It’s no secret that our Church is home to a lot of beautiful traditions. Traditions are like spices: they add warmth and depth and flavor to the rhythmical cadence of the liturgical year. For most of the secular world, Advent gets lost against the backdrop of the Christmas season. For the Church, however, Advent is its own special season full of distinct and beautiful traditions.
Light a candle every Sunday
You’ve probably seen an Advent wreath during Mass on Sundays, but have you thought about bringing that tradition into your home? The Advent wreath is made up of four candles — one for each week of Advent. The three purple candles represent penance and preparation while the pink candle, which is lit at the midpoint of Advent, represents joyful anticipation.
Start a Christmas Novena on the Feast of Saint Anthony
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother.
The Saint Anthony Christmas novena is a prayer that is popularly started on the Feast of Saint Anthony (November 30) each year. The prayer is longer than your typical novena and is traditionally said fifteen times a day until Christmas.
Leave carrots in your shoes for the Feast of Saint Nicholas
The Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on December 6th and honors the Saint colloquially known as Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas was a bishop in Myra, a small town in what is now Turkey. There are many legends surrounding Saint Nicholas of Myra. In one story, Nicholas tossed a bag of gold through the window of some young women who were too poor to afford a dowry. In some versions of the story, the gold landed in a stocking or a shoe drying by the fire.
From this arose the tradition of placing stockings or shoes by the fire on the eve of the feast, filled with carrots or hay for Saint Nicholas’s donkey. In the morning, the shoes are filled with various gifts. Gold coins, and sometimes small oranges, represent the gold dowry Nicholas gave to the three young women. In addition to coins or oranges, candy canes are often given to represent a bishop’s crozier.
Make a Mary Candle for the Immaculate Conception
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is on December 8th and celebrates the conception of Mary.
One popular tradition for the feast day is to set up a Mary candle in your home. The Mary candle is a white candle covered in a cloth — typically lace or white silk — and then tied up with a blue ribbon. The candle represents Christ, while the cloth represents Mary. The candle remains covered until Christmas Day, at which time the cloth is removed to reveal the candle beneath. The candle can be placed on its own or in the center of your Advent wreath.
Attend a fiesta for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is popular in Mexico and among the Hispanic community. This feast day occurs on December 12th and commemorates the appearance of Mary to Juan Diego in 1531.
In many parishes and communities, a fiesta is held after the vigil Mass. This fiesta generally lasts all night, and sometimes well into the next day. The fiesta typically involves lots of song and dance, traditional Mexican foods, and a reenactment of the story of Juan Diego.
Bake bread on the Feast of Saint Lucy
The Feast of Saint Lucy takes place on December 13. Saint Lucy was a young virgin and martyr during the time that the Roman Empire was persecuting Christians.
One popular way to celebrate Saint Lucy’s feast day is by baking a sweet bread called Saint Lucy’s bread (or saffron buns). In Sweden, on the morning of Saint Lucy’s feast, it is tradition for the oldest girl in the family to dress up as Saint Lucy and wake her family members at dawn to bring them bread.
Decorate a Jesse tree to remember salvation history
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isaiah 11:1
The Jesse tree is a tradition that tells the story of Jesus’s ancestors. Every day during the season of Advent, a short bible passage is read. After the reading, an ornament to symbolize that person or event is placed on a tree. The tree can be anything — your Christmas tree, a branch, even a crafted tree or drawing will work. By the time Christmas arrives, you will have recounted many of the important moments in salvation history from Creation to Jesus’s birth.