Great question, I'm glad you asked!
Catholics all over the world will officially begin preparing for Christmas with the beginning of Advent on November 29, 2015 and lasting until December 24, 2015. This is a season where Catholics all over the world prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Most people know when Catholics begin the season of Lent because we are walking around the world with ashes on our foreheads, but how do you know we have started the season of Advent? You will know us by our behavior, at least we hope!
Advent is our time to detach from the world with the spiritual practices of Fasting, Prayer, and Alms-giving to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. While the world is busy shopping, decorating, cooking, eating, drinking, and partying, Catholics are looking for ways to incorporate more time for prayers, acts of charity, and giving up little everyday pleasures or actual daily use items. Instead of seeking sales tags or the best deals in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Catholics are seeking Jesus. Jesus called every Catholic at Mass on the 29th to use the weeks before Christmas to stop, drop, and pray. He is always asking Catholics to be counter-cultural. This is especially hard when being cultural means yummy treats, parties, shopping, and time with family and friends (insert appropriate amount of time for non-Catholics to take pity on us). Jesus really is the reason for the season for Catholics, so they have to make sure they are enjoying those cultural/seasonal things in proportion to the time and energy they are pouring into their spiritual preparation for Christmas. If you know a Catholic and want to challenge them ask them the following questions over the next few weeks during Advent. In the amount of times you will spend this season getting in and out of the car how many of those times are you going in and out of your local parish for prayer? Are things rightly ordered? You have time to catch a sale, a dinner party, and social gathering, but do you have time to stop in and visit with Jesus at your church? Are you using your car time wisely? Maybe the time in travel can be used in part saying a rosary (maybe for an enemy), listening to scripture or a spiritual talk/book?
God isn't trying to steal the holiday season from Catholics or make it lame, boring, or even take away their love for a great deal at the store. God wants to fill them with His love. He can't do that if they are full of themselves, focused only on getting a full belly, a full shopping cart (unless it is for the poor), or finding the picture-perfect Christmas tree. He came as a baby, into a poor family, with no Christmas tree, twinkling lights, or perfect Christmas dinner. Advent should remind Catholics, and the world, that real Christmas cheer is found in finding that little baby in the stable on Christmas morning and not something shiny under the Christmas tree.
So, how does a Catholic prepare for Christmas? Prayer, Fasting, Alms-giving! Won't you join us? If not, at least encourage us and give us a break if we aren't doing it perfectly... it's not easy!