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How to Wait Until Christmas to Celebrate (While Still Living in the World)

ways to celebrate advent

Today is the second day of Advent. An entire season, filled with joyful anticipation and expectant hope, awaits us. The candles on the Advent wreath stand tall, eager to help us count down the days and weeks until the birth of Jesus.

And we feel a peaceful thrill about this season. We want to savor the days and enter into what it means to “stay awake” and “be prepared,” as Jesus instructs in the Gospel.

But this desire for Advent—for waiting, watching, hoping, and preparing—can be easily overpowered by a cultural mindset that is already celebrating Christmas.

Carols start playing on the radio before Thanksgiving Day. The stress of shopping for the perfect gift appears to be the pinnacle of the “holiday season.” And for practical purposes, school pageants, holiday office parties, and other festive events all happen early in December.

How can we, who long to be present to the liturgical moment, wait until December 25th to celebrate the birth of Jesus? How can we uphold a spirit of Advent, while still living in the world? It might be hard, but it is possible with a few intentional ideas.

How to Wait to Celebrate Christmas + Live Advent Abundantly

Here are six ways to hold off on celebrating Christmas, even in a culture that starts (and ends) celebrating too early:

1. Savor your prayer time.

During Advent, we often desire to refresh our prayer practice by starting anew or adding something extra to our time with the Lord. No matter how crazy the season feels, hold onto this longing to draw close to Jesus this Advent.

  • Schedule prayer in your planner. What time of the day can you regularly enter into the presence of God?
  • Journal through an Advent devotional or pray with the daily Gospel. This helps to stay present to Advent and not jump ahead to Christmas.
  • Add a Eucharistic holy hour (or half hour) to your week. Consider how the shepherds and wise men adored the Christ Child in Bethlehem, and how we can adore that same Christ Child in the Blessed Sacrament every day!

2. Light your Advent wreath.

This simple custom slows down the hustle and bustle that tries to invade our Advent peace. Lighting one candle per week and seeing the slow progression from darkness to light helps us realize how dark our world is without the light of Christ. In what ways is God calling us to move from darkness to light, so Jesus can be born in our hearts this Christmas?

  • Place your wreath in a central location.
  • Bless your wreath with special prayers and a sprinkling of holy water.
  • Light it at the same time every day. Perhaps during your personal prayer time, family prayer time, or dinner.

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3. Wait for it.

It’s good to feel excited about decorating our homes, listening to Christmas carols, and immersing ourselves in all-things Christmas. But waiting to do these things will help us savor Advent. It will also make celebrating the birth of Christ more meaningful when Christmas finally arrives.

  • Delay decorating your home until the third Sunday of Advent—Gaudate Sunday—when we light the pink candle and joyfully remember that our waiting is almost over.
  • Make the Nativity the decorating exception. Set it up early in Advent for meditation and prayer, but leave the manger empty as a reminder of for Whom we are longing.
  • Instead of listening to Christmas carols during Advent, create an Advent playlist to enjoy (or listen to ours). Or savor the peacefulness of these Advent hymns by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

4. Be intentional.

As invitations to parties come in, as the calendar fills up with pageants and band concerts, and as the to-do list grows longer by the minute, it is important to be intentional about how we spend our time during the short season of Advent. What is truly necessary, and what is possibly optional?

  • Seek God’s help as you prioritize. He will surely shed His eternal light on your schedule, if you ask Him!
  • Jesus delights in our desire to make Christmas special for our family and friends. But He also doesn’t want our work to cause anxiety (remember what He said to Martha!). So prayerfully consider declining an invitation, opting out of the cookie exchange, and crossing a couple of tasks off of your list. See how this frees you up to remain present to Advent.

It might be difficult to delay all holiday tasks during Advent, especially baking, shopping, and wrapping. But is there a way to simplify them?

  • Only bake two or three types of cookies, instead of 12.
  • Shop online to avoid stressful crowds.
  • As you write out cards and wrap gifts, pray for the people who will receive them.

5. Celebrate Advent’s feast days.

Celebrate a couple of Advent’s wonderful feast days. Doing this makes Advent festive and fun, especially for kids, while still maintaining a spirit of waiting and preparing.

  • Fill shoes or stockings with small treats on the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6th).
  • On December 9th, attend Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (a holy day of obligation). Place flowers by a statue of Mary, either at church or in your home.
  • Enjoy a Mexican-themed dinner on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th).
  • Serve cinnamon rolls (or authentic St. Lucia buns) for breakfast on December 13th, the feast of St. Lucy.

6. Save Christmas merriment for Christmas.

While the world packs away Christmas on December 26th, the festivities are really only beginning with the Octave of Christmas (December 25th-January 1st). The 12 Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and go through Epiphany. And the entire Christmas season lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, which is January 12th this year.

There are many fun Christmas traditions that don’t need to be crammed into the four short weeks of Advent. We can spread them out during the official Christmas season.

  • Host a movie marathon with your favorite holiday movies.
  • Crank up the Christmas carols and sing to your heart’s content.
  • Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas by learning what each day symbolizes.
  • Cozy up by the Christmas tree and bask in the glow of its twinkling lights. Thank God for sending His Son Jesus into this world on Christmas, to rescue us from darkness and light our way back to the Father’s loving embrace.

How do you wait until Christmas to celebrate? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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sarah damm author

Sarah Damm is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a Catholic wife and mother of six children, living in Minnesota. She spends her days running errands, helping with homework, and keeping up with laundry and the family schedule. Sarah loves her faith, coffee, and good books. You can find out more about her here.

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