Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas. But Advent is actually not intended to be an extension of Christmas, which is what usually happens (i.e. Christmas music the day after Halloween!). In fact, Advent is an entirely different season of its own. One might argue that a proper Christmas cannot be had without a proper Advent first. It’s a time of anticipation, quiet reflection, and recognition of the hope and joy Jesus brought us. A time to slow way down.
This brings us to the question: How do I celebrate Advent? And possibly even harder to answer, how do I find the time to slow down when life is so hectic?! In this post, we’ll offer 10 ways to celebrate as a family. We hope you enjoy these tips and try them out with your own family this year!
10 Ways to Celebrate Advent as a family
- Start by asking lots of questions. This will invite your kids to be part of figuring out your family traditions together. Ask your teens what holidays (and specifically Christmas) mean to them. Ask them what their favorite traditions are, why they like them, and why your family does them. What does Advent mean? What is Christmas all about? Why do we celebrate the way we do? Why even celebrate at all? By asking these questions, they’ll start thinking more deeply about your family’s habits, rather than simply doing them because that’s what you’ve always done. It also opens the door to discussion and contemplation, which is much more effective with millennials and Gen Zers than a command issued from above without any explanation or warning.
- Pace. We all know the Christmas season is busy—like, really busy. Throw COVID into the mix and you’ve got yourself one crazy Christmas! This year, we invite you to push back on the busyness and say no to things that aren’t life-giving to you and your family. Are your kids more tired than refreshed after those family Zoom calls? You might consider cutting back on the amount of time spent on screens.
- Practice waiting. Have you ever found yourself tired of Christmas once Christmas actually arrived? Or experienced the huge letdown of December 26? Try waiting a little longer to put up decorations or decorating a little at a time. Perhaps you might wait until Christmas Eve to put ornaments on the tree. You could make a playlist of Advent songs but wait to sing the jubilant Christmas carols until the Christmas Day. Maybe you hold off on some of your usual traditions of cookie baking and favorite Christmas movies until the twelve days of Christmas.
- The Daily Office. Advent is a great opportunity to bring back the ancient Judeo-Christian practice of the daily office (i.e. praying during specific times of the day) from The Book of Common Prayer. Aim for gathering once a day as a family during Advent. When we don’t feel like praying, the words in these prayers speak to and form our hearts, reminding us of the truth. (Here’s an online tool for guiding you through the daily office.)
- Jesse Tree. A Jesse tree is a fun Advent tradition that is perfect for younger children (it’s very hands-on) and could be fun for teens as well, whether or not you choose to use the ornaments. The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Lambert Smith has short simple devotions for both adults and children that walk you through the story leading up to the birth of Emmanuel.
- Music. Spotify has some good Advent playlists. You can find some that are oriented solely toward Advent rather than including Christmas music. Try “Midwinter Carols” by Joel Clarkson, or Simple Advent, a playlist by Tsh Oxenreider.
- Advent wreath. Whether you buy a traditional Advent wreath with purple, pink, and white candles or simply light a candle you already have, this can be a meaningful way to remind us of the season each time we gather together during Advent and keep vigil as we wait. Light it daily, or every Sunday of Advent. You may let the candles symbolize the virtues of hope, peace, joy, and love, but at the very least let them remind you of the ever-increasing light as your hope builds in anticipation of Christmas.
- Serving. Look beyond the walls of your house. Advent practices have always included giving, serving, and reaching out to the poor. Take this as an opportunity to set aside a day (or more) to serve as a family in your community. Ask your teens for ideas on how to do this safely!
- Habits. Consider getting up half an hour earlier than usual during Advent to spend some extra time reflecting, reading, praying, and journaling. Or, take 30 minutes out of your evening to read and reflect. And if your kids aren’t really too into this idea, start by modeling it yourself. First show them that this is something you find valuable by actually doing it, then invite them to join you!
- Gifts. Simplify gift-giving! Don’t get caught up in the stress and consumerism that this time of year often brings. Maybe draw names so that each person only buys a gift for one person. Or choose a dollar amount, then let each person buy a gift for themselves in that range. Or, if your family’s crafty, make gifts for each other instead of buying them. There are many ways to change our habits in this area so that we can better focus on what we’ve already been given.
We hope your family finds the time to slow down and hit the reset button this Christmas. Try a few of these things with your family, or use them as inspiration to find new traditions to do together! Let us know what traditions your family will be practicing this Advent season in the comments. We can’t wait to hear from you!