Rorate Caeli

A question for our readers: Advent customs

We invite our readers to write in the comment box about the Advent customs in their homes, communities and parishes.

Do you have "Jesse Trees"? How about "Advent Calendars" or "Advent Houses"? (Do you have chocolates in them? Just asking!). Perhaps the more practically-inclined can share their know-how on how to make these things with, for instance, the simplest of materials or with tiny budgets.

Information about little-known Advent traditions would be most welcome.

(Photo source.)


  1. Anonymous8:42 PM

    We just now picked a branch out of our woods to make our Jesse Tree. Also, we just put the Infant's crib on the table. Each time the children do something nice for one another, do something without complaining, etc., they get to put a piece of yarn in the crib to make it more comfortable for Baby Jesus.

  2. Veritas8:46 PM


    Idol worshipper.

  3. M. A.9:00 PM

    Last year we planted blessed wheat in a gold-painted clay pot, the pot representing the Golden Vessel who is our Lady, and the black dirt representing earth.

    The grain is supposed to sprout by Christmas to the delight of children. It was fun checking the pot every so often to catch sight of the first emerging shoots.

    However, our seed did not sprout because it was too old.

    I had forgotten about this. This year we have some fresh wheat kernels, although not blessed; yet, I might still plant them anyway.

  4. Anonymous9:06 PM

    We place the "O Antiphons" individually on a piece of decorated paper, and place them up on the window/wall on the appropriate day. ( The "O Antiphons" enter the Advent Liturgy on December 17-24 and are prayers of expectation for the imminent Nativity of the Savior-)

  5. Anonymous9:10 PM

    OK Veritas, I'll bite. Please enlighten me to what I am doing wrong.

  6. We bake a cake on the feast of St. Lucy that is white. We also set out shoes on St. Nicholas Day. We don't "do" santa claus on Christmas, but rather put him in his place...His feast day. I recommend as well reading some of the Servant of God Catherine Dougherty's book on Advent customs. Most of them are from Old Russia, and it has several stories she told. The best was about what Christmas means to her. It tells of how the communists martyred their parish priest right before Christmas, and they had Christmas without Christ in the Eucharist. Few stories show how precious our Lord is to us.


  7. Traditional priest who celebrated EF Mass this morning recommended doing what Adfero has his kids do, he said put the crib from the manger scene in a box and put in a piece of straw every time you make a sacrifice, and you will build a well padded bed to welcome Jesus.

  8. Call me Ishmael9:21 PM

    My family consists wholly of atheist-agnostics who are allergic to religion.

    It makes high-seasons bittersweet. Feel sorry for me.

  9. Anonymous9:53 PM

    Call me Ishmael:

    Maybe you could pick up the practice of scourging yourself in the middle of the kitchen until they conform? :)

  10. Adfero: We did something similar when our kids were young; however, we provided "suggestions" for sacrifices. We had a metal Christmas tin with sacrifices written on pieces of paper we then folded (the size of paper found in fortune cookies). Every day, they would pick one out and follow the prescribed sacrifice (i.e. clean your room, say a Hail Mary for the poor souls, etc). Once completed, each child would place a piece of straw in the manager. Extra sacrifices were always encouraged to create the warmest bed possible for Jesus by Christmas.

    Advent prayers are said at the evening meal after the Advent Wreath is lit.

  11. Anonymous10:23 PM

    HSE, thanks. I'll suggest that to Mrs. Adfero.

  12. Call me Ishmael10:43 PM


    That's good, I'll add that to my List. What list? My "List of How-To Convert Modern Western Filthy and Smelly Heathens", of course.

    "LIST OF HOW-TO CONVERT MODERN WESTERN FILTHY AND SMELLY HEATHENS (also known as St. Nicholas Naughty List), part IV: Winter Season (Advent up-to and including Christmas).

    1. Rush in during Christmas present unpackaging with a chainsaw and St. Boniface the jolly-infidel Christmas tree while sing-shouting "Non nobis, Domine/ Sed nomini tuo da gloriam!"

    2. Sneak in during the night of Christmas Eve and, like Gideon, demolish the altar of Mammon and replace it with a cross, made with the tree that is broken in half. Adorn it with shredded present paper and the broken dreams of children.

    2b. If possible capture the false god known as "Santa Claus" and give him and all of his elfs and reindeers Elijah's Baal-worshipper treatment.

    3. Buy all of your relatives a massive amount of religious items, especially very explicit images of the Passion or crucifixes. A great modern present would be Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Force them to play it during dinner and any other high-light of the day instead of It's A Wonderful Life, and make sure they don't miss any important scenes.

