Thanksgiving is over and Advent is upon us. Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. There are a variety of activities that our family has engaged in over the years as a way to enter into the spirit of this season in a deep and meaningful way.
Here are a few of our family’s favorite Advent traditions:
1. Is the Manger Soft for Baby Jesus to Lay his Head?
At the beginning of Advent we set up our family creche and leave the manger empty. We put together a medium size zip-lock bag of hay or straw. Each day of Advent, during our family prayer time, we have our children share some of the good and purposeful deeds that they have engaged in throughout that day and/or sacrifices that they have made. For each good deed they have done or sacrifice made, they place a piece of straw in the manager to prepare the bed for baby Jesus to lay his head upon.
When Christmas Eve arrives, we have a candlelight family procession throughout our home to bring baby Jesus to the manger that has been lovingly prepared for him throughout the Advent season.
3. Candy Canes!!!
Since candy canes are a big part of the Christmas season, we teach our children about the spiritual meaning behind this delightful treat by reading the book: The Legend of the Candy Cane.
4. Advent Wreath
An Advent Wreath is probably one of the most popular and common Advent activities to do as a family. In scripture Jesus is referred to as “the light of the world.” As the Advent or “coming” of Jesus draws nearer – a candle is lit. The Advent wreath has four candles- which are lit, one at a time, on each of the four Sunday’s of Advent. With each candle that it lit, symbolically the darkness of the world is dispelled as Christ’s light penetrates the hearts of His people through His birth or re-birth into our lives.
Without beginning or end, the circular shape of the wreath symbolizes God’s complete and unending love for us. There are 4 purple candles and one pink. Purple is a liturgical color that is used to signify a time of prayer, penance and sacrifice. Advent is a time of waiting and hopeful anticipation of the birth of Our Lord. It is often called a “little Lent.” A purple candle is lit the first, second and fourth week of Advent. The third week of Advent, called Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday, we light a pink candle. Pink is a liturgical color that is used to signify joy. On this Sunday we celebrate that the birth of Jesus is drawing very near and our wait is almost over.
There are many Advent prayer books that include prayers to bless the Advent wreath and also to accompany the candle lighting to make it a special ceremony.
You can purchase an Advent wreath or you can make your own.
Having an Advent wreath in your home and using it as a way to prepare your heart and the hearts of each of your family members for the birth of Christ – is a wonderful way to enter into the true meaning of this blessed time of year!
5. A Christmas Tree!!
Probably one of the most common and bonding traditions that many households participate in during the Advent season is setting up and decorating a real or artificial Christmas tree. Do you know why we do this though? There is a spiritual significance and a treasured history of deep meaning that goes with this popular activity. You can read more about it in the book The Legend of the Christmas Tree. In our home we read this book the day we chop down and set up our tree as a reminder of the deeper meaning of what we are doing.
6. The Jesse Tree
The Jesse tree helps us connect the custom of decorating Christmas trees to the events leading to Jesus’ birth. The title Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” A Jesse Tree is a way to symbolically tell the story of God in the Old Testament and have a deeper understanding and appreciation for Jesus’s family lineage.
We make our Jesse Tree out a few dead branches that we put together in a pot (we secure our branches with play-dough.) We then make ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. If you google “Jesse Tree ” – you will find a plethora of ornaments you can purchase or that are in printable form for your children to color and place on the tree.
Make the most of this Advent season to deepen your relationship with Christ by preparing your heart to more fully receive Him at Christmas.
Have a blessed Advent!