It seems like the second the clock struck midnight on November 1st, we’ve all been assaulted with all things Christmas! Some retailers started even as early as September! Because of this, it’s easy to forget that in between Thanksgiving Day (for us Americans) and Christmas, there is a wonderful liturgical season that often gets overlooked.
Affectionately dubbed “mini Lent” by many Catholics, Advent is a time for quiet reflection. Unfortunately, it gets drowned out by all the sights, smells, and sounds of the secular world’s attempt to cram as much Christmas in as possible prior to Christmas Day.
However, we as Catholics, know better, right? We know better than to get caught up in the hype and Christmas frenzy we see everywhere. Still, in case you need a little help in that department, here are eight ways how not to celebrate Advent.
Blast Christmas music for everyone to hear
I know, I know . . . this is a controversial topic. Some people (myself included) love Christmas music and would listen to it year-round if they could. However—and I promise I’m not trying to rain on your parade!—the Christmas season doesn’t technically begin until Christmas Day.
That’s 24 days between this year’s beginning of Advent to the beginning of Christmastide. Don’t worry, you can go big and celebrate the season through Candlemas on February 2nd! If you don’t want to forego all holiday music, try to stick to classics that talk about the season (winter) and not Christmas, e.g. “Winter Wonderland.” If you really want a challenge, refrain from all music (Advent hymns and music at Mass excluded) until Christmas Day. Embrace the silence!
Wish everyone a “Merry Christmas” beforehand
The exception to this is if a couple of days beforehand, you know you won’t see the person again until after Christmas or if you’re doing last-minute shopping and want to wish the cashier a Merry Christmas. Otherwise, try to wait until the actual day and the days following it! If you’re amongst Catholic friends, wish them a fruitful Advent or a Happy New Liturgical Year. In fact, I triple-dog-dare you to say these things to remind people of the Advent season.
Ignore the religious significance and focus on all the sales.
Black Friday! Small Business Saturday! Cyber Monday! Christmas sales!! To quote Veruca Salt, “Don’t care how, I want it now!” There are so many shiny new things I want! That’s what the season is all about, right? Nope. While there’s nothing wrong with getting gifts on sale—especially if you’re on a tight budget this year—don’t forget what Advent is all about.
Beyond the consumerism, it’s a time for quiet reflection on the upcoming celebration of the birth of Christ. Although it may seem impossible, try to carve 5-10 minutes of quiet time each day, in the middle of all the frenzy, to reflect on the greatest gift humanity received.
Light all 4 Advent candles at once
“But the symmetry! The aesthetics!” I’m sorry, friends. I know it isn’t always visually pleasing to have one candle on when there are others on the wreath but there’s a reason why we light one candle per week in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. Don’t know anything about the Advent wreath or the significance of each candle? You can read all about it here.
Open all the Advent calendar doors or windows at once
I know! It’s so hard to wait when the Advent calendar has particularly awesome gifts and your curious is threatening to get the better of you. Patience may be a virtue but it’s one that we must cultivate with hard work. Just like we quietly anticipate the coming of Christ, so must we, too, wait to see what goodies await us.
Yes, there’s a correlation there. If you want to keep the spirit of the season alive, check out one of the many Advent calendars available for Catholics such as the one set up by the USCCB or the interactive one set up by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Skip Mass until Christmas
No, our obligation to attend Mass isn’t only for Christmas and Easter. We’re to go every Sunday and holy day of obligation. Yes, that means braving the cold and elements (when it’s not dangerous to do so) to attend Mass. The Masses during Advent are beautiful in their own respects, especially in the parishes that make sure their parishioners make the most out of the Advent season. If you are unable to attend due to inclement weather or illness, there are various sources online, via apps, and even on EWTN so that you don’t miss out on a single Mass leading up to Christmas Day.
Wait until the calendar new year to start resolutions
This is something I’ve done for years and has been a real game-changer for my spiritual life. Instead of making New Years’ resolutions for January 1, I make them for the new liturgical year, which begins on the first day of Advent. Is there something that you want to work on in your spiritual life? More Scripture reading during the week? More time in prayer? Praying the Rosary more often? This is the perfect time to do so.
And just like the New (calendar) Year resolutions, don’t beat yourself up nor give up if you slip up one or two days. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will these great habits to enrich your spiritual life.
Forego the chance to make a mini-retreat
Websites like Pray More Novenas and Dynamic Catholic have programs you can sign up for to receive weekly or daily Advent reflections to do your own little retreat from the comfort of your home or wherever you may be. Remember those 5-10 minutes per day of silence I suggested earlier? You can watch the videos or read the reflections on your own. No one said you couldn’t have a mini DIY Advent retreat while getting everything else done.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the Advent season, try to remember that there is a reason for the season. May you all have a fruitful Advent season!