As I get older, I find myself interested in traditional Christian practices. This year I've been particularly observing the liturgical calendar. When I visited St. John's Abbey during Lent, I learned what that season meant to them. Lent was followed by Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost; then the part of the year referred to as "Ordinary Time." Today marks the beginning of Advent, which kicks off the second major center of "Sacred Time" (Advent, Christmas and Epiphany).
The focus of Advent is spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth. The traditional "Christmas season" does not actually begin until Christmas Eve. Advent is supposed to be a somber season that increases in expectation and hope with each day approaching the arrival of the Messiah that is celebrated at Christmas.
We gathered together all the Advent paraphernalia at home: the wreath, three different calendars (two of which are hand-made), and weekly prayers. I hope this will become a new family tradition. We explained Natalie's role to her last night. She is already excited to blow out the "birthday" candles!