The great thing about observing holidays and traditions while away at college is that you don’t actually have to stop doing most of the things you’re used to doing when it comes to celebrating. No, you won’t be home with your family to take part in certain traditions, but you can still celebrate on your own or with friends. At the very least, your mom or dad might be willing to include you in certain elements of their tradition by mailing a care package, FaceTiming you into a special dinner, etc.
Advent, in particular, is a season of spiritual preparation during the days leading up to Christmas and a celebration of the coming of Jesus. Many families have traditions surrounding this time period, and it might feel like all of that is getting lost in the hustle and bustle of schoolwork and class.
If you’re looking for some ideas to make the Advent season meaningful and special, consider the list we compiled below!
1. Utilize a Jesse tree
Jesse trees are part of a very old Christmas tradition that actually started during medieval times. They’re used to tell the story of the Bible and ultimately, the overarching story of Christ from creation through the birth of Jesus. The Jesse tree is a sort of schematic representation of Jesus’ genealogy.
Nowadays, a Jesse tree can look like a tiny Christmas tree you bought off of Etsy paired with a devotional and some sweet Advent ornaments. Each day, you read a story from the Bible and place the corresponding ornament on the tree. It’s a fun way to remember everything that led up to the birth of Jesus, and it’s fun to hang a new ornament on the tree each day.
2. Do an Advent devotional
There’s something really sacred and special about the season of Advent.
The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment. – Frederick Beuchner
We observe the expectant waiting that all of mankind was postured in before the birth of Jesus Christ, and there is something beautiful about the anticipation of such a momentous event. An Advent devotional can help draw you into that waiting and draw you closer to Jesus as you spend time with him each day. It can also help you reflect on your need for a Savior, celebrate his coming, and watch for his return. See if your roomies are interested in doing it with you! You could meet each morning in a cozy coffee shop on campus to read the devotional together, journal, and sip coffee. What a wonderful way to start each winter morning in December!
3. Pop into a church service here and there
It can be tempting to skip your weekly Sunday mornings at church in December because everything gets so incredibly busy. Finals are more than likely creeping up on you, and there is a sort of hustle and bustle to the season. There’s nothing wrong with skipping church, but keep in mind that Sundays with your church community can help encourage and strengthen you in a way your everyday life cannot. Most churches do some sort of observance of Advent and the story of Christ’s birth, and attending a church service here and there (or weekly! or more!) can help keep you in the Advent mindset.
4. Use an Advent calendar
Advent calendars can vacillate all the way from super silly and fun to very intentional and deep.
Lots of people use Advent calendars to mark off each day leading up to Christmas with a sweet little surprise: a piece of chocolate, a pair of wrapped-up socks, or some other little trinket. Others have used an Advent calendar to inspire them to do fun winter activities or intentionally care for other people and give back. However you decide to use your Advent calendar, grab a couple friends to do it along with you. Observing special and sacred seasons can often be sweeter and deeper when you’re doing it as a community.
Other quick celebratory Advent ideas: set up a nativity, light Advent candles (if you’re allowed to in your dorm room), listen to sacred music, enjoy holiday food, volunteer somewhere, and remember your neighbors!