Advent is a time of preparation for Christians of all denominations and traditions in the Christian faith.

The Christian season of Advent begins today and lasts for four weeks. During this time, believers are encouraged to "search inward and ready for Christ."

Spiritual preparations for Jesus' birth sometimes get buried amid holiday parties, travel, presents, and decorations.

The four-week Advent period, which begins this year on Sunday, November 27, is typically less about anticipating the advent of the Messiah on Christmas Day

And more about celebrating the Santa Claus and the secular trappings of the season, even among the most devout.

Advent is a liturgical season analogous to Lent in the Catholic Church, explains John Prust of the Diocese of San Diego.

Advent is a time to look inward and prepare for the birth of Christ, says Prust. "We can go inward so we're ready for Christmas"

The 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and end on Epiphany, when the 3 kings followed the star to Jesus' manger. He says every Christmas custom has meaning.

Traditions tell us that Christmas is still a ways off, so we start the festivities in November, right after Black Friday.

Advent calendars assist Catholic families remember that the 4 weeks before Christmas are a time of spiritual preparation.