Four ways to keep the Advent season in proportion

Off we go, into Advent and Christmas! If you’re a mother, you’re probably in charge of setting the tone for the entire family for the next month or so, and it probably feels like a gargantuan job. Here are a few things I’ve learned, that help me keep things in proportion.

Nobody is doing everything. If you read a lot of lifestyle magazines and websites or if you go on social media, especially if you are a member of a lot of women’s groups, your feed at this time of year will become an overwhelming parade of gorgeous, meaningful, liturgically appropriate practices and traditions. Foods you can make, prayers you can pray, special events you can plan or attend, presents you can craft, decorations you can arrange, songs you can sing, stories you can read, and all manner of fragrant and illuminated and sparkly and reverent and crafty and fulfilling ideas.

You must firmly tell yourself: This is the work of a CROWD. Nobody is doing all of this. Most people are doing a few things, and when you put it all together, it’s a lot. That’s what you’re seeing. If you look at your individual efforts and match it against what you’re seeing, of course it’s going to look paltry, because you’re just one person.

There are a few people who are doing a lot of things, and hooray for them, but they truly do not win any prizes for this. If you are doing anything at all to mark Advent and Christmas as a season that is different from the rest of the year — even if you’re just making sure you get the family to confession sometime before Christmas! — then you are doing it right. Light a candle and call it good. Nobody is doing everything.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly. 

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4 thoughts on “Four ways to keep the Advent season in proportion”

  1. Something future parents and parents of only preschool age children should keep in mind is that often traditions are thrust upon you. For instance, our parish school does a big mandatory Christmas show every year. It’s a giant pain in the butt for the parents and if I could’ve opted my kids out, very often I would’ve. BUT all my kids have some fun and funny memories from those shows. And any kid who plays an instrument, dances, or takes voice will definitely be having a December recital. Sometimes several. And this year, scouts, CYO, and other youth groups are back to caroling in nursing homes (after COVID). And somewhere in all of this hustle and bustle (and driving!) are the family obligations with grandparents and cousins, etc. December with children is very busy. December with a lot of kids is insane. Proceed with caution.

  2. Our biggest Advent tradition is de-cluttering the house in preparation for the scores that will descend upon our home Christmas evening. We had a break from the decluttering these last two years because we knew we wouldn’t be having a big crowd since most of the usuals were afraid to come.

    Other than getting our house ready to host all the Philadelphia cousins, we’ve got several other Advent traditions, with varying degrees of difficulty. The two easiest ones are cheap and anyone with kids can do them whenever they remember and it’s convenient:

    The Advent Wreath: My SIL gave us a lovely Advent wreath for our wedding. We probably remember to use it @3 times a week. We turn out the lights, light the flame(s), and sing, “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” It’s cool. And the kids like doing it. I think it makes them feel like monks.

    The Advent Calendar: Over the years, we went through at least 3 of those velcro felt manger scenes from Oriental Trading, where every day in December you add another piece to the Nativity scene. The kids loved it, but alas! they’ve outgrown it. I guess it’s been about five or six years now 🙁

  3. Our “advent candles” this year are construction paper rectangles (labeled with hope, peace, joy, love) hung up on the wall, and adding a yellow construction paper “flame” every Sunday. We’re in survival mode due to family circumstances; I’m doing my best to make it a special season for my kids. Anything is better than nothing at all.

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