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Celebrating Advent

  • CNS photo/Tom McCarthy Jr., Catholic Review
  • (Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy)
  • (Photo illustration by Gregory L. Tracy)
  • Children’s ornaments hang on a Jesse Tree. (CC BY-SA 2.0/Michael and Franzie Nelson via Flickr)

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Advent is upon us. While the world seems to be a frenzy of Christmas shopping, traveling, decorating and entertaining, the Church presents us with a unique traditional alternative: a season of reflection, preparation and penance as we anticipate the birth of Christ.

Contrary to popular practice and belief, Advent is more than a frantic countdown to Christmas. Even some Catholics may not fully understand the penitential spirit of the pre-Christmas season, as a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving meant to prepare the faithful for Christ's birth. These traditional Advent practices date back to the earliest days of the Church.

The more faithfully the season of Advent is observed, the more joyful the season of Christmas will be. Without a time of fasting and self-denial, the joy of Christmas becomes routine and loses its value as a sacred feast.

The Church encourages participation at weekday Masses during Advent, because in the Eucharist we find the source and goal of our Advent preparation: Christ himself, whose sacrifice reconciles us with God.

The following are some further ideas and popular traditions for making Advent a time of anticipation and preparation for the joy and mystery of Christmas:

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