Monday, December 9, 2013

Twelve Tips for Sharing Advent with Your Kids

Since it's too soon for the Twelve Days of Christmas, here are twelve tips for celebrating Advent instead. These tips include what you should do, what you shouldn't do, and what you can get away with (I'll promise never to tell).

**What to Do this Advent**

1. Explore other cultural traditions: Learn how the custom of Christmas stockings evolved from the German tradition of slipping treats into shoes or slippers that kids leave near the chimney in the days leading up to St. Nicholas' Day (December 6). Celebrate the Feast Day of the Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, on December 12 at the nearest parish with a large Hispanic community. On Christmas Eve, you can serve twelve fish dishes the way the Italians do. Experiment by adding shrimp cocktail or baked clams to the menu. Dilled salmon steaks garnished with lemon always taste great. Sushi platters or bouillabaisse combine many types of fish in one dish. See how many you can add to your Christmas Eve menu!

2. Pray to St. Nicholas every night: Cant' decide between Santa and St. Nick? You don't necessarily have to kick the jolly old guy in the red suit to the curb. Just remember to pray to St. Nicholas every night at bedtime. After all, he's the patron saint of children. Praying for his intercession during Advent is especially appropriate.

3. Make an Advent Wreath and share pictures on CatholicMom: There's an almost unlimited number of ways to make an Advent wreath. With pillar candles on platters, taper candles in candlesticks, or in special Advent candleholders that have places for four candles arranged in a pretty ring. Check out all the different ways to get inspired and then display what you made on the CatholicMom link-up!

4. See the Radio City Christmas Show: In this era of "winter" concerts and "holiday" tree-lightings, Radio City Music Hall and the famous Rockettes stay almost defiantly Christian. The show starts with a "Ho-Ho-Ho, Merry Christmas" from Santa, and ends with a living Nativity scene narrated with quotes straight out of the Bible. If you live too far away from New York City or the show does not fit your budget this year, rent a video of past shows from your local public library. You won't regret it.

**What Not to Do this Advent**

5. Don't display garden gnome plastic Santas on your front lawn: Please, I beg of you, don't display giant, inflatable Santas that resemble scarily cheerful garden gnomes on steroids. They have nothing to do with the incarnation of our Lord and Savior. Somewhere St. Nick is crying. I know I'm crying. Maybe the garden gnomes are even crying.

6. Don't spend more than 20 hours stressing about the upcoming road trip when it will only last 19: Nothing is worse than anticipating a horror and then actually living it. It will only double your pain. So what if you will have to stop every half hour or so to nurse the baby or take the toddler to the bathroom or get something to eat or walk around to prevent bloodclots and varicose veins. Think of it like labor and childbirth -- you can stand anything for 24 hours, right?

7. Don't whine more than your kids about chopping down your own Christmas tree: This is fun, darnit. Moreover, it is very manly (maybe only for your husband, but so be it). Cold toes, cold fingers, and a maddening level of indecision which is resolved only by finally buying the tree least likely to fit in your house will only add to the joy. Think how much you will laugh about this ten years from now. Okay, twenty.

8. Don't fight over the rules for Secret Santa: I so totally do not do this every year. Just ask my relatives. If the suggested price is high enough to give you nosebleeds or low enough to restrict you to a pack of pencils, don't shout or gripe about it. Just say no thanks, maybe next year.

**What You Can Do & I Promise Not to Tell**

9. Listen to Christmas carols: I know it's not liturgically appropriate to listen to Christmas carols during Advent. But unless you hang out at the mall a lot with your kids, you're not going to hear Christmas carols anywhere except home. We've tried to avoid playing or singing Christmas carols during Advent in the past, and the only result is that our kids don't really know that many Christmas carols, which is a rather horrifying cultural gap. So let it ring!

10. Watch "It's a Wonderful Life": The movie presents a completely incorrect theology of angels -- "every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings" -- really? But it's such a feel-good movie about how everyone's life, even if it seems insignificant and utterly unimportant, makes a huge difference in the lives of others. So watch it with your kids. And maybe explain real angels to them, too.

11. Go to a solstice party: We just got invited to a solstice party, which I think is kind of cool. The winter solstice is a real astronomical event, not just a pagan invention (it also happens to fall on my birthday). Plus, if you go to a solstice party, then you're not really going to a Christmas party during Advent (which is a little dicey) and you're not attending a "holiday" party, either (and turning a Christmas party into a "holiday" party really annoys a lot of people). So, celebrate the solstice and wish me happy birthday while you're at it.

12. Offer your kids a big Christmas gift as a bribe for good behavior through Advent: My son Miguel has adopted a type of behavior that he calls "iPod behavior." He'll set the table without being asked, say please and thank-you, and generally act like a pleasant human being. Then he will point out that this is the type of behavior I can expect to continue if he gets an iPod Touch for Christmas. Works well for me!

What's your favorite Advent tip? Please tell us in the comments! And if you have other tips, please let us know!


  1. That picture taken with that "Santa"-Lady dressed like ... is not very ... CATHOLIC.
    Please watch this :
    You have many posts about sexuality but none is how the Church teaches.
    Read the material about St. Padro Pio and what he said and did about "chastity".
    Gob bless

  2. Bernhardt, I am not aware of any post I have written about sexuality that goes against what the Church teaches. With respect to modesty, the Catechism states: "The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another." (sec. 2524). While I love Padre Pio, he lived in another country at another time. In today's modern American culture, virtually no one would be surprised or offended by a dancing costume like the Rockette's which shows her legs. They certainly would not consider it unchaste. Please note that the two other females in the picture are covered from head to toe! I looked briefly at the video you posted -- the statement that God does not love you (as a woman) if you wear pants or jeans like a man is utterly false and has no basis in Catholicism.

    1. Karee, your posts are NOT against the Church ...

      i recently read this post :

      So what ... that Padre Pio lived in another country at another time ???
      He became saint because he lived like one and acted like one : No woman came to Church if he was not dressed like you wrote "covered from head to toe".
      The other priests hang on the street signs that remembered women about that.
      Did you knew that ?!

      Our Lady of Fatima did know in 1917 this pending denuding program. It should FRIGHTEN US to recall the prophecy she revealed to Jacinta,

      "Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much." said Our Lady.

      There are so much examples ...

      I noticed the two other women ... but let's get to the point i am a man and so are other billions - we are attracted to women, this is our nature. THE WOMAN MUST NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT. Like this it was in the beginning with Adam and Eve.

      "A woman shall not be clothed with man's apparel: neither shall a man use women's apparel. For he that doth these things is abominable before God." (Deut. 22:5)

      Pope Francis ‏wrote :
      There is no such thing as low-cost Christianity. Following Jesus means swimming against the tide, ...

      Please read if you have some time about Modernism -
      This "today's modern American culture" has infected the most part of the world ...
      please take a look at this :

      and Please Tell me that I’m wrong !
      Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus

      God Bless

  3. Please consider writing posts about "chastity" in the future.
    In your "Labels" list on the right i don't find it.