The Advent Season– The beginning of a new Liturgical year.
Advent, from the Latin word adventus which means “coming”, is the four-week liturgical season that precedes Christmas. Advent is a time to focus on the past, present and future of Jesus. We look to the past coming of Jesus on the first Christmas; the present coming of Jesus in the gospels, the sacraments, other people, prayer, love, truth, and personal experience; and the future coming of Jesus at the Last Judgment.
Making Advent a special season with your family is a great way to prepare for Christmas. Here we have selected a few ideas to share with you about some easy ways to celebrate the Advent season. Creating new traditions is a wonderful way to grow closer to Jesus. You can read more about Advent in our recent blog post: Advent: A Season to Experience.
Books for young children
- Who’s Coming to Our House?
- The Night of Las Posadas (Picture Puffin Books)
- The Clown of God
- The Donkey’s Dream
- Humphrey’s First Christmas
Listen: Books and Music
- The Story of Christmas: An Audio Drama About the First Christmas (this is for kids!)
- The Mystery of Christmas by Fr. Larry Richards (this is an audio talk for aimed for adults)
- Glory to the New Born King: Traditional Christmas Carols & Hymns by Lindsey Todd
- Brother Francis O Holy Night…
- Nestor the Long Eared Donkey
- The Star
- Veggietales the Star of Christmas
- Lukas Storyteller: The True Meaning of Christmas
- Kristoph & the First Christmas Tree: A Legend of St. Boniface
Books for older children
Find a countdown that involves a daily scripture reading or one that builds a Nativity Scene. The secular Advent calendars tend to be distracting from the point of the Advent Season. Focusing on Scripture is a great way to bring a Jesus centric season to your home. A good suggestion from a family in our class is to use an Advent Journal for children. The Maranatha for Kids Advent Journal is meant for children ages 6-12 and will work wonderfully in a home with multiple children. The Crafty Crow blog has some great Advent Calendar ideas from a post 9 years ago. While that was quite some time ago there are great homemade ideas that can be easily done at home. (PS this blog has wonderful seasonal crafting ideas well worth the click!)
Cribs for Baby Jesus
A simple and long standing tradition is to make a little simple “crib” for baby Jesus and place it on your prayer table or some place where all the children can see it and use it. When a child does a kind act or a small sacrifice or prayer, he/she can place a straw in the manger. The goal is to have a soft bed for Baby Jesus by Christmas morning. I just discovered that Hallmark has a cute kit A Bed for Baby Jesus that is absolutely adorable. It has a felt manger bed, 24 pieces of soft “hay”, and the cutest plush baby Jesus in swaddling clothes. This would be a great gift for families with young children to begin a new tradition.
Having Nativity sets displayed around the house is another way to keep Jesus the focus of Advent. Many homes traditionally have one Nativity set displayed that is often for looking not touching. What we have learned is that our children are naturally drawn to the Nativity set and they want to interact with it. Rather than worry a family heirloom could be broken by little hands we have chosen to make a Nativity set available for the children to explore. In our home we like to display several types of Nativity sets. By enabling certain sets to be child friendly your children will become more connected to the Advent season. As you set up your nativity scene in your home this year (or if you do not have one, consider one of the options below.) talk about the many ways each of the figures can teach us about waiting for Jesus, following Jesus, or receiving Jesus. Coloring your own Nativity set is an easy way for children to make their very own Nativity set. Try this one from Made by Joel. If you have Legos at home try making your own Lego Nativity set. We have a Little People Children’s Nativity set that was a gift for our children years ago but has since become a family favorite that we love making it part of our Advent decorating. The new favorite has been the peg doll Nativity. We often find one or more of the pieces have been traveling around our home.
Mary on the Mantel
This is an adorable new tradition to try. While having a sweet doll like the one the Be a Heart site sells is lovely that may not be in the budget for many. Why not use what you have at home? A Mary statue, or peg doll, or even a small doll you have at home and dress it up as the Blessed Mother. Even using a print out of Mary can be a great alternative. There is no need to worry about spending extra money to implement a tradition. The key is to find a way to make the tradition work for you and your family. Involving your children in making your family’s Mary on the Mantel doll can be a dear, sweet, activity.
Every Catholic family should adopt this beautiful tradition in your domestic church if possible. The wreaths are inexpensive and need not be fancy. The traditional wreath is supposed to be green (strength and healing) with holly berries (blood of Christ to be shed for us), circle (the eternity of God), pine cones (seeds of new life) and the 4 candles remind us that the Light of the World is going to bring us out of darkness and into new life! The 3 purple candles remind us of preparation and penance. The one pink candle represents joy. There are short prayers that you use with the wreath each week. Such a simple and memorable tradition in your home. An easy printable wreath can be found here. Another idea is to make a stained glass style Advent wreath for the window. Making a pipe cleaner Advent wreath is a quick craft idea. On a budget? How about making a 99cent Advent wreath.
Prayer Mission: Saint, Sinner, and Soul
One tradition is to choose a saint, a sinner, and a soul to pray for each day to/for the entire new year. Each child chooses a saint to pray to for help. Then each child picks a person that they want to pray FOR the whole year. It could be a friend, a priest, the Pope, a teacher, a family member etc. Lastly each child chooses a person who has passed into eternal life and asks our Blessed Lord to have mercy on that soul every day for the next year.
Celebrate December Feasts
The Advent season is rich with numerous saints to celebrate. We suggest looking for a few saints’ feast days to add to your family’s Advent traditions. For our family Our Lady of Guadalupe is a favorite so we make a few crafts, enjoy some Mexican inspired foods, and read the story by Tomie dePaola. St. Lucia Day happens to be another enjoyable December feast day for many families. You can print a really beautiful St. Lucia crown to wear. For a free option try this St. Lucia crown in color or to have an activity for children this St. Lucia crown will require coloring and assembling.
During Advent many families find that making a Jesse Tree to retell the stories of the Bible that lead to Jesus’s birth is a good way to build joy and anticipation as we wait for Christmas. This tradition uses a tree, symbolic ornaments, and scripture to retell the Christmas story. Some free ornaments can be printed from Catholicinspired.