We always had an advent wreath growing up and every night after dinner, my mother would light the candle (or candles, depending on the week) and we would say the rosary around it. Starting on December 16th we used to say a Christmas novena and starting on the 17th we also said special prayers and Bible readings for the “Golden Nights”.
We also had a "Christkindl " during Advent which was wonderful fun.
Other things we did include:
change the family altar colours to purple,
display a statue of St. John the Baptist,
have an empty crib with Mary and Joseph slowly making their way towards it (as small children we loved moving Mary and Joseph a little closer each day and after Christmas we did the same with the 3 Wise Men),
we hung Christmas decorations and put up the Christmas tree on St. Nicholas’ Day but didn’t light any lights until Christmas Eve,
we bought a large white candle, got it blessed, put it in a beautifully decorated bowl on the window sill and lit it on Christmas Eve and kept it lit until Jan 7th. We also used this candle for evening prayers during the Christmas season.
On Christmas Eve, we never ate meat but had seafood instead. It was delicious! My father used read us a story, usually “When The Animals Talk” By Rusty Calhoun. We put the lights on the tree, put a Christmas Candle in the window and then the youngest child carried the Baby Jesus to our crib. We went to Mass at midnight and again on Christmas morning. We opened all our gifts when we came back from Mass except one which we kept wrapped until Epiphany.
After Christmas Day we continued to celebrate the Christmas season by remembering different feasts during this time such as:
St Stephen’s Day Dec 26th. We ate spiced beef and sang “Good King Wenceslaus” before dinner. After dinner we would visit our deacon’s house and thank him for all his help during the year and give him a small gift.
Also , the 3 Kings used to “appear” and start making their way to the crib. We used to move them closer to the crib each day till they finally arrived on Jan 6th.
December 28th we celebrated Childermas (the feast of the Holy Innocents). The children in the family choose the food for the day but we always had some red food (to remember these children were the first martyrs), usually strawberries or raspberies.
We also started the “Novena to the Magi” said every evening around the Christmas candle.
January 6th we celebrated Ephipany also called Little Christmas or Women’s Christmas. We usually went to Mass and after Mass, my father would bless the house (occasionally we would invite one of the priests to dinner and he would bless the house for us). We would open our last Christmas gift too. On this day women, especially mothers, do no work so my father, brother and other male members of the family did the house work and cook dinner. Men also gave adult female relatives small presents to thank them for all the hard work they do during the year.
We had a special cake with a coin hidden in it and whoever found the coin was the “king” or “queen” for the day. We moved the 3 kings to the manger and sang “We 3 kings of Orient are”. That night or on Jan 5th (12th night)we used to look for Orion in the sky because the 3 stars that make up his belt are called the Magi. When we were teenagers I remember reading “The Journey of the Magi” by T. S. Elliot on Jan 5th.
On the evening of Jan 6th we used to choose a new patron saint for the year. My mother had typed up a long list of different saints’ names, cut them into slips and we would choose one from a bowl. We used to look up about that saint and then tell the rest of our family what we had found. Sometimes this would continue for several weeks, depending on the saints we got.
We took all decorations down on Jan 7th except for the crib which stayed up till Feb 2nd.