    4. Scourage yourself in the middle of the kitchen until they are overcome by your faith and promise to convert.

    -- A work in progress..."

  13. Anonymous11:09 PM

    That's a good start. I'd add buying them hair shirts for Christmas.

  14. A very widespread Advent custom among Croats in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is that of the Mass very early in the morning, at 5:30, or 6 am. In some places they are held throughout Advent, while in others only for the Christmas novena. In Croatian this Mass is called "zornica", which may be translated as Dawn Mass, or Missa in aurora.
    In my city, churches are always full at these Masses, and there are as many people as on Sunday Mass, if not even more. A lot of people choose to go every morning in Advent as a sign of devotion, and as a little sacrifice.

  15. Today, I urged my parishioners to make use of an Advent wreath when saying their prayers.

    I also reminded them of the Advent Fast kept amongst Orthodox Christians of the Western Rite: only one meal on Wednesdays & Fridays during Advent, and no meat on Fridays (of course). I also reminded them of the Ember Days, with its attendant fast.

    Finally, we keep the Rorate Mass and will follow little customs for St Lucy Day and St Nicholas Day.

    Fr John W Fenton
    Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Church
    Western Rite Vicariate

  16. Jerry1:04 AM

    I am a Third Order Secular Franciscan. I practice the Fast of St. Martin as did my fore-bearers. This means that from the Feast of St. Martin to mid nite mass on Dec 24 I fast and pray and do penance. Seems fitting for this dark time for the Church. In my way of thinking, I believe that if more trads would do greater penances we would have a great renewal. History is witness to the resiliency of Christianity and its ability to be reborn, to inflame society. Our family also uses an advent wreath with the four colored candles.


  17. Jerry1:11 AM

    The secular world, protestants and poorly formed Catholics are all singing Christmas songs and having Christmas parties during Advent.When I am asked to join in I abstain saying that it is not Christmas but rather the season of Advent, in the Catholic Church we are waiting for our Savior, He has not yet arrived. It is a time of prayer, penance, fasting, alms giving and joyful expectation. I will sing and rejoice when the Savior has come. Of course I can sing Advent songs....
    If there is a work party that can not be avoided I tell my coworkers that I will open their presents on Christmas Day and explain why. Most people respect this. At the same time it gives pause for them to think about what Christmas really means, at least for a Catholic.


  18. Anonymous1:40 AM

    Here in the Philippines, this coming December 16th to December 24th, we will also start the traditional nine days dawn masses and novena to the Blessed Mother, commonly called in Filipino as "Simbang Gabi" or Missa de Gallo in Spanish or the mass of the rooster. Masses will be celebrated in all Catholic churches here as early as 4 am. It is also one form of Sacrifice because you need to wake up very early to attend mass. This novena, honoring Mother Mary, is a centuries-old tradition which helps us prepare for the birthday of Jesus Christ. SIMBANG GABI is one of the longest and most popular among the Filipino traditions in the country. In the olden days, the church bells start ringing as early as three o' clock waking people up so they can get ready for the four o'clock dawn mass. Today, the tradition of Simbang Gabi continues whether you live in the city or in the province. Simbang Gabi is not just a tradition that is celebrated because we need to do so. but it is the spiritual preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. The Simbang Gabi is also seen as a way of requesting blessings from the Lord,as most people believe that if one completes the whole series of nine dawn masses, wishes will be granted.

  19. Victoria1:50 AM

    1. Make an advent wreath for your table: this can be easily done by using 1-2 blocks of oasis foam from a florist: cut and place the blocks in a round base (from the dollar store), secure them with a little wire (almost like a staple), and add small cut branches from nearby trees or cedars, starting from the bottom and working your way up. Add 3 purple candles and 1 pink one into the foam blocks. Water often. On Christmas Eve, put your Christ Candle in the center and change all the candles for white ones. Light the candles at dinner or during nighttime prayers. Don't forget to bless the wreath before you light your first candle.

    2. After offering a sacrifice to Jesus, my children place a piece of yarn in our creche. We also give a small amount of money for each piece of yarn which in turn is given to our church on Sundays. The children are very happy to give alms to the church through their own sacrifices.

    3. We also use religious Advent calendars and read Christmas stories during Advent. And every afternoon, we visit the Blessed Sacrament as we prepare for His Coming.

