Christmas is a season for family customs, and the Catholic Courier is hoping readers are adding its annual Advent calendar to those traditions.
The 2016 calendar, which can be found at www.catholiccourier.com/adventcalendar2016, features 31 windows hiding multimedia treats. The first window will be unlocked on Nov. 26, and visitors will be able to unveil a different digital treat each day through Dec. 26. Among the surprises visitors will find are cooking and craft demonstrations, Advent reflections, Scripture readings with religious imagery, movie clips, a puzzle and other seasonal activities.
This is the second year that the Courier staff has produced a multimedia Advent calendar. Reaction to last year's Advent calendar was very positive, with many parishes and schools sharing the calendar with parishioners and families.
For example, Leonor Rivera, a technology teacher at Pittsford's St. Louis School, incorporated the calendar into morning prayer with her students. Rivera, who also serves on the Courier's board of directors, said she also suggested the calendar to fellow teachers, who also used it as part of their morning prayers or during lunch time.
She said students particularly enjoyed the videos offered in the calendar, especially the JibJab "Elf Yourself" video featuring members of the Courier staff.
"The Advent calendar "is a fun mix of faith, technology and inspiration. The holidays are so busy, and the Advent calendar helps you to slow down and focus," Rivera said, noting that she plans to use the calendar in her classroom again this year.
Almost every daily treat is new this year, and 95 percent of the content is being produced by the Courier staff. Calendar content will highlight each of the Diocese of Rochester's three regions -- Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Monroe County -- and also showcase entries from this year's Christmas coloring and art contest for children ages 3-12 (see related story on this page).
With help from Couriersummer intern Sean McMahon, the staff started working on the calendar earlier this year, brainstorming ideas in July and August. Karen M. Franz, editor and general manager of the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico newspapers said the staff has already begun working to promote it.
"We want to increase awareness of the calendar this year, and we hope more people will take advantage of it as part of their spiritual preparations for Christmas," she said.