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Celtic Advent: 40 Days of Joy and Love

Please see the 2017 updated version of this calendar here.

Celtic Advent 2013

Please click on the calendar for a printable PDF version.

For each day, from now until Epiphany, I’ve thought of one thing I can do to practice joy and gratitude, and to give love, putting it on a calendar that draws on ancient Advent and Christmas traditions.

In the 6th century, the Celtic Christians celebrated Advent during the 40 days before Christmas, as a mirror to the period of Lent before Easter.  In this age of  blurring of holy-days and consumerism, I like the idea of starting Advent earlier, so that Thanksgiving is included, but also so there can be a longer, more intentional preparation for Christ’s coming.

Another tradition from around the 6th century (and probably earlier) is the “O” antiphons. An antiphon, from the Latin antiphona, meaning sounding against, was a repeated line of scripture used as bookends to the psalms in daily prayer and the Eucharist. The antiphon was a prayer “sound-byte,” capturing the most important aspect of the reading, helping those gathered remember through repetition. The “O” antiphons highlight a scriptural name of Christ and offer a jumping off point for reflection. Most people would recognize a version of these antiphons as the verses of the Advent carol O Come, O Come Emmanuel. They are still prayed in many churches–as they have been for more than 1500 years–from December 17 to December 23.

Finally, Christmas seems to end abruptly on December 26th in our consumer-culture celebration. Another lost tradition marks the Twelve Days from Christmas to Epiphany.  Epiphany means appearance or manifestation and remembers the angels, Magi and shepherds visiting Jesus,  as well as Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan–the public revelation that he is God’s Son.  The period from December 25 to January 6th is an ideal time for reflecting on the Light that has come into the world with the birth of Christ.

Pulling these three traditions together, I’ve created a calendar of ideas for living each day intentionally and joyfully.  Here is a PDF version. Please feel free to make copies and share with your friends and church.

The ability to give and experience love and joy doesn’t just happen, it needs to be stretched and strengthened. And over time, the capacity to love and to joy increases.

Let the Holy Spirit lead!


(an updated post from the archives)
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  • Maey Anne

    Susan you have a beautiful website, I came across this while trying to find ways to celebrate Celtic Advent. I first found out Celtic Advent with the book Celtic Daily Prayer over 10 years ago. I started to celebrate it 4 years ago as a way to get more intune with the real meaning of the Christmas season. Thank you very much and God Bless Mary Anne

  • contemplativecottage

    I’m so glad you stopped by! I started using Celtic Daily Prayer when it was first published–such a lovely book. Grace and peace as you prepare for the birth of Our Lord :-)

  • I had a friend of mine who suggested I would like this webpage. You know what? Bill was right! This is fantastic!!! I hope to see more here! :)

  • Diana

    I left this page open in my browser whilst I worked as the music is lovely – thank you

  • Jon R Christenson

    I have never heard of a Celtic Advent, but I’m willing to give it a try. Thanks for the calendar. Blessings!

  • contemplativecottage

    Hi Jon! I’m glad you stopped by. There is an updated version of this calendar for 2014:


  • contemplativecottage

    I’m so glad you are enjoying it!

  • Jacqui

    This is wonderful, and I have yet to spend more time with it and take it all in – having only just discovered it this evening. I feel particularly excited about the 40 days starting today – my birthday – which gives me something to feel excited and grateful for. I am going to try my best to follow it. Thank you