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How to … Observe Advent

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Advent can seem to be defined by what it isn’t: a time of waiting while everyone else has started the party. We don’t even sing the Gloria (except this Saturday, for the Immaculate Conception).

But Holy Mother Church doesn’t leave us with nothing to do – there are many customs, ancient and modern, which can help us get into the Advent spirit. It’s a time for fasting (this could be something like getting off social media or not snacking between meals); almsgiving; and prayer (Advent devotions include the O Antiphons, which begin on December 17).

Haley Stewart, who blogs at Carrots for Michaelmas, says her family’s favourite customs include the Advent wreath, the St Andrew Novena, “and reading picture books about the Nativity and saints’ days that fall during Advent on the days leading up to Christmas”. The parents give the children presents on St Nicholas Day (December 6), “so we can focus on Mass and celebrating on Christmas morning without feeling overwhelmed by the gifts.”

They are also trying a new solution to a common dilemma: put the tree up at the start of Advent, “but with only white lights and purple ornaments until Christmas Eve”.