Sunday, November 13, 2011

Advent 2011: How Our Family Prepares

I am joining several other Catholic bloggers as we all share our Advent traditions.  If you would like to read all the wonderful ideas these ladies are blogging about click on their blog name below and enjoy!  We hope by linking up all our posts,  it will give our readers lots of fun ideas for Advent in one area in blog land! Have fun browsing and have a blessed Advent!
Laurie @ Catholic Baby Steps

Advent Wreath Tradition 

It's hard to believe it is time to prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth!  I truly think that one way to keep Christ in CHRISTmas is to embrace the Advent season with all its beauty and meanings.  
One of the first decorations we pull out is our  Advent wreath which we display in our kitchen.   After we eat dinner as a family we light the candle(s) depending on which week of Advent we are in.  So during the first week of Advent, we will be lighting one purple candle after we bless our wreath with a special prayer.

Here's a cute song sung to the "Alphabet Song" that we sing while we are lighting the candles. I got this song from someone on the Catholic Homeschool Moms Facebook page:

This is a very simple Advent song we sing when we light our Advent candle(s) each morning for prayers and each night for prayers.

"Set the candles burning bright.

One by one each week we light.
Advent is a time to wait -
Not quite time to celebrate.
When the waiting time is through,
It's Christmas joy for me and you!

This year we will be reading Jotham's Journey, A Storybook for Advent with our children.  We will try to read it with using only the light from the candle(s).  It's beautiful to see that as we get closer to the celebration of Christ's birth, each lit candle makes the room brighter and reading easier.  I love how this symbolizes how we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world! 

Jesse Tree Tradition

We will also be decorating our Jesse Tree and reading scripture as our children put on one symbol per night on our "tree" (which is a branch we found in our woods in a pot covered with purple cloth).  Our symbols are made out of paper and our children colored each picture. I then laminated them and punched a hole to tie a string to the paper.  I made copies of these symbols from this page on  . We have enjoyed reading The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean in years past and we will continue with this tradition this year.  We read one story each night which relates to the Jesse Tree and its symbols.
Patty at Reasons for Chocolate just shared how her homeschool group made it a group project to make homemade Jesse Tree symbols for everyone in the group! Go check them out HERE! They are all so beautiful, made with love and care! Thanks for sharing Patty! 

Advent Tree and Wrapped Christmas Books Tradition
If you are like me, you may have a lots of Christmas books that you have collected through the years.   A few years ago I found a great way to read our religious and secular Christmas books and at the same time have my children anticipate Jesus' birthday.  I wrap up each book with purple wrapping paper.  I usually find the purple paper in our local Dollar Tree store.  Then beginning on Dec. 1st, one child opens one book and we read it as a family.  Then on Dec. 2, our next child opens a book and so on.  My children really love this idea of opening their Advent Christmas book.  I have a small "Advent tree" in our great room decorated with purple balls and under this tree is where we have our wrapped Christmas books.  This small Advent tree goes up at the beginning of Advent and then we buy our real Christmas tree sometime later in December.   
I also number the books and put each child's name on the back of the wrapping paper so I don't have to remember who gets to unwrap the next book!

Family Fun Bucket Tradition
One year a friend of mine made this family fun bucket for me. 

Inside the bucket are strips of white, green, and red heavy paper with simple fun things to do.  Each night in December, each family member picks out a strip of paper, reads it and then our family does what is on the paper.  For example, one says "What is the real meaning of Christmas?" or "Shhh! the secret phrase is : "Christmas Lights." Describe the phrase and see who can guess it." or "It's sing-along time! Everyone sing "Silent Night".   There is a great variety of simple, fun things to do and this has been really great to do as a family!
I have made several Family Fun Buckets for family and friends for gifts and everyone has enjoyed this low cost and meaningful gift!  I have the list of all activities on 7 pages saved on a file in my computer.  If you would like to have this list please Contact Me and I will be more than happy to email you this list!

A great resource we love is the Holy Heroes website which has an Advent Adventure for families.  It is free to sign up and each day our family gets an email with the next day's adventure lesson.  My children love to watch the children on the videos and hear the Bible stories and history of Advent.

I'm especially excited to join in this year's Advent Adventure because our family will be learning all the new mass responses for the third edition of the Roman Missal with Holy Heroes as they will go over the changes during Advent Adventure that will start on the first Sunday in Advent.  Holy Heroes also has a Lenten Adventure in preparation for Christ's resurrection at Easter.   Holy Heroes is a great and fun resource and our family has learned so much together as a family about our Catholic faith with Holy Heroes!

