The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word ‘adventus,’ which means coming or visit. Advent is the season of preparation before Christmas, beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ending Christmas Eve.
I love recognizing Advent in my home. But all the guides and devotionals out there are so… complicated. So, I’ve made our own. And I’ll share it with you.
Want to know when the Advent guide releases? Add your email below:
6 Ways to Keep Advent Simple
The holidays can easily feel insane, but with a bit of forethought and planning, it’s entirely possible to keep the festive season sane.
The primary way our family stays saner before Christmas? By intentionally observing Advent.
Most of us know about Advent calendars and wreaths, but unless you’ve grown up in a liturgical church—one that follows the traditional Christian calendar—Advent probably isn’t thought of as much more than the padding around Christmas. That’s what it was like for me, anyway, having grown up in a non-denominational church.
We’re now an Anglican family, but we’re still just a few years in. If you’re a relative liturgical newbie, there are some simple ways to ease into recognizing Advent as a separate holiday from Christmas.
1. Learn the calendar.
Advent is best understood in context of the entire liturgical calendar, and while it’s not necessary to fully grasp the whole thing ahead of time, it’s helpful to think of it as the season before Christmas. Not actually part of Christmas.
Advent is the start of the new year of the Christian calendar, and one of its primary purposes is to prepare our hearts for Christmastide, which celebrates the birth of Jesus for twelve days starting December 25. Advent begins the fourth Sunday from the first day of Christmas, which means it’s generally about a month long.
2. Slowly decorate.
If we were purists, we would buy our Christmas tree and refrain from hanging ornaments until Christmas Eve, keeping it simple with lights.
Instead, we buy a tree soon after Thanksgiving, then slowly, slowly add decor to both it and the rest of the house in anticipation of Christmas. No reason to feel like it all has to be done by December 25 (especially if we recognize the twelve full days of Christmas!).
A little greenery here, some candles there, paper snowflakes later in the month…. spreading it out throughout the entire season means enjoying the process instead of rushing to just be done.
3. Play anticipatory music.
We pipe music throughout our house year-round, but we tend to go full-tilt during the holidays. I’m a sucker for Christmas music just as much as the next gal, so again, I’m not a purist here. But music related to Advent (plus songs that focus on longing and waiting in general) help our hearts anticipate, and not just celebrate.
My Advent playlist is found at the top of this page, or you can head directly over to Spotify and add it to your account my clicking ‘Follow.’
I’ll still play certain types of Christmas music, but I’ll keep it low key until December 25, when we can thence rock out for twelve days, not yet sick of the songs (fingers crossed).
4. Keep an Advent calendar.
My kids’ love this activity during the season, and some years I enjoy it more than others (depending on the fullness of our real-life calendar). Once per day, the kids count down to Christmas by flipping over the day’s number and revealing a simple family activity.
The key, for us, is to not add any activities we wouldn’t be doing anyway. So it’s not adding more things to do, it’s simply being intentional about spreading them out throughout Advent and making them official. I write them on little sticky notes (fancy!) so I can move them around as needed. Because yep, life happens.
Activity ideas for a calendar are included in the Very Simple Advent guide, above.
There are also years when we simply flip over the number, and done. Because again—real life.
5. Display an Advent wreath.
We love ordering a DIY beeswax candle-making kit and spending a few minutes making the candles the a few days before Advent. Our kids look forward to this every year!
The plan is simple: we light the week’s candle each night, then read the super-short passage from my guide. More on that below.
I have a pinboard of my favorite simple Advent wreaths and calendars, if you’d like more inspiration.
6. Read an Advent devotional.
In the evenings, as part of our nightly storytime, we read a short, simple passage related to the anticipation reflected in Advent. After searching for something simple enough, I wrote my own. No Jesse Tree requirements, no crafts, not even lengthy reading. A simple candle to light, a passage to read, a question to reflect on, DONE.
I wanted something that didn’t make us feel chronically behind. If you need to skip a day (or a week), no biggie, you won’t be behind. Just pick it up when you can, flip to the date, and spend about two minutes reading, maybe three minutes discussing the question, and however long it takes you to light a candle.
Advent is best celebrated, I think, by keeping it simple on purpose. Don’t try to do too much. Pick a few things that speak to you, and savor them. Don’t sweat the rest.
Want a Cheatsheet?
We’ve got thousands of blog posts and tons of podcast episodes—but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Let Tsh send you a quick email with her 10 favorite and most recommended essays and episodes from the decade of archives here.
Consider it your shortcut for getting started.