Advent Wreath: The Advent wreath has German origins. It symbolizes the millennia from Adam to Christ, when the world awaited its Redeemer. It also represents the years awaiting His Second Coming. The three purple candles represent the penance of waiting. The rose (pink) candle, which is lit on the Third Sunday of Advent, represents the first rays of dawn before the Sunrise of Christ. The Third Sunday is called “Gaudete” (“Rejoice”) Sunday, from the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.” That means, “Rejoice in the Lord always: I say it again, Rejoice!” There are many prayers and readings that you can say as a family in your personal Advent wreath candle lighting ceremony. Do it as a family daily before dinner. Each child can take turns lighting the candles.
St. Nicholas Day (December 6): This is a highlight of Advent. Each child puts out a shoe the night before St. Nicholas Day, hoping that the kind bishop – with his miter, staff, and gift bag – will pay a visit and fill the kids’ shoes with treats. The current Santa Claus (the Coca-Cola version) is modeled after St. Nicholas. For centuries, families gave gifts on both December 6 and Christmas.
The Mary Candle (December 8, Immaculate Conception): Attend Mass on December 8, a Holy Day of Obligation. Put a blue candle, or a candle with a blue ribbon, by a statue or picture of the Virgin Mary. Light the candle before dinner to remind each family member of Mary’s eager expectation of Jesus, the Light of the World. Then read this prayer:
This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly.
In Baptism, you have been enlightened by Christ.
Walk always as a child of Light.
Keep the flame of Faith alive in your heart.
When the Lord comes, go out to meet Him with all the Saints in the Heavenly Kingdom.
St. Lucy Cakes (December 13): St. Lucy was a Virgin and Martyr for Christ. Her feast day begins the Christmas season in Sweden. Her story is found in many saints’ books, along with a recipe for the traditional “St. Lucy Cakes.” Before the evening meal, read a short passage about her life, and then say this prayer:
O St. Lucy, you preferred to lose your eyes than lose the Light of Faith.
You preferred that “purity of heart” to see God.
God gave you another pair of perfect eyes – a miracle! – to show that there is nothing more beautiful than the Light of Faith.
Protect us from sin.
O St Lucy, preserve the light of my eyes so that I may see the beauty of creation and the glow of the sun, which remind us of the Father’s infinite Beauty.
St. Lucy, protect my eyes and preserve my faith.
The Empty Manger (starting December 17): Each child may have his or her own personal manger. Or, there may be one manger for the whole family. Each time a child does a good deed, he or she receives a piece of straw to put into the manger. Then, on Christmas Eve, Baby Jesus is placed in the manger. Encourage your children to make Jesus’ bed as comfortable as possible through their good deeds. Explain that Christ’s gift of Himself at Christmas and Easter enables us to be part of God’s family.
The Nativity Scene (starting December 17): Set up the Christmas manger as a family. Mary and Joseph can be set up away from the manger, as if they were traveling to Bethlehem. Each day from December 17 until Christmas, Mary and Joseph can be moved a little closer to the manger. Older children can make life-size Nativity models, carve them, cut them out from cardboard, or set up pre-made figures. Nativity scene efforts give God glory.
Christmas Baking (starting December 20): Christmas baking usually starts around December 20 for a good reason: the house smells of baking and fresh wreaths. It reminds us that Christmas is getting closer! Add lights to the Nativity to be lighted on Christmas Eve.
Milk Toddies (December 21-24) – For Adults: Whip up vanilla ice cream, whole milk, vanilla extract, sugar, a raw egg (one per serving), and a jigger of bourbon (per serving) in a blender. Pour in glass. Sprinkle nutmeg. Raise a toast, and say this prayer:
Loving Mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
Yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners.
Fr. Frederick Edlefsen