You guys. It’s getting closer and closer to Advent. I’m not trying to be annoying at all. You won’t find me playing Christmas music too early (there are 2 stations locally which have been playing Christmas music non-stop since November 1!! SO INSANE!). But, you will find me soon digging through our Advent box so I can be sure to have all the things I want for Advent, and fixing up some Jesse tree ornaments which the glue was loosening on last year, etc. Also, you shared great ideas of celebrating Advent in your comments on the giveaway post, and others of you are new to Advent so are looking for ideas…so here is my list of 5 favorite ways to celebrate.
First, though, drum-roll for the winners of the giveaway! Betsy and Liesl! Congratulations, ladies! (at this point, they both have been notified.) Betsy, you win the journal and candles! Liesl, you win the journal and chaplet.
Now to my favorite ways to celebrate Advent
An Advent wreath. We always, always have the Advent wreath and a book of prayers that we read from before dinner or before bedtime. It’s basically our bare-bones, can’t leave it out, must-do part of Advent. We always did in my house when I was a child, and we’ve always done it in our own family. The candle lights are so symbolic of Christ our Light, the colors reflect our penitential waiting and the royal nature of Christ as King, the prayers draw our hearts and minds into the meaning of the season. If you do nothing else, do an Advent wreath and prayers. Most parishes even have free prayer booklets for Advent.
Related: some sort of Advent calendar count-down. My oldest just informed me that one of her favorite things is a banner of “Advent Cones” I made one year. Each cone has a different tag with an activity to do that day, as well as a chocolate treat in some of them for the kids. Of course they love the chocolate! Ideas for activities: read about the Nativity, set up the Nativity scene (but have the figures absent or traveling through the house!), watch a Christmas movie, make paper snowflakes, have hot cocoa, etc. Another countdown we love is to wrap one book for each day of December, and open one each night to read before bed. The hardest part is narrowing the list to 25 books! (I first saw this idea on Elizabeth Foss’s blog. She always has lovely suggestions for picture books!)
Parish penance service: I love the opportunities for spiritual growth, and taking advantage of the parish penance service not only is a good reminder to get my tush back to Confession, but is also a beautiful community celebration of God’s love and mercy, which will soon be made Flesh in the Incarnation and Nativity.
Jesse Tree: This is fairly new to our family still; I think we first started it 4 or 5 years ago. That means we’ve only done it 4 or 5 times, so still new. We have a special, smaller tree for our Jesse tree ornaments, and each day we read a Bible story and add the matching ornament to the tree. It is a fun way to hear salvation history leading up to Christ’s birth, and of course the kids love it because they get to take turns hanging an ornament.
Decorating in stages: This is something I really love to do as an adult, and with our family. The idea and practice of it made sense when I was in college, working with our campus liturgist. I started to really understand the change in the seasons, and how the decor reflects our celebrations. When our family was a bit smaller and younger, we had one year which was so busy and a little boy who was so curious that I figured we’d skip the big tree that year. It was simpler and left no chance of ornaments being ripped off, lost, broken…or worse, the tree toppling over on a curious toddler. We ended up putting the tree up on Christmas Eve night, and surprised the kids in the morning. This year, we might do the same thing. Firecracker is such a climber and so curious that he can’t help but be in everything…and that is just not a good thing with a Christmas tree in the house.
How to decorate in stages? You can start simple, with just an Advent wreath. Then a week later, put up the tree, but leave it blank, or have your tree up all Advent but only add Jesse tree ornaments at first. Add a string of lights (or don’t plug in the lights) until about halfway through Advent (you can even wait until Christmas to add lights!). Slowly add your other decorations to your house. Set up a Nativity scene on the first day of Advent, but leave the people out. Have them travel through the house, as Mary and Joseph traveled. On Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph reach the stable. On Christmas morning, Jesus is in the manger! This is a favorite for me with or without children.
Celebrate the saints: During Advent, there are some great saints’ feast days. From St. Nicholas and St. Lucy to St. Andrew and St. Juan Diego, we have powerful witnesses to Christ and His love. Celebrating their lives has become a special part of Advent for us. We started by celebrating St. Nicholas as a way to help set the foundation for who Santa Claus really is…and since then have enjoyed celebrating not only his feast, but also St. Lucy’s. Last year I prayed the St. Andrew novena for the first time. It was a beautiful and simple way to add more silence and prayer to my days. Don’t forget the holy day on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception!
Next week, I will share our favorite ways (or my new plans) to celebrate these saints! If you have suggestions, let me know, as I am good at following suggestions and directions, but not so good creating brand new ideas. 😉
Linking up with Jenna for 5 Faves…very late, but better than never!