Waiting, waiting, waiting. That is the theme of Advent, as we reflect together upon our call to wait patiently for the light of Christ.
Of course, we know that, for the children in our Church, waiting is no easy thing. They wait for Christmas with a type of ravenous expectation that is hard to find anywhere else, any time else. Indeed, is there any moment that we await as eagerly as do children await Christmas morning? Any other instance during which we encourage and coax such anticipation, for so long a time? Perhaps the only thing that even comes close is the crazed madness that surrounds the release of a new Star Wars film...but that is a subject of a different article.
In our home, we do what we can to encourage our children’s anticipation. As Fr. Ross advised in his reflections on Advent, we light the appropriate candles of our wreath each Sunday and discuss all the good things that we may expect on Christ’s return: Peace, Love, Joy, and Hope, to name but a few of those longed-for realities.
On December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, we put up our tree and our stockings and tell the story of the man who has come to be known as Santa Claus. Yet, even on this day, the tree remains bare and the stockings empty.
We set out a nativity set on the Third Sunday of Advent, as we anticipate Christ’s coming arrival. But the set is incomplete. No shepherds, no angels, no baby Jesus, no wise men.
We do all of this so that when Christmas finally arrives, we as a family can celebrate in a fantastic way the birth of Christ, God’s gift to the world! We decorate the tree, fill the stockings to splitting, lay out the missing pieces of the nativity (still no wise men—save those for the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6), and sing Christmas carols until our throats are sore.
And that is just the first day of the season!
Oh, my dear friends, how often we forget that Christmas lasts for twelve glorious days! To help our family celebrate the season in its entirety, we look to the church calendar for inspiration.
On December 26, the second day of Christmas, our children awaken to a small gift in their stocking. A piece of candy, an orange, a small toy—something to remind them that Christmas has only just begun! We tell them that December 26 is the feast of St. Stephen the Martyr, and we read our children his inspiring story from Acts 6 and 7.
We do our best to follow this custom each day of the season: a treat in the stocking and a quick google search in the morning to help us identify what we should focus on for the day. You can find feasts for each of the subsequent days of Christmas below if you would like to join us in our observance:
December 27—The Feast of St. John the Apostle
December 28—The Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children killed by King Herod as he searched for the infant Christ (Matthew 2)
December 29—The Feast of St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury
December 30—The Feast of St. Frances Joseph- Gaudet, American Prison Reformer
December 31—The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus: Mary his mother and Joseph his adoptive father
January 1—The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
January 2—The Feast of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church
January 3—The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
January 4—Synaxis of the Seventy Disciples (Luke 10:1-16)
January 5—Epiphany Eve and Twelfth Night Celebrations!
So consider this year celebrating not merely Christmas Day with your family, but the entire Christmas season. You will be glad that you did!