Happy feast day of the Immaculate Conception! Happy end of the first week of Advent! Happy debut of RoL’s new home! I have a lot to be thankful for. 🙂
How did your first week of Advent go? I love to talk to other Catholic moms (and dads) and find out what kind of Advent and Christmas traditions they have to keep Christ in Christmas.
As for our family, this is what we are doing this year.
The Advent Wreath
This year we finally needed to make a new Advent wreath since ours was falling apart. Last year after Christmas, when Target put everything on clearance, I picked up a door wreath. I also replaced our pathetic candle holder that never kept our candles straight no matter what tricks I tried. I finally managed to find three thick purple candles and one pink. Toppling candle problem solved. (It also lessened the boys’ desire to pick them up and use them like swords.)
This year we also started using Sarah Reinhard’s book Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families. It only cost $1.99 at Amazon (and $0.99 on Kindle) but it has wonderful daily reflections that are simple enough for the kids to understand.
Each night we gather around the Advent wreath, light the candle(s), read the day’s reflection out of the book, and say our night prayers.
We also find out the next day’s Advent activity…
The Advent Calendar
Every year I say we are going to use an Advent Calendar but I never get around to it. Finally this year, I planned early. (I know! I kinda shocked myself too.) Originally I was going to get one of those cute Nativity wall Advent calendars but I was also thinking of a calendar with boxes that could be filled and opened. Then I saw this country house calendar at Target and I loved it! (Target to the rescue. Again.)
I wanted to fill each box with a slip of paper that had one sacrifice or act of kindness that everyone in the family would do that day. For inspiration I printed out these:
I simply cut up the calendar and put the little paper square into the corresponding day. For those days that the activity didn’t suit our family situation, I substituted with one of the advent chain strips or simply wrote my own activity and folded them into the boxes.
Each night after prayers we open the following day’s box and read what we’ll do that day. After we read the activity we then place the slip of paper in Jesus’ stocking. At the end of Advent Jesus has 25 little gifts that we offered for him.
(Note: You don’t have to spend money to buy any fancy box or calendar. Just print the calendar and hang it on the fridge or follow the cute Advent chain idea.)
The Jesus Stocking/ Gift Box
Years back we bought a pretty gold stocking that would be for Jesus. During Advent we all have been making small sacrifices for the Child Jesus and placing those little sacrifices in his stocking. The day before Christmas the kids make and decorate birthday cards for Jesus and the adults use card stock in which they write down an act of love or sacrifice for Jesus. It can be anything from making an extra Holy hour to sharing a toy with a sibling. Some years we make a special wrapped gift with a slot cut out on top so we can slip our cards inside. Other years we simply placed our card in Jesus’ gold stocking. Anything will do as long as offering acts of love for Christ is the focus.
Have a Birthday Party for Jesus
Being Jesus’ birthday, it is only natural that it is celebrated as such with Christ being the guest of honor, rather than Santa. On Christmas morning we would all gather around the table that holds the empty manger. We would place a large white candle in the center of the advent wreathe and light it. Then Mom or Dad (or an honored sibling) would place the child Jesus in his manger and we’d all sing Happy Birthday. Then the festivities would begin, which included a birthday cake decorated by the kids, of course.
A Nativity Set for the Littles
Anyone with children knows that they are very hands on. They also know how their blood pressure rises every time their little one grabs the ceramic Mary of St. Joseph from the nativity set and starts running down the hallway with it. A nativity scene that the kids can touch and move around makes life sooo much easier. There are a number of different kinds you can get but we finally decided on the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set. They can be a bit pricey but a few years back we found a simple one at Target for around $25. It was worth it!
The Spirit of Giving
Nothing invokes greediness quite as quickly as a materialistic holiday season. To help conquer this, it is helpful to keep kids (and adults) focused on the spirit of giving, especially those less fortunate. If you have older kids this can be done through working at a soup kitchen, food pantry, or visiting the elderly. Most parishes have programs where you pick a name or number and by a gift for a specific child. Kids, including little ones, can do extra jobs and chores around the house to earn some extra money (or use their tithing money if they get an allowance) in order to buy small gifts for these needy children. Or they can help you buy canned good for the local food bank. I also try to personalize the children to my kids. Instead of getting a gift for “Girl #96” or “Boy, age 5” I’ll give them a name. So when we go to shop we find the perfect gift for little Juan who just turned 5. Or we pick the kind of soup “Maria” and her Mama would like to have on a cold afternoon. It helps to put a face to the person in need.
In some cases you may even be able to help deliver these gifts. Seeing the living conditions of those less fortunate (physically and spiritually) or seeing the gratitude of a poor child thankful for a simple gift or act of kindness, helps to instill generosity and thankfulness for their own blessing. Christmas is a good time to start this process but it can be carried on throughout the year, making giving of oneself not just a holiday thing, but a way of life.
There are numerous other ways to keep Christ in Advent and Christmas but these are just a few suggestions that we practice. With a little imagination (and the prompting of the Holy Spirit) you can start your own family traditions of truly living Christmas!
Feel free to comment and share your own traditions with us! Or have you already written a post about your family traditions? If so, please add your link! I’ll keep this up until the Epiphany so you’ll have plenty of time.
PS – Thanks to my sister-in-law Maria for letting me use her paining “Madonna and Child” on the blog.
UPDATE: I’ve added a second post with more ideas sent to me from various Catholic families. Check it out here.
You can grab this logo if you’d like. 🙂