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The season of Advent, which begins Nov. 27, is a time of anticipation and hope before Christmas. The Advent wreath, with a lit candle marking each week of the season, is a traditional symbol of the period.

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Advent: Devotional, festive ideas for the season of anticipation
November 16th, 2011
By Valerie Schmalz

Every year about two days before Advent, I find myself madly scrounging for an Advent calendar and struggling to put together some kind of an Advent wreath.

For last minute folks, like myself, or others who plan much further ahead, there are several very good resources, easily accessible online. Here in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Catholic bookstores are a good source for an Advent calendar as well as some Advent reading. See the list of Catholic bookstores elsewhere on this page.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes the Advent wreath prayer online and sells a book of Catholic blessings and prayers on its website. When in doubt, the USCCB site is the gold standard for information.

For useful crafts and ideas for easy Advent traditions at home or with friends, there are a number of good websites. has a number of Advent activities, complete with instructions for making an Advent paper chain or a wreath but also links to recipes, devotions and columns by Catholic mothers. has a page of links and other resources.

Eternal Word Television Network offers online resources, including links to the text of Helen McLoughlin’s book “Family Advent Customs” published by The Liturgical Press of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., first in 1954 and again in 1979. She is also the author of “My Name Day Come to Dessert.” Despite being originally published prior to Vatican II, McLoughlin’s writing is accessible and her ideas mostly seem to stand the test of time. It is a bit quaint, with a recipe for plum pudding referring to the price of ground beef during the 1950s. Since EWTN has posted the book’s text online, it is also easy to find and free.

Another online resource is the, which has a raft of articles and ideas, heavy on crafts but also some very simple ideas for those who are not crafty. My favorite: Pick a large Christmas jigsaw puzzle and set aside a table in your home and spend Advent putting the pieces together. I think we might try that one this year.

From November 18, 2011 issue of Catholic San Francisco.



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