Advent begins the same weekend a majority of Americans decorate for Christmas.  People love “the spirit of Christmas”.  As Catholics we are called not to dive too deeply into the “Christmas Spirit” without first focusing on the 4 weeks before Christmas as a time of preparation and anticipation.  As a parent of 3 children my wife and I are seeking to help our kids be aware of the spiritual nature of the Season of Advent.  Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of St. Nicholas by making special cookies and giving our kids a very small gift.  Throughout the day we talked about St. Nicholas and his generosity (and how we can give like he did).  We also are putting a Jesse Tree ornament on our tree every day (right now the only ornaments on our tree are Jessee Tree ornaments).  When our kids point to the ornaments it is an opprotunity to share with them what they symbolize and sharing the Bible story.  Throughout Advent our family seeks to bring Christ into everything so that what our kids know more than anything is that it is about Jesus and His love and gift of life to us.  Advent is a wonderful time and is filled with a joy and an excitement unlike any other time of year.  Here are three things families can do to prepare for Christ’s Birthday:

1) Celebrate the Feast days (like St. Nicholas) and share stories about the saints life.  Two other great feast Days are the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

2) Share the meaning of all the Christmas symbols…some examples: stockings are connected with St. Nicholas when he put the gold in the three girls shoes; lights whether connected to Advent candles or Christmas lights they reveal to us the light of Christ & how He came into the world to dispel the darkness; cookies and holiday treats – connect it with the Scripture “taste and see the goodness of the Lord (Ps. 34:8); Candy Canes – The candy maker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior.  He thought it could also represent the staff of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.   The white strip symbolizing the virgin birth and the sinless life of Jesus.  The candy maker then added red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received, by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could be forgiven and have the promise of eternal life.

3) Keep the spiritual meaning of Christmas at the forefront of your discussions and conversations during this season.  Do not be timid about pointing your kids to Christ and helping them keep the focus on Christ (who came in human history to save us, who we are called to live and make present in our daily lives and Christ who will come again to Judge the living and the dead).

May Christ be the most treasured of gifts in your family’s life as you journey this Advent and celebrate Christmas!