Between Black Friday and a White Christmas, Catholic Shopkeepers Keep Advent Purple

Small businesses celebrate the full breadth of the liturgical year.

Advent art from Baritus Catholic
Advent art from Baritus Catholic (photo: Courtesy of Baritus Catholic)

November has come, and with it a flurry of Christmas-themed content and marketing from the secular shopping world. For small Catholic businesses looking to reach their yearly sales goals, pushing Christmas content up to November could be a temptation — but many find alternative ways to celebrate the full breadth of the liturgical year. 


Sales Pressures 

“I’m kind of turned off by stepping into a store in October and seeing Christmas stuff everywhere,” said Chris Wilson, founder of Baritus Catholic, an Etsy shop that sells graphic tees, holy cards, vinyl stickers and other products based on Wilson’s original art. “Especially as Catholics — I’m a convert; we had a different idea of Christmas growing up — Christmas doesn’t really start until after Advent.” 

Seventy-four percent of online retailers report that Q4 is their most profitable time of year, and it makes sense — the National Retail Federation expects American holiday spending to reach record levels in 2023, soaring to more than $950 billion in November and December. To leverage these consumer dollars, secular businesses push the holiday season back earlier and earlier, with Christmas decor, gifts and music dominating the retail scene by early November. 

For Catholics, the Advent season — the beginning of the liturgical year — starts the first weekend of December and lasts until Christmas. The season of Advent is traditionally seen as what Wilson calls “a mini-Lent,” an occasion for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. All this is in stark contrast, though, with the traditional pressure to perform in these critical last months of the year. 

“As a product-based e-commerce business there absolutely is a pressure to reach our sales goals by the end of the year,” Mari Wagner, founder of West Coast Catholic, shared over email. West Coast Catholic sells products for living a Catholic lifestyle, including clothing, prints, rosaries and candles. “I think where the tension comes in as a Catholic business is between following the secular marketing trends of Christmas and holiday content, starting Nov. 1, and staying true to the liturgical calendar that our Church provides.” West Coast Catholic has chosen the liturgical calendar for the past few years, running fall-themed content until the beginning of Advent.

For some businesses, especially those run by independent entrepreneurs, this pressure isn’t as much of a sticking point. “I don’t really follow the secular calendar or those peer pressures,” said Wilson. “I don’t even know when Cyber Monday is. I don’t know if it happened already, or what.” Baritus Catholic has run year-end Advent and end-of-year sales in the past, but keeps the focus on Advent until the Christmas season has officially begun.

The Little Catholic, which sells gold and silver Catholic jewelry pieces, home decor and children’s accessories, runs holiday sales. Still, “we don’t feel any pressure to keep up with others,” Priscilla Christine, their founder, shared over email. “We experience a huge uptick every holiday.” 


Catholic Liturgical Year

As an alternative to the secular calendar, many Catholic businesses choose to lean into the Church’s holidays — that is, the Church’s holy days, many of which fall in this season. January Jane Shop (JanuaryJaneShop.com), a Catholic accessory and art store with best-selling polaroid-style prints of contemporary saints, placed the focus on All Saints’ Day this fall. Founder Jana Zuniga Pingel’s book Humans of Heaven launched Nov. 1 (the Solemnity of All Saints) and immediately sold out of two print runs. “Heaven’s hand over this book has been so tangible to me and so clearly made possible by His design,” wrote Pingel on Instagram. 

Other businesses find similar ways to emphasize the meaning of the season while also catering to the needs of their patrons. Wilson, who designs a new Christmas card every year, had just listed cards on Baritus Catholic’s Etsy shop when he spoke with the Register. “I was a little bit sheepish about it,” he admitted. “I want to give people time to be able to buy them and fill them out.” Baritus Catholic’s Christmas cards feature Wilson’s signature woodcut-esque art style and were sold out less than two weeks after listing. 

West Coast Catholic’s “Star of Bethlehem Rosary,” “designed to remind us to prepare our hearts for the coming of the newborn King,” is a concrete nod to the Advent season. “We do our best to help our customers be present in the moment instead of living in the season ahead,” shared Wagner.

Shining Light Dolls, a Catholic business for children’s toys, also features a special product for the season: a wooden Advent wreath with white candles to use after Christmas, as well as the traditional purple and pink. Shining Light Dolls’ St. Nicholas Day sale started on Nov. 6, encouraging customers to purchase their gifts to arrive in time for St. Nicholas’ feast day on Dec. 6. 

Another way small business owners encourage their clientele to remember the reason for the season is thoughtfully curated online content. “We help encourage our customers to observe Advent by creating content that helps them learn ways to live out the season through prayer and faith-filled activities,” said Wagner, whose Instagram has featured a “fall Rosary girl walk” and other fall-themed meditations this November. January Jane Shop’s Instagram featured a hike for St. Francis’ feast day on Oct. 4 and a DIY for All Souls’ Day.

Baritus Catholic’s Instagram account features contemplative Advent art for its more than 94,000 followers throughout the season. “I want to bring the season of Advent to life visually for people and help them get into the Catholic reason for the season,” said Wilson, whose Advent art in the past has featured the Holy Family on a donkey, St. Nicholas, and an image of Our Lady for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. 

Walking the line between the secular calendar and the Church’s liturgical year can be a challenge, but it can also be an invitation to live the richness of a Catholic life. As Christine of The Little Catholic puts it, “Beauty is God’s way of speaking to people here on earth ... [and] our jewelry reminds wearers to treasure those moments and hold them close to their hearts.” Whether they sell jewelry, art or home goods, these Catholic business owners are focused on creative ways to encourage those who share their faith — and those who do not — to enjoy the season as it slowly unfolds. 

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