One of my favorite things about Christmas is how easy it is to combine FAITH and FUN.
Honestly, at what other time of year can you BOTH praise God for the wonder of the Incarnation AND welcome a jolly fat man down your chimney? Or sing songs about BOTH heralding angels AND animated snowmen? See what I mean?
You can BOTH quietly prepare your heart for the coming of the savior AND prepare your home for the coming of St. Nick!
You can BOTH visit Santa at the mall to tell him your wishes AND attend Mass weekly and on Christmas Eve to give glory to our Savior.
It’s perfectly acceptable for BOTH an Advent wreath AND that blasted Elf on the Shelf to be part of your readiness for the coming holiday.
And, if you’re anything like my youngest daughter, you can ask BOTH Santa AND the baby Jesus for a white Christmas so you can see snow for the first time in your little life during our trip up north.
At our house, we incorporate BOTH our Catholic Advent traditions AND the more secular Christmas traditions and I couldn’t love it more.
But what does that look like?
Well, frankly, it looks like a Hallmark store and a Nativity shop exploded all over the place. Allow me to take you on a little tour. And, since we’re such good friends, please overlook the fact that I forgot to dust before taking pictures.
Almost 16 years of parenting four kids has brought a LOT of books into our house. During Advent and Christmas (along with other holidays), I like to have baskets out and in easy reach filled with books that are pertinent to the season. In the kids’ study room, there’s a big basket of Santa-and-winter-type books. From the Grinch to the Gingerbread Man and everything in between, we’ve got your reading needs covered. In the family room, under the Christmas tree with all of the kids’ ornaments on it, there’s an equally large basket of religious stories. Little Golden Book favorites from my own childhood mingle with newer releases, all sharing the love and light of Christ.
We have two fun ways to count down to the big day. I hesitate to call them “Advent calendars” since they arbitrarily start on December 1st instead of the first day of Advent, but I digress. Each day, the kids take turns adding an ornament to the felt tree and a piece of the Nativity to the manger scene until they are all filled in on Christmas. Now, I’d be lying through my teeth if I told you that it was all fun and games and nobody ever got their tinsel in a tangle over whose turn it was. But ’tis the season, I guess!
Now, I know there are some families who really go all out with their observance of Advent. Maybe they sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and say special prayers together around the Advent wreath. Or, maybe they put together a Jesse Tree and do the readings that go along with it. Our Advent wreath experience goes a little something like this… On the nights that we all sit down to dinner together, they boys end up fighting over who gets to use the lighter to light the candle. After the meal, the girls argue over who gets to blow it out. So touching and special and in keeping with the love of the season, yes?
But what about the Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus thing?
Well, once again, we have a BOTH-AND situation happening. But, is it confusing or contradictory to celebrate the feast day of a saint and then the arrival of a secular characterization of that same saint just a couple of weeks later, you ask?
Not really. You see, first, since we celebrate the saints and the waiting period of Advent, St. Nicholas visits the kids on December 6 and we talk (OK, I talk at them) about who the sainted bishop really was. He leaves treats in their stockings or at their spot at the kitchen table, which is really fun! (You can read more about St. Nicholas Day here.) And then, yes. Santa comes on Christmas Eve, just as he does for all good little boys and girls! And I can’t say that the kids have ever been confused or anything less than excited about it!
Another fun tidbit is that we combine these two ideas with that pesky little Elf on the Shelf! He hitches a ride to our house with St. Nicholas on his feast day, but then catches a ride back to the North Pole with Santa on Christmas Eve! Win-win, I’d say!
The true beauty, though, lies in doing what is best for your family.
If you take away nothing from this blog post but this, I’ll be a happy camper.
Whatever your family finds special and brings you joy. Whatever makes the season meaningful for you. THAT is what you are supposed to do.
Traditions that bring me life may bog you down and drive you crazy. Observances that you consider an essential part of your Advent may make me scratch my head in wonder. This may be a year that celebration seems easy and necessary. Or, it may be a year of grieving and anxiety that make celebrations seem like insurmountable feats.
However you choose to celebrate, whether as a BOTH-AND or an EITHER-OR, I hope your Christmas season is filled with light, hope, love, and family. May the blessings of the baby Jesus bring warmth and love to your heart. And may Santa leave a little happiness under your tree.