I love getting ready for the Advent season and am already planning our activities and decorations for the season so thought you might like to do so too.
This year I will be creating an Advent Come to the Manger wreath. If you decide to do the same please do send us your photos.
Make an Advent Wreath
The most traditional project to prepare us for the new liturgical year is to create or acquire and advent wreath. An Advent wreath typically consists of greenery with four candles, three purple and one pink. Each candle has a specific meaning:
Candle one (purple) represents hope. It is often called the prophets’ candle.
Candle two (purple) represents peace. It is often called the angels’ candle.
Candle three (pink) represents joy. It is often called the shepherds’ candle.
Candle four (purple) represents love. It is often called the Bethlehem candle.
Many advent wreaths also include a Christ candle in the middle of the wreath.
To celebrate with an Advent wreath, you light a candle on each Sunday of Advent. The first Sunday, you light candle one; the second Sunday you light candles one and two, etc. You can often find readings to go along with the candle lightings on the internet or at Christian bookstores. Or find a Christmas book that represents the theme of the week and read it with your children.
There are lots of ways to make Advent wreaths. It is a fun craft to do with kids and adults alike and may establish a new family tradition for you.
Here are a few that I find useful:
Here is a link to a fairly traditional Advent wreath. It does require an electric drill, fine tooth saw and wire cutters so obviously not something to let your kids do on their own.
This short video How to make an Advent wreath uses old coat hangers.
And here is a simple eco-friendly wreath
Or perhaps a junk wheel wreath with mason jar tealight.
And I love this one for making an Advent wreath with children’s hand prints. One of my friends used her own and her husbands handprints for the wreath and gave it to her grandkids prints as an Advent gift.
Go bird friendly with your Advent wreath and Advent decorations. We tried this last year. The gelatine suggested in most of these goes moldy if you leave it inside too long, however we plan to try it again with lard which should be more durable and also nutritious for the birds.
Create an Advent or Winter Spiral
This is not a long standing Advent tradition but is associated with Waldorf schools in the United States. It has similarities to walking the labyrinth and I think is a wonderful tradition to consider establishing for your family.
Kimz Kitchen has great instructions for making an Advent spiral with dough.
Mountain Hearth has the most ambitious of all – a beautiful Advent walk that as they say really sets the mood for a different sort of holiday season filled with more stillness, reverence, contemplation and beauty amongst the prevalent hustle and bustle of shopping, parties, and general busy-ness that surrounds us in November and December.
Create an Advent Garden
This is an idea that I came up with last year when I was feeling a little bored by the traditional Advent wreath which we had used for the last 20 years. I am a keen gardener and decided to create my own mini garden specifically for Advent.
I filmed this short video to explain my process and the reasoning behind it. This was a very meaningful and fun way to celebrate the season. I am planning to replenish the garden each year as an ongoing Advent activity.
Make Your Own Advent Calendar
Advent calendars always seem to represent the more commercial side of Christmas to me with cheap chocolates, wooden toys and glittery paper being the predominant images. However this is a wonderful tradition and there are many ways in which we can make it meaningful for our families
I love the suggestion from the post Celebrating Advent with Children, to make an Advent calendar with matchboxes, placing slips of paper in each one with different activities to do each day.
Another possibility is this recycle bin Advent calendar. – what a great way to introduce kids to the season and to the need to be more responsible. The combination of inward reflection and outward caring is wonderful.
Countdown Christmas Traditions– also has a fun kid friendly Advent calendar. As you click on each day of Advent you read about traditions in different countries of the world.
CAFOD: Just One world in the U.K. has some great Advent liturgies available as well as a downloadable Advent calendar for kids.
Susan Forshey put together this helpful Advent calendar Forty Days of Joy and Love which is a great concept to use for your Advent calendar without investing in funky toys or more unnecessary chocolates.
And here is a really fun one to explore – The Hubble Telescope Advent calendar
Catholic Mom has downloadable instructions for an Advent chain which has some similarities to an Advent calendar, but is especially designed to encourage kids to think beyond themselves at Christmas.
A couple of years ago MSA Board member Jill Aylard Young put together a similar kit called Advent in A Jar which is downloadable from the MSA site.
Explore Christmas traditions and recipes from around the world with your family
If you wanting to establish new traditions to enjoy with your family or friends, read through these descriptions of traditions from around the world and discuss the possibility of adapting some of these as part of your own celebration during the Advent and Christmas season.
The Worldwide Gourmet, has a wonderful array of recipes associated with the Advent and Christmas season in many different parts of the world. Just reading through some of these has my mouth watering. Choose a few to make with your kids and create some special prayers for the countries the traditions come from at the same time.
Set up a nativity set.
This is always a fun activity that tends to grow even more important as we age. Set it up with the manger empty and the wise men at the other end of the room or house. Throughout the Advent and Christmas season the wise men move closer to the manager and of course on Christmas morning the Christ child appears in the manger.
One of my friends has a rich collection of nativity sets from around the world which she sets up in different parts of the house to remind her that the story of Jesus is powerful in every culture. World Nativity has an amazing set of images of nativity sets from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. YonderStar is another site that sells Nativity sets, many of them fair trade. They also contribute 10% of their profits to Nature Conservancy and Food for the Poor.
One creative twist on the traditional nativity set is to give each family member an empty manger on the first Sunday of Advent. A small cereal box covered with bright paper will do as well. At bedtime, the children draw straws for each kind deed performed in honor of baby Jesus as his birthday surprise. The straws are placed in the child’s manger or box daily. It is amazing how much love a child can put into Advent when she or he is preparing for his redeemer’s coming in grace.
On Christmas, each child finds an infant in his manger, placed on a small table or a chair beside his or her bed. Usually it is a tiny doll, beautifully dressed. This custom fills the child with a longing in Advent, and provides an image of the redeemer as the first happy glance in the morning and the last impression at night during the entire Christmas season.
Make a Jesse Tree
The Jesse Tree represents the family tree, or genealogy of Jesus Christ . It tells the story of God’s salvation plan , beginning with creation and continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (NASB)
Each day of Advent a homemade ornament is added to the Jesse Tree, a small tree made of evergreen branches. These symbolic ornaments can each represent a prophecy foretelling of Christ. Other variations include creating ornaments that represent the ancestors in the lineage of Christ, or using the various monogram symbols of Christianity as handmade ornaments. Before a symbol is hung on the branch, a Bible passage or a story from a story Bible is read.
My Jesse Tree: The Ultimate Guide has a good explanation and lots of ideas on how to make a Jesse tree.
This is part of a series on Christmas/Advent resources: