Table of Contents
- Weekday Mass during Advent
- Advent Activities for Adults
- Nativity Scenes
- Advent Candles and Wreaths
- Advent Traditions in Various Cultures
When we slow down to truly appreciate the Advent season, it can be transformative.
While the commercial world celebrates Christmas from October through December, Catholics and many Christians recognize Advent as an important liturgical season–one that begins on Dec. 3 in 2023.
We can’t just fast-forward from Thanksgiving to Christmas morning!
Advent is not just a passive waiting; it’s a liturgical season highlighted by unique traditions.
Just as the Mass during Advent features the custom of candle lighting, Catholics all over the world have embraced special activities and traditions outside of the liturgy to embrace this season of waiting.
Hallow explores a variety of Advent activities, customs and traditions you can consider to enrich your Advent in 2023.
Attend Mass on a Weekday
Many Catholics add a weekday Mass to their routines during Advent.
Daily Mass can allow us to experience the liturgy in a new way, breaking from the normal Sunday routine. You arrive at church on a different day, likely at a different time, and perhaps with a different group of parishioners.
You might even decide to sit in a different pew or section of the church. Perhaps you can take note of the art around your parish that you might overlook on a busier Sunday liturgy or listen more attentively to the readings.
These small changes can help you see and experience the Mass in a new way. Even attending one Mass weekday Mass can greatly enhance your Advent. And it’s a great activity to do by oneself–or bring a friend with.
Advent Activities for Adults and those without Families
Leading up to Christmas, so many activities are geared towards families, particularly those with children.
For those without children or with complicated family dynamics, the holidays can be especially challenging.
In addition to attending Mass during the week, there are many ways to participate in Advent without family or children.
Being more deliberate about spending time outside–and enjoying the beauty of nature and God’s creation.
Picking up a new prayer devotional can be a nice way to spend time with God and yourself. You could also read a book: Loyola Press has a number of suggestions for Advent.
Celebrating Advent separate from family or children does not mean you need to be at home by yourself. In fact, one of the best ways you can draw closer to God during Advent is to devote time to those who need it most.
Volunteering During Advent
Spending time to service to others in Advent almost takes on a special meaning: Awaiting the coming of Jesus by seeing His face in those around us in need.
Traditional organizations that welcome volunteers, like soup kitchens, food pantries, and shelters for those battling homelessness, can be especially busy in the winter months as the weather cools.
The need for help can be great, but the supply of volunteers can also spike around Thanksgiving and heading into December. As you explore volunteer opportunities, consider committing to help into the New Year, when the time and resources of other volunteers can dwindle.
Of course, there are many other places to lend your help. The Catholic Volunteer Network lists a wide variety of options. You might find an opportunity more perfectly tailored to your talents than you could have imagined.
Advent Activities for Families: Bake Something Festive
If you have little ones, a great way to involve them in the season is with some holiday baking.
In addition to common holiday cookies, shapes like Christmas trees and candy canes, you can connect your kitchen time more deeply to the Advent season by listening to some Hallow Kids sessions as you and your little helpers traipse around the kitchen.
Cookie cutter sets with more overtly Christian symbols, like this nativity cookie cutter set, can further connect your time together to Advent.
Buy (or Build) a Nativity Scene
Anticipating Jesus, in mind, body, spirit–and figures: Nativity scenes can be visual reminders of the period of waiting and preparing.
They can also serve as easy ways to share your faith with friends and visitors. A nativity scene placed somewhere prominently in the home is a natural conversation starter and a subtle way to introduce your faith to those you’re welcoming to your home for the first time.
Nativity scenes can also remind us of the rich diversity within the Church. Different cultures often portray nativity figurines in their own image. On Etsy, there are plenty of sellers whose handcrafted nativity sets you can browse, and your purchase may support a good cause.
Building a nativity scene can also be a fun Advent activity. You don’t need to be a master woodworker in order to create your own.
One fun aspect to nativity sets is that you can add pieces to it in the future, making it an evolving heirloom. Many families won’t add the Jesus figurine until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day!
Advent Candles and Advent Wreaths
Perhaps the most popular Advent tradition is the advent wreath, often containing Advent candles.
During Sundays in Advent, a candle is lit on a wreath to symbolize our journey through Advent as we await Jesus.
Simple Advent wreaths with candle holder for Advent candles are beautiful additions to homes. Most importantly, their powerful symbolism aid us in our days awaiting Jesus.
Advent Traditions in Different Cultures
Perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects to Advent is the different traditions it has inspired around the world in different countries.
Consider some of these Advent traditions and perhaps they’ll inspire:
Las Posadas (Mexico, Latin America, parts of the U.S.)
The tradition of posadas usually takes place from Dec. 16-24, for nine consecutive days. Posadas date back hundreds of years and spans many parts of Latin America and the U.S.
Two local members of the community portray Joseph and Mary and visit homes, looking for shelter. They are refused shelter until finally being granted entry at the last home, where a celebration takes place. Posadas can take place on a single day.
La Novena (Italy)
A similar tradition takes place in Italy, where children often go door to door, singing carols and calling to mind the journey that the wise men made to find Jesus. The Novena prayer is also very popular at this time.
St. Lucy (Sweden, Scandinavia)
Swedish culture features Lucia Day/St. Lucy Feast, recognizing the fourth century martyr, Lucia of Syracuse.
On Dec. 13, communities, schools and churches celebrate with a procession in which one girl, representing St. Lucy, carries a candle and offers sweet treats to those gathered along the process.
According to legend, St. Lucy brought wheat and bread to the poor and also snuck food to Christians hiding in Roman catacombs.
Jule brød – Bread Wreath (Denmark)
Another tasty tradition that you can easily try at home this year is the Danish bread wreath, known as Jule brød. The yeast bread is filled with fruits such as raisins before coming together by braiding strands of the dough together.
This video, from a Danish cooking show, has the full walkthrough.
Simbang Gabi (Philippines)
Simbang Gabi is a hallmark of the Filipino celebration of Advent. Another nine-day celebration, Simbang Gabi refers to Mass at dawn from Dec. 16-24.
Parol lanterns are closely associated with Simbang Gabi. These beautiful lights symbolize victory over darkness and add beauty to any Advent celebration.
Advent Calendars (All over)
You can get Advent calendars with pretty much any theme you want. They have certainly exploded in popularity to the point where many have nothing to do with Advent at all.
Still, they can help us await Jesus while building excitement for the Christmas celebration.