  20. Czech "customs" are early morning Holy Masses (before sunrise) during Advent period which are filled with unique tunes - most of them are from 16th century. These masses are called "Roraty" and I guess that this word will sound familiar to readers of this blog. ;-)

  21. I have a book "Christmas in Austria" published by World Book Encyclopedia in 1982. ISBN 0-7166-0883-9. It is good for explaining the traditions and customs of Advent and Christmas including: the Advent wreath, Advent candles, Advent songs, the history of the carol, "Silent Night".
    Children wait with expectation for "Christkindl" who gives them presents. Santa Claus, (St. Nicholas) makes an appearance on December 6th but is only a bit player in the season.
    Here in Australia the Christ child barely rates a mention and it is all about the jolly, fat bearded man and most children don't even make any connection with St. Nicholas.
    There are also recipes for Austrian cookies and treats, handicrafts and music for a few carols.
    You folk in the USA/ Canada can buy it for a dollar plus postage through Abe Books online.(also with Amazon but more expensive)

    "Freue dich. Christkind kommt bald!" "Rejoice, for the Christ child is coming soon."

  22. Along with the Advent wreath and extra prayers we also keep each Advent Sunday evening with a tradition of all lights out (only candlelight) and a fire burning in the fireplace. We read stories, pray a family rosary, and play boardgames. This year we are also adding a pilgrim Holy family statue to our family traditions. A small statue of the Holy family starts on a "pilgramage" on the first day of Advent to a daily visit to each of our family members bedrooms. We encourage the host to pray and offer sacrifices to the Holy Family while they have them as a guest in their room. We will keep cycling them from room to room all Advent. Our particular statue we are using has a rosary sized holder in the bottom that we fill with kernals of wheat. Our children love to nibble on them and are asked to make one sacrifice or prayer for each kernel of wheat they remove.

  23. We have adopted this beautiful Austrian custom that we learned from Around the Year with the TRAPP FAMILY, which you can read here:

    "Once more the mother appears with
    the bowl, which she passes around. This time the pieces of paper contain
    the names of the members of the family and are neatly rolled up, because
    the drawing has to be done in great secrecy. The person whose name one
    has drawn is now in one's special care. From this day until Christmas,
    one has to do as many little favors for him or her as one can. One has to
    provide at least one surprise every single day--but without ever being
    found out. This creates a wonderful atmosphere of joyful suspense,
    kindness, and thoughtfulness. Perhaps you will find that somebody has
    made your bed or shined your shoes or has informed you, in a disguised
    handwriting on a holy card, that "a rosary has been said for you today"
    or a number of sacrifices have been offered up. This new relationship is
    called "Christkindl" (Christ Child) in the old country, where children
    believe that the Christmas tree and the gifts under it are brought down
    by the Christ Child himself.

  24. Father S.3:16 AM

    Here in my parish in rural Nebraska, we celebrate "Las Posadas," or "The Inns." We have a parish that is just over 50% Latino. We do this as a novena before Christmas. For the nine days, a different family each night hosts devotions in their home to the Blessed Mother. These include a reenactment of Our Lady and St. Joseph's looking for a place to rest. Children are dressed as Our Lady and St. Joseph for the occasion. After this, we typically have the recitation of the Holy Rosary and novena prayers. This ends with light refreshments. We divide our little parish of about 1000 souls into four quadrants and have this going on in four different homes each night so that it is easily within walking distance. On the final night, Christmas Eve, everyone gathers in church for the placing of the infant Jesus in the crèche.

  25. Here's one practice that I read about on Facebook:

    "Last evening we blessed and lit the first candle on our Advent wreath. Before hand, we had a family procession throughout the dark house with each of us holding a candle and all singing "O come, O come, Emmanuel!" It was quite beautiful, even though very simple...

    ...I'm finding the children really love processions on special feast days, too. They get so excited when they know we're going to have a special procession. Depending on the feast day, the leader usually carries a fitting icon, statue, or picture, then after the procession it's carried to a prominent place in the family room and the candles are set in a little container of sand in front of it as we pray, talk about the feast, have a treat, etc"

    The author is the wife of a prominent lay Catholic blogger on liturgical issues.

  26. Larry6:12 PM

    With the recent debacles of Assisi III and the visit of the Pope to Benin, I can't really see a reconciliation between the SSPX and Rome in the near future. And, frankly, I've come to see that the SSPX is correct. There needs to be a voice telling the Roman Authorities that false ecumenism is wrong. There also needs to be a visible force that resists the absolute anarchy of the Conciliar Church, and it's profanation of the Holy Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. For the time being, that force seems to be the SSPX, flaws and all.

  27. There are some wonderful descriptions here of Advent customs. I can identify with the experience of "Anonymous 28 November, 2011 01:40." At my home, the tree is not put up until the beginning of the novena, when the parol is also put on the door. And we've got two smaller ones to put in the windows this year. It's gonna be grand:

  28. I always pray the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena:

    Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

    Said fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (today)through Christmas Eve.


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