This morning, for the feast of St. Nicholas, our kids woke up to find chocolate coins in their shoes, new pajamas nearby, and a few other treats. We will likely go to Mass and celebrate this day in style. But that’s kind of an anomaly for our family when it comes to Advent.
In reality, as I wrote in part of my column for The Catholic Post
last month, I’m usually not super-ready for Advent.
When I was a younger mom, I used to feel bad that I didn’t keep
Advent as well as it seemed to me other moms and families were doing.
I’ll spare you the angst of those years, but suffice to say there
was far too much time spent worrying I wasn’t “doing” Advent the right way.
Now? I go with my
strengths. And I leave the guilt back in the 1990s.
It’s true that we don’t light our Advent wreath every day, and we
don’t have a Jesse tree, and I don’t make St. Lucia buns and... fill in the
But I realize that we do keep Advent in our own unique family
way. For the Picciones, it’s primarily
I know you must be shocked-shocked!-- to learn that I, a book
blogger, would use books as our family’s primary way to celebrate and prepare
during Advent. Will it surprise you to
know that for us, it works really well?
I describe a little bit about how we use books during Advent in a
post on Reading Catholic
but let me just share one book that’s especially appropriate for the Feast of
St. Nicholas, and one we read each year on this day: The
Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan, published by the always-reliable
The Miracle of St. Nicholas
recounts a young Russian boy wondering why his village cannot celebrate
Christmas in their long-abandoned church after “the soldiers came.” His babushka tells him it would take a
miracle, and book shares how that miracle happens.
Judith Brown’s illustrations mimic the style of iconography,
making this a luminous read-aloud for all ages.
This is a book not just to borrow from the library or a friend, but to
To find more Advent and Christmas book ideas, you can visit here
or here or here
or here. (I describe these in
more detail on Reading Catholic, but these get you to the important thing--the
great book lists.)
If you want to start an Advent/book tradition, go check out some
of these links, request as many books as you like from your local public
library, and start some new traditions.
But my main advice for you?
Go with your strengths.
Maybe Advent is about books for you--for me, it’s lovely and
effortless. But perhaps cooking is more
your style--and the many feasts during Advent and Christmastime offer ample
opportunities to have fun in the kitchen.
Perhaps it’s crafts, or some combination of those.
But most of all, you should celebrate your Advent joyfully in
your own way, and your family’s Christmastime will be richer and happier for
What are your strengths when it comes to celebrating seasons like
Advent? How can you use them best this
Advent to prepare joyfully?
Nancy Piccione writes a
monthly book column for The Catholic Post, newspaper of the diocese of Peoria,
IL, and blogs about books, new media and other topics at Reading Catholic.
She and her husband Joseph have three lively children. Nancy enjoys books, long-distance running,
and dark chocolate, and lives in the hope that they balance each other out.
For more posts on Advent traditions and reflections check out the Advent series.