Embrace the Spirit of Advent: Two Free Resources for Catholic Families
The hopeful season of Advent begins the Church’s liturgical year and prepares Catholics for both the birth of Jesus and Christ’s second coming at the end of time. In this article, learn more about the season of Advent. You’ll also find two free Catholic family Advent resources you can design and share all season long: a downloadable Advent Wreath Kit to fashion your own paper wreath and a printable Advent calendar that marks the days with family-friendly activities and coloring.
The liturgical season of Advent is a time of expectation and preparation for Catholics. Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” Advent is anticipatory; it prepares the Church to celebrate the Christmas season and looks forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. The Advent season is also penitential in nature, inviting Catholics to prepare through the practices of prayer, penance, and almsgiving.
A Hopeful Beginning
Each liturgical year celebrates the life and paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. It is fitting that the start of the season of Advent also marks the beginning of the liturgical year. As a season, Advent commemorates the historical time before Jesus was known to us—a time of waiting. The remainder of the liturgical year commemorates the events of the life of Jesus Christ, from his birth at Christmas, to his life and ministry in Ordinary Time, to his paschal mystery and rising to new life at Easter, to the feast of Christ the King at the liturgical year’s end. Our celebrations of Advent reflect this expectation and invites Catholics to prepare their hearts for the arrival of Jesus Christ.
Prayer, Penance, and Almsgiving
During Advent, Catholics are called to pray, do penance, and give alms. Here are ways that Catholic families can take part in these practices during the Advent season.
Prayer, a conversation with God, is both personal and communal. Prayer takes many forms. It can encompass traditional prayers of the Church or original prayers. Daily efforts to pray during the season of Advent can be all of these. Families can pray traditional prayers of the Church together and compose a special family Advent prayer. They can pray individually and together. They can pray at home and during worship.
During the season of Advent, celebrating the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation helps create a “clean heart” and openness to God’s mercy before the Christmas season. Catholic families might attend an Advent penance service and celebrate the Sacrament of Penance together. Fasting by healthy adults is also a form of penance sometimes practiced during Advent.
Almsgiving entails donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. During Advent, families might make donations of new or gently used household items to those in need. They might prepare meals for the hungry or help stock a community food pantry. Or they might lend their support and give of their time or talents to organizations working to meet needs in their communities or the world.
The Advent Wreath
Though it has a changing start date, the season of Advent always begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, December 24th. In 2023, Advent will begin on December 3rd. Though this season includes all the days between the 3rd and the 24th, the four Sundays are special days that mark each week of the Advent season.
The Advent wreath is a longstanding symbol and tradition of the Advent season. A continuous evergreen circle, it contains four candles: one for each week of Advent. The first, second, and fourth candles are violet or purple (a liturgical color that signifies prayer, penance, and sacrifice), while the third candle is rose or pink (a liturgical color that signifies joy). A purple candle is lit on the first, second, and final Sundays of Advent. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent. This special Sunday is also known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “rejoice” and is a reminder of the joyful Christmas season drawing nearer.
As a family, craft a paper Advent wreath to display in your home during the Advent season and “light” its candles on Sundays to mark the weeks of Advent together. Your free Advent Wreath Kit includes printable craft materials, instructions, and ideas to use with your wreath all season long. This activity is appropriate for families with children of all ages. Keep craft supplies simple for younger children and provide support with cutting and assembly. Let teens and tweens oversee the craft and lead a weekly prayer experience around the finished wreath for the entire family. .
Three Advent Wreath Kit Ideas for Families
- Complete the activity as a family at home. Choose a time before Advent begins or set aside time on the first Sunday of Advent to prepare the wreath and “light” the first candle. Keep the crafting simple or embellish your wreath with additional art materials and enhancements, like faux greenery or berries, battery powered lights, glitter glue, and craft papers.
- Gift a finished wreath to friends or family members to enjoy during the season of Advent. Complete the wreath activity and then deliver the finished wreath to your chosen recipients. As part of the gift, explain the significance and tradition of the Advent wreath, and let the recipient know that your family is praying for them!
- Host an Advent art gathering. Invite friends of all ages and encourage them to bring favorite craft supplies. Collaborate on a single wreath or have participants make smaller ones to take home and enjoy. Include an Advent prayer, refreshments, and lively discussion.
The Advent Calendar
Advent calendars are used to count the days of the Advent season in anticipation of Christmas. Advent calendars date back to the 19th century and remain popular with Christians today in many forms and formats around the world.
For a simple activity designed for families to use each day of the Advent season, download a daily Advent Coloring Calendar. One page includes an activity numbered for each day. As you complete each activity, find the corresponding number on the sheet and color in the image. Begin on the first Sunday of Advent, and your calendar will be complete on Christmas Eve. The calendar includes traditional Advent activities, saints’ feast days during Advent, prayers, penitential practices, sacraments, and Scripture.
Print the calendar on any size paper, from standard printer sizes to engineering prints. For older children, you might print a copy for each family member to use individually during the Advent season or encourage them to complete the calendar with groups of friends. Or print a single copy to complete as a family. Hang it on the fridge near a set of colored pencils or place a printed copy near or in the family calendar.
Begin or Build on Advent Traditions Today
The season of Advent is filled with expectation and hope. Advent offers families with children of all ages so many opportunities to prepare for the coming of the Son of God. Begin or build on family Advent traditions and Integrate opportunities for celebration, prayer, penance, and almsgiving into each day of the Advent season with the resources included in this post.
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