We have many traditions that we repeat each year to make our Advent season meaningful and keep the holidays focused on Jesus Christ. Some of our activities change from year to year, but these are the traditions that we’ve begun and I hope and pray that these traditions are carried on through the generations.
Our Advent Calendar
A day or two before Advent begins, the kids and I will sit down and make an Advent calendar. Sure, we could buy one, but there’s a lot less fun in that – don’t you think? Each year the calendar contains a piece of candy for each child and one activity for the day (which could be as simple as moving the traveling nativity or as involved as making Christmas cookies.)
The kids look forward to checking the calendar each day to see what we’ll be doing – and of course to get their treat! It also has the added benefit of helping us count down to Christmas morning. For me, it has an additional benefit of helping me stay on top of my Advent plans and not get too busy doing other things. 🙂
Here’s the Advent calendar we made this year.
It looks deceptively more complicated than it really is. What you see there is 24 little Dixie paper cups covered in tissue paper and glued to a piece of poster board in a tree shape. The remaining poster board was decorated with tissue paper tufts and we tucked little pieces of green between the cups to make it look more like they’re red ornaments hanging on a green tree. Inside each cup is the slip of paper with the activity and either Hershey’s kisses, Reeses Cups, or Soft Peppermints. Each day is a surprise! (And what the kids don’t know is that I put a double helping in the last cup when they weren’t looking!) =)
The Advent Wreath
An Advent Wreath is used, along with a scripture passage, to very purposefully focus on why Christ came to earth. You can buy very fancy or very simple Advent Wreaths, but we usually create our own in what is really more a grouping of small candles.
Part of what we do to build the anticipation for Christmas Day is to space things out and build layer upon layer. We’ll be decorating all week and so we don’t have our Advent Wreath up yet. This is the Advent Wreath we had last year:
There are several different traditions regarding the number and color of candles, and what they represent. There are many passages that can be read while lighting each of them.
I have two books with suggested readings, and I’ll be using one of the them this year – Worship Through the Seasons, Ideas for Celebration by Mary Isabelle Hock. The other is Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes. If you need resources for Scripture readings, you can also check out these online listings:
- Daily readings that relate to the Advent themes of waiting, preparation, light in the darkness, and the coming of the promised Messiah.
- These daily readings are adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, and are on a two year cycle.
- These weekly readings come in three sets for a three year cycle.
- These weekly reading offer four themes for variation.
The Traveling Nativity
Another tradition we have is using a Traveling Nativity. The idea is that all your pieces begin their journey in different places in the house and over the course of the month arrive at their final destination. We usually begin with the shepherds close by (because after all, there were shepherds nearby watching their sheep), Mary & Joseph & the donkey begin a good distance away, and the Wise Men begin their journey from the farthest end of the house – because they came from afar! The angels & baby Jesus are stored away until it’s their cue. 😉
Once a week or so, move the wise men and the holy family closer towards the stable – arranging it so that Mary & Joseph arrive on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, bring out baby Jesus! Bring in those angels! Move those shepherds in closer! The whole scene is set – what a beautiful sight! The wise men, who came from so far away, can be brought in now, later in the day, or if you prefer – you can wait and do it after Christmas Day. January 6th, “Day of Epiphany,” is the day when Catholics celebrate the arrival of the kings.
Setting up your Nativity in this way has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that your nativity scene looks a little bare and weird until Christmas Day. On the other hand, it’s a good way to ‘reenact’ the Christmas story for younger children and it ties in nicely with the Advent Wreath & bible readings.
What are YOUR traditions?
Don’t forget to link up with a post of your own. And remember, leaving a comment on this post earns you an extra entry! Tell me a tradition, share a link, whatever! God Bless & go build some traditions with your family.