What Catholics Should Know About the Liturgical Calendar: Advent and Christmas

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The Liturgical calendar speak to all our senses.  We are drawn in by the fulfillment of tradition that include feast days, celebrations of saints, and Christian holidays.   Each season brings us closer to knowing the life of Christ, in turn relating each event to our own spiritual lives.


The season of Advent begins the liturgical year — inviting us to prepare for the birth of our Lord.  Advent is a four-week period of preparation.  The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity.  On the wreath, four or five candles are typically arranged.  Each candle signifies an aspect of spiritual preparation; violet representing penance, almsgiving, and fasting.  The first two Advent candles and the forth candle used in the Advent wreath are typically violet.  The third Advent candle is pink or rose in color, symbolizing joy.

A candle is lit each week, slowly bringing us closer to celebrating Jesus’ birth.  Many church communities have an Advent prayer service to celebrate the season. Some hold an intergenerational gathering where all ages can come together to assemble their family wreath.   A potluck meal or snacks can be served as Scripture, prayer, and stories are shared.

At home, families can make their own tradition by blessing their wreath, praying together, and reflecting on ways they can help others.  Another idea is to simply decorate a Jesse tree with home-made ornaments of religious symbols, later to be transformed into the family Christmas tree by adding white and gold – the traditional Christmas colors, which signify the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Some advent wreaths might feature a fifth candle, or Christ Candle, that carries us into the season of Christmas, this white candle is positioned in the center of the wreath reminding us to keep Christ as the center of celebration during the season.


Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ into our world — and into our hearts — reminding us of the gift of salvation that is born with him.  One of my favorite family traditions is baking and decorating a birthday cake for Jesus, lighting candles and singing “Happy Birthday” to Him.  On Christmas Eve, we all gather around the nativity displayed in our home and place the baby Jesus in the nativity crib to celebrate His coming.

The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  It is the feast of the incarnation, the feast of God becoming flesh.  We are guided in every way by His gift and why it is so important that we celebrate value the season of love, joy, and peace.


Donna Frasier is retired from serving at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Ruston, Louisiana. She served as Director of Religious Education and Family Activities for 17 years.


Image credit: Marina Foteeva / Shutter Stock 530728747








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