While there may be 53 days until Christmas, what is more pressing is that there are four remaining Sundays left in Ordinary Time. The First Sunday of Advent, the new Liturgical Year arrives November 30, usually the feast of St. Andrew.
Every year I tell myself "This year I'll be prepared for Advent" and then I'm not. I start reading all my liturgical customs and craft books too late to start something. I may not have my Christmas cards stamped and addressed until after Christmas, nor will I have Christmas baking done, and presents bought and wrapped before the New Liturgical Year, but the following is a checklist of things I'm trying to get in order before Advent begins:
1) Countdown to Christmas -- the Advent Calendar
To purchase or make? We have a Playmobil calendar, and several cardboard ones. From last year archives there is an Advent Calendar Tutorial from Nissa's Simple Gifts, and this wonderful calendar idea by MaryM.
2) Time to Change the Calendar...
the Liturgical Calendar, that is. It's also time to get a new 2009 yearly calendar
Some Liturgical Calendar ideas (usually these are calendar wheels):
- Templates from Michele Quigley, using Downloadable software. ETA: Michele just shared some new calendar desktop images for the upcoming year.
- Liturgy Training Publications has Year of Grace 2009 Liturgical Calendars. This is my favorite. We always buy the laminated version and hang it in our dining room. This year we're going to use our Dry Erase markers to mark the days, or at least weeks. There are other options, such as unlaminated posters, or also notebook size, which is the right size, if laminated, to make placemats for the table.
- Church of St. Paul has a calendar with two options, to be colored or already colored and laminated.
- Good News Planners also has a laminated poster, but it doesn't break down the weeks.
- Pflaum also carries a liturgical calendar.
As far as yearly calendars, I need both a planner and a wall calendar. My favorite planner that include all the feasts of the liturgical year is from Family-Centered Press. There is also a really simple planner that many parishes use, the Liturgical Desk Calendar.
For my wall, I usually use the one from our parish, but I might consider this larger one has ample room for all the activities to be written down. When I was growing up we had a large calendar attached to our refrigerator. Everyone was up to speed on upcoming events in the family. I like this one because it includes all the liturgical year feasts.
3) The Advent Wreath is No Good Without Candles!
Don't forget to buy new purple and pink candles for your Advent wreath!
Is your family going to use the same one from last year or make a new one? I sometimes think an Advent Wreath is like a snowflake -- no two are alike. Each family creates or buys their own. From the archives, Homemade Advent wreath, and instructions from Catholic Culture. And these are my favorite Advent Wreath Prayers.
4) What Ways Shall We Reinforce the Advent Message?
Advent Traditions and Crafts -- Which ones are you concentrating on this year? Make a list of ideas and feasts that are important and start gathering supplies. Even though I would like to, I know I can't and shouldn't try to do too much. More concentration on a few activities can help focus on preparing hearts for the birth of Christ. Then adding some little activities (like coloring pages and special foods) throughout Advent and certain feast days can flesh out the season. The archives have a variety of crafts, but also Alice's Jesse Tree Tea Time, and ideas for Marian and saint feast days.
5) Music Soothes the Savage Beast
Advent and Christmas carols -- Do you have favorite recordings, or some albums you wanted to purchase for this Advent and Christmas season? I'm still looking for a good collection of Advent hymns to play...I like to hold off on the Christmas carols until closer to Christmas.
Besides background listening, there's also active participation. Choose some music to sing and perhaps accompany as a family, and start practice now to be ready for Christmas. Make a family Christmas carol book as Bridget has suggested.
This year for my family, I want to focus on Gregorian chant, just a small piece, that we can learn. Background playing helps reinforcing the music. Two cds I will add for this purpose are Propers of Christmas from St. Michael's Abbey and Announcement of Christmas from Regina Laudis Abbey.
5) Cozy Up With Books
There's no shortage of books to read this season, but if you planned on buying new ones, or borrowing from the library, order or reserve them now. I have my shelf with Christmas books all prepared, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, including Cay Gibson's Catholic Mosaic, Christmas Mosaic, and the Advent and Christmas Tomie dePaola Unit Study by Elizabeth Foss.
6) Capturing and Sharing the Memories
Christmas Picture and Cards -- now is the time to prepare. I have our matching Christmas outfits, I just need to schedule an appointment for the photo. Read some great tips from past posts:
- Family Christmas Card by Alice
- Christmas Cards by Mary Ellen
- Gather Ye Addresses While Ye May by Mary Ellen
7) Watching the Pennies
Economic times being a little unsteady, planning is the key to saving money. I'm not always prepared, but I'm feeling the pressure to decide now how our money should be spent for Christmas and stick with it. See the previous posts on organization, Organization and Getting Organized by Mary Ellen. Suggestions include following something like FlyLady's Holiday Control Journal can help get the focus in the right direction.
So now I have Advent on the mind, and just need to follow through on make the plans happen. Let me be the first to wish you an early Happy New Year!