While much of mainstream culture revs up for the holidays, December is one of the quietest months at the Monastery of St. Gertrude. With fewer guests, the monastic community embraces the quiet anticipation of Advent. The community schedule is cleared of extra activity as everyone enters the traditional time of waiting.

Many people choose to make a retreat at St. Gertrude’s during Advent. “Silence the Christmas Noise” runs Dec. 3-21. Within that time, a person can customize a retreat that fits his or her schedule.

Advent continues in quiet simplicity until right before Christmas Eve, when eight trees are brought fresh from the Monastery forest and decorated at various locations throughout the monastic home. Then, piece by piece, the sisters assemble the grand manger scene in the chapel.

“According to the liturgical calendar, Christmas really starts on Christmas Eve,” explains Sister Carol Ann Wassmuth. “The ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ are not before, but after.” This means the official end of Christmas is January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany that celebrates when the Three Wise Men arrived with their gifts.

At the Monastery, the figures of the Three Wise Men are not immediately presented with the manger scene. They start at the far end of the chapel and are moved a little closer each day until they arrive at the stable on the Feast of the Epiphany.

All are welcome to Christmas Eve Mass at 7:30 p.m. (caroling begins at 7:00 p.m.) and Christmas Day Mass at 11:30 a.m.

Christmas will continue to be celebrated with a Christmas concert by the Idaho County Orchestra at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29. The performance is free.

The first concert of the new year will be Handel’s Messiah with the Palouse Choral Society Chamber Choir and a live orchestra at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12. Tickets are $10 and are available online and at the door.

Give the gift of St. Gertrude’s this season.

PHOTO: Christmas Eve at St. Gertrude’s. Photo by Clay Gehring.