, O Come Immanuel” and pray a Hail Mary. The kid’s love it. Candles, Mystery, darkness and light. If we forget to do it for some reason, they remind us. (They also fight over who gets to blow out the candles.)
3. Advent calendar with chocolate. It makes the days of Advent fun and something special.
4. It’s a little late now, but every year we really celebrate St. Nicholas Feast Day (Dec 6). My wife sets it all up with stockings full of candy and other goodies. It’s a great day of fun that helps make Advent fun and reminds us that St. Nicholas isn’t some rotund figure in velour you pay money to talk to for 30 seconds in the mall.
5. A few times we’ve had the kids each pick a charity for us to donate to. This teaches them that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
The point of all of this is that the EVENT of Christmas starts before December 25th. In fact, December 25th isn’t even the end. Don’t forget that we go on to celebrate the entire octave of Easter. Christmas is just the beginning, both of the celebration and our salvation!
Have a blessed rest of Advent!
P.S. If you have a favorite Advent custom, please share it in the comments section below.