Did you know that our Christian family in the East begin today what they call a Christmas Lent? It's similar to the Roman Catholic Church tradition of fasting for 40 days until Easter during Lent, and it's called a Nativity Fast. The Roman tradition historically also has a similarly extended 'Advent' season that beings after the feast of St. Martin of Tours on November 11, which ushered in what was called St. Martin's Lent or St. Martin's Fast.
I love resurrecting this idea of extending Advent, the time of preparation before Christmas, especially in the years where the 4th week gets dramatically shortened! I always find that December flies by and that I would have loved more time as a church family to prepare, especially internally.
I was so very happy to learn that in the past, on both the east and west wings of our Christian tradition, Advent was essentially observed for a longer period, closer to 6 or 7 weeks instead of 4! Since Advent is my favorite season of the year, I love that I can lean into this tradition and start my preparations for Christ's birth a little sooner.*
These might be just practical things like getting a head start on locating those Advent candles, Jesse tree ornaments, St. Andrew Christmas Novena beads..., but also interior planning, like deciding what spiritual reading materials I'll be using, or nailing down a morning of recollection or retreat day before the December calendar gets too filled up. Also worth considering is what I could 'fast' from to really do some interior house cleaning, like the way we do in Lent, to make our lives less distracted and more free to focus on the things of heaven. It's good to at least start thinking about these things so that once that first Sunday of Advent comes, we are as fully present as we can be to daily make room for the birth of Our Savior.
Preparing for Christmas with the St. Andrew Christmas Novena is my favorite Advent devotion for it's simplicity, purity, and depth. For more information on it's meaning, read about it here. If you'd like some aids for praying it, visit my SHOP for some prayer beads and prayer cards.
Share what your favorite ways to prepare for Advent are, from books, to prayers and sacrifices, and how you might use the extra time if you had 40 days of Advent.
*By the way, I do not mean start decorating for Christmas earlier. Advent is a distinct season that has a more sober and watchful character, yet still full of expectant joy. Christmas, traditionally celebrated for 40 days also (from Dec. 25th to Feb. 2nd, Candlemas), is the time for Christmas trees and decorations, feasting and celebrations. There are still ways to decorate for Advent though, with creatively using violet and rose colored fabrics as table cloths, for example, and having a smaller 'Jesse' tree that gets adorned each day with ornaments that represent stories of salvation history that lead up to the promised Savior, grow St. Lucy's Wheat, and of course, the Advent wreath.
Christmas Novena and Advent Updates
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