Advent has begun! The first season in the Christian Church’s liturgical year, the season of Advent precedes Christmas, marking days of patient, but anticipatory waiting. Biblically, this season represents Israel’s hundreds and hundreds of years spent waiting for the Messiah to appear. In modern terms, it represents our wait for his second return and the restoration of Earth and fulfillment of His Kingdom.

Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with this season, most often celebrated with an Advent Calendar, marking down the 24 days before Christmas Day. However, for many of us, that is the beginning and ending of our Advent celebrations, as those 24 days are filled with the Christmas events that should “technically” be reserved for Christmas Day through Epiphany. But how can one truly celebrate Advent without becoming a social reject who says not to caroling, decorating, and partying? Is it possible to do both?

For the last few years, we’ve been doing our best to do just that! Here are 5 simple ways to incorporate Advent into your December, without saying no to social events and expectations.

1 – Decorate Slowly

This is our favorite way to tangibly change our Christmas mindset. With Christmas decorations hitting the store shelves right around Halloween and houses in full, lit-up glory by December 1st, slowing your decorative roll is a practical, easy, fun way to change the pace of your month. We typically buy our tree the first weekend of Advent, but spend the entire month decorating it. For example, the tree has now been up a week, but we have yet to put lights on. Instead, we’re enjoying it for its very own beauty. As the month progresses, we’ll put on lights, decorate a bit at a time, and, finally, top with a star. Around the rest of the house, I slowly add to as I feel led. I don’t stress about “just getting it done,” but decorate when the festive mood strikes me.

2 – Join in an Advent Study

Advent studies are specifically designed to turn your minds to Christ in a way that fuels anticipation and worship. Spending a bit of time each day storing up scripture that focuses on the birth of Christ is a fantastic way to fill your mind with that which is not fleeting or trivial. I personally enjoy participating in If: Equip’s studies throughout the year and during Advent.

3 – Read or Listen To the Daily Office

Similar to #2, participating in the Daily Office readings for Advent are a way to fill your mind with scripture that will set your mind on the themes of Advent. Also, reading these scriptures connects you to the Christian Church, as Christians around the globe take part in these readings all throughout the year. There is something incredibly special about reading the same scriptures and saying the same prayers as the Church at large. We know that “where two or more are gathered,” powerful things happen.

4 – Embrace Darkness and Silence

I think it’s a shame that the dark and the quiet are so often perceived so negatively. One of my favorite illustrations of the importance of these is that of the seed – it lives in darkness for a sustained period of time, but during that time it is growing strong and vibrant, taking in the nutrients it needs to burst forth when the time is right. Although the month of December is typically marked with parties and light, I encourage you to take time for the opposite. End your evening by candlelight, practice meditation, play soft, worshipful music. Take just a bit of time to invite the stillness in and really, sincerely prepare your heart for the rejoicing that comes with Christ’s birth. In our busy lives, which often get even busier during December, it is easy to let Jesus get overshadowed. Advent is a phenomenal way to counteract that tendency.

5 – Don’t Stop on December 25th

You know the 12 Days of Christmas, right? Don’t forget about those this year! Many of us are itching to get the decorations down once Christmas is over (something else that slow decorating helps with!), but they traditionally stay up at least through Epiphany (January 6, this year) if not longer (some keep up their nativity through the beginning of February to mark Jesus’s presentation in the temple. The gift-giving and typical hustle and bustle is complete by now, so take advantage of this change to celebrate Christmas with lightened heart! Boxing Day and Epiphany are two of our favorite ways to keep the season moving, but check into some lesser known feast days! Use these as a reason to host friends and family in a slightly different, but still celebratory, context! If you know the season isn’t coming to an end – but rather, just beginning – on December 25, embracing a bit of the slow and quiet of Advent seems a bit more doable!