This week, I was talking with my sister about what a beautiful season Advent is and how much we appreciate the waiting. As children, our parents always made Christmas such a magical time of year for us. There were always cookies to be made, festive cards to be sent, gifts to be wrapped, activities to participate in, and loads of decorations. It was wonderful, but it also was stressful to keep up with all the traditions every single year.
With my oldest only being 3, our family is still in the stage of building traditions. My husband and I are very much in favor of Christmas traditions that draw our attention to Christ. So, this year, I did a quick google search for “advent ideas” and was honestly appalled that the top search results included ideas like, “eat a candy cane, make hot chocolate, and cut out snowflakes.” While fun, these activities have absolutely nothing to do with Advent being a period of preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. I reset my search to include the word Catholic and found several fantastic ideas for Advent (many of which I remember doing a handful of times throughout my childhood).
One tradition that has been a staple in my house since my childhood is the careful arranging of a nativity scene. One that we could only look at (because it was breakable) and one that we could play with. Retelling Jesus’ birth story throughout Advent is a beautiful way to remember Mary’s bravery and humility, Joseph’s gentle love and care, and Jesus’ humble entrance into the world.
This year, my husband and I decided to focus on teaching our children about the Advent wreath. My daughter practically screamed with excitement at Church on Sunday when she realized that the priest was wearing the same purple as our candles! This year we are using Dynamic Catholic’s Advent Wreath Prayers as we light our candles. We like to finish our prayer by singing a verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
We also decided to purchase a Jesse Tree ornament kit so we could reflect daily as a family leading up to Christmas. We are starting a few days late, but we plan to use Kendra Tierney’s Advent reflections along with our Jesse Tree.
My daughter’s favorite tradition is the Giving Manger. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can find it here. The whole idea is that each member in your family does acts of kindness throughout Advent. For every act of kindness or generosity, a piece of straw is placed in the manger to prepare a soft and cozy bed for baby Jesus. We purchased the set because we wanted a copy of the picture book, but I have friends who have made their own manger to use. This is a tradition that excites me because I cannot wait to see how the acts of kindness grow and develop over the years.
While I know a myriad of other wonderful Catholic Advent traditions abound, these are the three our family is focusing on this year. We personally have found that keeping it simple allows us more time to delve more deeply into preparing our hearts for Christmas.