Advent, You’re Doing it Wrong

Advent just started and you're already feeling stressed. Right?! Maybe we're all just doing it wrong. At least, that's what I think.

You already feel stressed, don’t you?

That’s a super fun way to begin the holiday season – strung out, sleep-deprived and already feeling behind the eight ball.

Stop. It.

I’m giving you full permission. For what it’s worth, this isn’t the “be a slacker, it’s okay” Advent post. Nope, I have a wholly different take on Advent and why we’re all doing it wrong.

Here goes.

We keep watching everyone else to see how we should celebrate the coming of Jesus instead of looking around at our own family and building a culture of our own.

Did the tree get put up the first or second week of Advent? And, more importantly, when does it come down? Or, to really get everyone’s dander up, artificial or real? Maybe we can just cut all that **** out and focus on the tree and how we can make it meaningful for our family. Nineteen years ago, ours was a poor, tiny artificial tree that my husband had in his room growing up. We couldn’t afford anything else. Now, it’s in the baby’s nursery.

And, this was our tree last year.

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Point? We evolved. Never mind the 17 years of trees in between that barely got decorated when the new babies came, or when the preemie came home from the hospital. Or, there was the year it got pulled over, twice. Those were good times. No really, they were.

We all have a season. Sometimes that season means that we rock Advent LIKE A BOSS. We bust out the handmade Jesse Tree ornaments, send out the Christmas cards the first week in December and bake cookies for the neighbors, all while posting every last smiling photo of it all on social media.

Other times? We realize our season has changed and we lean intot it. Maybe your husband lost his job so present buying really stresses you out. Perhaps your mom/spouse/child/best friend died this year and every Christmas song and the holly-jollying has you in tears. Or, it’s possible your kids are acting like the least grateful people on the planet and you’re pretty sure they haven’t even earned coal in their stocking.

My last scroll through Instagram showed one family gathering all the kids around to light the Advent wreath which is an heirloom piece filled with newish candles. It looks lovely. Mine? My kindergartener made it and it has tissue paper for flames. But you know what? You rock on with your awesome Advent wreath mama, because that’s what works for you. I won’t apologize for the toilet paper version if you won’t apologize for your shiny brass version. Deal?

Find your season, girl. Own it. Celebrate Advent with love. Jesus’ birthday is coming no matter how Pinterest worthy your mantle is, how ingenious your elf’s hiding spot is or when your presents get wrapped. Look around your home and help the people in it to see Jesus in your preparations. Rock that like a boss and I promise, you’ll be doing it right.


  1. Alicea on November 30, 2015 at 3:31 am

    Thank you for this post that hits so close to home this morning.
    It will be a source I lean on this Advent season as we learn to learn into our season…..

  2. Mary on November 30, 2015 at 6:21 am


  3. Ann-Marie on November 30, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Yes. Just what I needed this morning. I’m always so proud of myself after Christmas because I pack all the Advent things separately, so that they are organized and ready to go . . . and I can’t find the Jesse tree ornaments! I stewed all day yesterday. All day. Then I just went and printed out some more, called it a day, and was surprised how excited my six year old was to color it herself. We’re going to lean in this year. And that’s ok. Oh, and my candles don’t match 🙂

  4. Cathy K. on November 30, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for this! We are entering another season – getting close to the “empty nest”. Just last night we discussed whether we would even have a tree this year because there are no “kids” left to go get one with Dad (our family tradition). I think we may get one of those smaller “living” trees that we can plant out in the yard after Christmas. Our oldest just got engaged to be married, so lots of changes going on – happy of course, but making me nostalgic some, too.

  5. Kimberly on November 30, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Thanks for this post! I remember a few years ago you wrote about how you get your kids involved during Advent (I could also be remembering a Lenten post, however) and I really like it. I think my daughter is now old enough to start traditions, but I cannot find the post. Do you remember the one I’m talking about? Or do you have any suggestions? She’s 2 1/2. Thanks!

  6. Jenn on November 30, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Sassy Kathryn always makes my day!

  7. Bonnie on November 30, 2015 at 9:35 am

    This is the best post I’ve seen on this topic. Well said, Kathryn, and thank you for saying it!

  8. Suzi Whitford on November 30, 2015 at 11:38 am

    We’re a young Catholic family starting out and we’re expecting our second baby.

    1. Our 4 ft Christmas tree is artificial, and borrowed from my parents. Thank you mom and dad!
    2. Our Jesse Tree is not a tree, but a branch I picked up outside and I’ll be decorating it with free printables!
    3. Our Advent wreath currently has three candles… I can add a fourth but then we’ll have three fat ones and one skinny one.

    But last night we blessed the wreath, we started praying the Christmas Novena and we hung up our first Jesse tree ornament. It was beautiful even though it all cost $0.

    Maybe one day I’ll do all 16 traditions I posted about earlier.

  9. Sarah on November 30, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Excellent read! I am in the midst of 3 littles and a part time career and often feel overwhelmed with trying to keep up. It’s nice to see other moms encouraging and giving real life advice. Needed this today–thanks!

    • Erin on November 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Thank you for this.:) I need to stop fast-forwarding to what may be possible in the future money-wise and decorating-wise and tradition-wise, and focus on where my family is right now. We did get a really pretty (real!) tree this year, and we have lots of hand-me-down 90’s decorations…and lights. After finally having a house of our own again, my husband has gone crazy with the lights. We the destination light-viewing house on this side of the neighborhood. The Jesse Tree can wait for next year, though. 🙂

      Advent joy and peace to you, Kathryn!

  10. Kati on November 30, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    This is fantastic. THANK YOU for not saying something like, to be a Good Catholic you really should have all your shopping done and be quietly anticipating the birth of Christ by praying fervently with your many small children every day for 30 minutes….or some similar take on how to do it “right.” I just love love love this so much. Sometimes I need permission to do what works for US, you know? And I very much appreciate that I can generally find such permission here 🙂

  11. […] read Kathryn’s piece this morning, and Bonnie’s too, and I was nodding and “mmm-hmming” along […]

  12. Jen @ Faith and Fabric on November 30, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    “Find Your Season”…I love this. It’s been a journey for us, too, as we learn what works (and what doesn’t) for our family in celebrating Advent.

  13. Veronica on November 30, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Love it. It’s always fun to read what’s on your mind when you’re behind your laptop at 1am.

  14. Holly on December 1, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Gosh I love you! And I love this! 🙂

  15. Beth Anne on December 2, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    I love this post! Over the last few years we have had some not so happy christmases. There was a year we couldn’t even afford a star/angel for the top of the tree and a few years later we found the super super cheap star we bought at the dollar store and laughed about it.

  16. Denise on December 5, 2015 at 8:23 am

    This was such a straightforward and rational look at things. Beautiful!!

  17. Advent for Beginners on December 8, 2015 at 7:39 am

    […] Kathryn urges all families to find their season. This is my season of trying to a pinteresty Advent on a zero dollar budget! Our Christmas tree is a 4ft artificial tree borrowed from my parents, our Advent wreath candles are […]

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