Advent. Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year, and this year's Advent is even more exciting, because it ushered in the new Mass translation. This Sunday was actually our Traditional Latin Mass day (offered once a month in our area), but I was so excited for the new translation, I also went to Vigil Mass Saturday evening. The most awkward part was remembering to say "And with your spirit" instead of "and also with you," but even with that, the changes were no big deal, and much to the dismay of dissident catholics everywhere, the Church didn't implode and we uneducated lay people managed to understand the Mass (even with "big" words like "consubstantial!") We attended TLM as usual the next day, and again, it was so lovely and refreshing to see how much more faithful the "new" translation is.
Luckily, Advent hasn't been commercialized and secularized as Christmas has. The downside is it can be more difficult to underscore to children that Advent and Christmas are two different liturgical seasons. Advent is meaningful and important, and deserves to be celebrated and appreciated for what it is, a time to prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of our Lord, rather than treated merely as a necessity to get to Christmas. It's a deeply spiritual time and I personally feel it's very important to reflect that in our daily lives during Advent. It does not take much time or effort to develop a simple Advent lighting ritual in our homes. We have a wonderful book of Catholic Devotions that has many devotions for the liturgical year. It has many wonderful devotions for Advent that we use every day. Every evening we gather as a family to light our Advent wreath and pray.
(O Come O Come Emmanuel, a beautiful hymn based on the December 23 Antiphon)
Another way I like to honor Advent is by holding off on the tree. I would personally prefer not to put it up until December 24th, but my husband and children like it up earlier, so we compromise by putting it up on December 17th, with the start of the O Antiphons. We may decorate with evergreen and simple lights, but I try to hold off on the things that are explicitly Christmas-y. And of course, there's always the nativity! We set up our nativity, less the baby Jesus and the Magi, at the start of Advent (although this year it isn't up yet, as it's packed away and hasn't yet been found!) I love the look of the nativity scene during Advent, with Mary and Joseph patiently awaiting the Christ Child.
We are so blessed in our Catholic faith to have two thousand+ years of rich tradition to draw off of. What Advent traditions does your family observe?