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Family Traditions Aren’t Just for Christmas Anymore

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With stores putting out Christmas decorations already, I need to remind myself that, for Catholics, traditions are a year round business of family life.

by Heidi Indahl

I’ve noticed a few Advent mentions sliding into my Facebook newsfeed the last few weeks, and Walmart’s Garden Center is almost fully replaced by the Christmas store.

Many families have traditions surrounding the Advent and Christmas seasons, and our family is no different.  One of our traditions is slow decorating with specific things we add to our home each week. Even our tree has its own schedule and our decorating buckets are labeled by which week in Advent they come out of the attic.  Another one of our traditions is to choose only four goodies to bake each year. We bake one new treat each Sunday of Advent, sample a few rejects, and then bag the rest for the freezer until the Christmas season. I know other families that have set traditions for the many wonderful feasts that are observed during the Advent season (Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Nicholas, St. Lucy…to name a few).

What I sometimes need to remind myself is that traditions are a year round business of family life. Catholics are a liturgical people, which means we have a calendar to observe feasts and seasons through the entire year. I remember learning a simple rhyme to remember them all when I was growing up, “Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent. The Easter Season, days well spent.  The Sunday of Pentecost and then the Holy Trinity. The season of Pentecost makes the year complete. Faith, Hope, and Love we hear, as the time of Advent nears.”

I grew up in a Lutheran Church, so Ordinary Time as I know it now aligns with the seasons of Epiphany and Pentecost.  I have long wanted to create a similar rhyme for my Catholic kids to memorize the seasons in this way.  At our house now, we use variations of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd liturgical clock or wheel for learning the Church’s calendar.

Advent is a time to think about beginning our liturgical year with family traditions and memories, but right now is the time to think about ending our year with equally important faith traditions.

Thinking ahead to the next few weeks, how will your family celebrate the feasts of All Saints and All Souls? You may already have traditions without realizing it. Maybe you always attend Mass before trick or treating or maybe you always go to Mass at a particular cemetery during the month of November. What other feast days will you celebrate between now and the 1st Sunday in Advent?

The great thing about traditions is that it is never too late to begin a new one! If you can’t think of a specific tradition your family has for these last few weeks of the Church year, choose one special day and organize a celebration. Plan and execute the tradition alone or with friends. Then add the date to your calendar for next year so you don’t forget to celebrate again. For the first few years, your celebration might vary but within 2-3 years you will know which parts of your feast are here to stay. I always know when our new custom has reached “tradition status” when my kids start reminding me days and even weeks in advance of the next great feast day! We have a few traditions that were created entirely by accident when we did something simple one day and they enjoyed it so much they asked for it the next year.

We are a liturgical people and have every reason to celebrate throughout the calendar. Let’s resist the temptation to squish all of our celebrations into just a few weeks each year.

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Heidi has a professional background in education, with a Master's Degree in Instructional Design. In her spare time she enjoys taekwondo, gardening, knitting, and the occasional freelance writing or consulting job. She blogs about her Catholic family life at www.workandplaydaybyday.com

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