So if you are looking for another great way to enhance your Advent season with your family, check out the Holy Heroes website and enjoy your adventure!

Another Advent tradition in our family is reading the book What God Wants for Christmas.

This is a beautiful story that is written in rhyme on each page.  For example, the first page tells of the angel Gabriel from Luke 1:26.  After each page the book directs the children to open one of 7 boxes which contain pieces to make the interactive nativity set. So in box number 1, they will find a little angel Gabriel figurine to place in the manger scene.  The 7th box is when the children discover the best surprise...which is what God wants for CHRISTmas!

The book goes along with the interactive kid-friendly nativity set, which has the 7 boxes and the pop-up manger scene.

My children love this book and interactive nativity set and I look forward to sharing this my children.

One year I read the book for the children in my homeschool group and after I had them gradually discover what God wants for CHRISTmas, they made kid-sized Advent wreaths using air-dry clay, green paint, purple and pink chenille stems for candles, and yellow/orange dot stickers for the flames.

Each child got a ball of clay so they could form it into a wreath shape.

Then they painted the wreath green and placed 4 chenille stems ("candles")  that I cut 2 inches long.
I gave them 4 yellow/orange circle stickers and had them wrap one sticker around one purple candle.  The children can "light" another candle by placing a sticker on another purple candle as each Sunday in Advent arrives.  So they can count down the weeks until CHRISTmas day with their own handmade wreath.

Here is what the wreath will look like when complete

Here is a beautiful paragraph I found about the Advent wreath from "The History of the Advent Wreath" by Father William Saunders:

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to CHRISTmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The season of Advent is such a special time and I am thankful that our family celebrates the true meaning of Christmas by doing several fun and meaningful Advent activities to prepare for the day when we can sing "Happy Birthday to Jesus!"

Don't forget to check out the 5 links below of how other Catholic Moms are preparing for the celebration of Christ's birth during Advent 2011:

Laurie @ Catholic Baby Steps

For a list of other great Advent posts be sure to visit Xhonane's link up party at Familia Catolica

This post is also linked up to Catholic Icing's Christmas Link-Up


Renee said...

Thanks for sharing all these great advent ideas! I'm hopping over to Amazon to look up these books. Blessings!

Gardenia said...

Tracy, I love your Advent traditions. I especially like the Advent tree with the advent books under them. Such a unique idea. I've heard good things about Holy Heroes. I'm heading over there now. Thanks for sharing, and God Bless your Advent.

Tiffany said...

What a wonderful post, Tracy! I loved taking a peek into your Advent celebrations:) I picked up Jotham's Journey last year so look forward to reading it this year. I love how you do a special Advent tree with the purple ornaments! I forgot about your family fun buckets...I'll have to print out my list you sent me last year:) And that book about What God Wants for Christmas...hadn't heard about that one and it sounds wonderful. I'll be sure to check it out. Thank you for all of your sharing:)

Unknown said...

I really love your Advent Tree! I'm going to remember that for next year. Great book suggestions, especially about the Jesse Tree. Thanks for sharing all the fun and meaningful things your family does!

Patty said...

I love your idea of reading Jotham's Journey and reading it by candle light each night. And then when you mentioned how the room because brighter each week with another candle lit? Well, that gave me goosebumps!

Did you post about your Advent tree last year with the purple balls? I think that is such a lovely idea.

I know that my children would really enjoy the family fun bucket. We may not be able to each day or each night, but it would definitely be used up.

Your children's Advent wreath art project was adorable!

Thanks for sharing so much, Tracy! May you and your family be filled with peace and anticipation this Advent season!

Laurie said...

I feel like I got a real peek in to your home during advent!

I love the advent tree. I have never seen one like it before. I would love to pull it together to put one up this year.

I also love the interactive nativity book. That will make an awesome gift for my grandchildren.

Thank you so much!

Melissa N. said...

WOW What great ways to celebrate our Savior's Birth and this awesome time of year!

We make our advent wreaths at church it's a family fellowship time and we love it!

Love your idea of the wrapping of the books! I might have to dig all mine out and see if we have enough to do that!



Wonderful traditions! It is so heart-warming to see that there are still faithful people who keep Christ as the focal point of Christmas. Thank you for your example and for your faith!

Kim said...

What a great collection of ideas. I especially love the Family Fun Bucket, and will definitely shoot you an email to get your suggestions!

Hi Tracy!!
I saw this great idea at Gardenia's blog and then at Patty's. I couldn't help but come an visit the other ones!! I loved your Advent wreath, it is o cute!! If you want to, you are more than welcome to link at my Advent Link Up party here:

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