With this comes the usual rants among my serious-minded colleagues who bemoan and decry the over-commercialization and secularization of the season, raising the spectre of the push for a "happy holidays" agenda and the supposed PC sanitization of the use of terms like "Christmas", questionable colors and symbols on coffee cups, or a protest over the appearance of Nativity scenes in the public square.
I'd like to offer a slightly different approach. Advent is a penitential and preparatory season in anticipation of Christmas. But I also think we as hard-identity Catholics need to infuse the season with the joy that our hope in and expectation of the Parousia brings. In other words, I put forth the notion of "keeping Advent."
Here are some ideas on how to "keep" Advent.
Have an Advent wreath with candles (three purple, one rose) in your home. St. Mary's had a wreath-making event after Masses several weeks ago. I can’t use real greens, as alas I’m an apartment dweller and am not permitted them due to risk of fire.
My tree goes up with white lights, but instead of Christmas ornaments, the tree is decorated with purple ornaments and some rose-colored ones. Sometimes there are gold ones hidden throughout as a symbol of the anticipation. The tree is topped with a large purple bow. I also have a swag of greens with white lanterns and a big purple bow hanging over the chest where the Nativity set goes.
I abstain from listening to Christmas music at home, limiting myself to the few recordings of Advent music I own (a recording of the Advent Procession from St. James’ Episcopal Cathedral, Toronto, and J. Michael Thompson and his Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle singing Advent Lessons and Carols, called, ”Redeemer of the Nations, Come”).
On Gaudete Sunday I’ll make my Christmas cookies and write and post my Christmas cards.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, the purple and rose ornaments will come down and the Christmas decorations will go up on the tree and elsewhere in the apartment.
There are some who have a tradition of putting up the various elements of the Nativity in stages: the stable goes up on Advent I; the animals go in on Advent II; the shepherds on Advent III; the Angel on Advent IV; Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve morning, and the bambino on Christmas Eve. I put the Infant King in the manger when I get home from Midnight Mass.
I'm sure there are plenty of other wonderful ways of "keeping" Advent. Please share them here!