Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 2015 is Here! A Roundup of Advent Traditions to Prepare Our Hearts and Home

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Christmas, despite what our world tells us, doesn't start the day after (or even before) Thanksgiving, but rather there is a period of preparation for the Christmas season called Advent.  Advent begins the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30) and includes four Sundays.  So the First Sunday of Advent can begin as early as November 27 or as late as December 3. 

(FYI: Christmas "officially" starts on Christmas Day until the Epiphany, the 12th day AFTER Christmas, and the Christmas season traditionally lasts beyond the Epiphany.) 

Advent is a time to prepare our homes, but most importantly our hearts, for the coming of Christ. 

Below is a roundup of Advent traditions we have done in the past and some are new ideas for this year.  I have gradually added on to our family's traditions for the past 15 years and some most years we don't get to do all of them.  Maybe if you see a new idea  that I have listed, you will feel inspired to include it in your own family's Advent season.  We try to incorporate our Advent traditions during our Couch Catechism devotional time each morning or in the evenings during and after dinner time when my husband is home from work.

To start out, I thought I'd share the post 8 Practical Ways to Get Ready for Advent over at Peanut Butter & Grace. It's a great summary of ideas and our family enjoys doing most of them.

Advent Wreath Tradition  

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, marks the first day of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church with the first Sunday of Advent. 

Did you know the word Advent is from the Latin word advenio, meaning "coming" or "visit"?  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.  This year I bought my candles from Dominican nuns at the Cloister Shoppe as mentioned by Shower of Roses.  I am looking forward to burning these 100% beeswax candles during Advent. 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 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. 

 Advent Tree and Wrapped Christmas Books Tradition

We set up an "Advent" tree which is just a small artificial tree decorated with white lights and purple decorations, the liturgical color of Advent.  We eventually decorate our home with a larger Christmas tree closer to Christmas.  Under the Advent tree I wrap a stack of our favorite Christmas books in purple and pink (for the 3rd week of Advent) wrapping paper and one child each night unwraps a book and we read it as a family.  

Our family started collecting Christmas books as soon as we were expecting Baby #1. My husband gave me one of our favorite books called The Christmas Candle and he wrote this sweet note inside the cover in December 1999 as we anticipated the birth of our first child. 

Here are the stack of books I wrapped in purple/pink paper for this year's Advent. 

From bottom to top:
Dec. 6: S is for Star  (For St. Nicholas' feast day, the kids will be surprised with Our Lady of Guadalupe and Bambinelli Sunday)
Dec. 17: Night Tree

On top of each wrapped book I taped a printable label provided by Jessica's beautiful blog at Shower of  Roses.  

 Jesse Tree Tradition
Speaking of trees, we plan on reading scripture and using symbols for our Jesse tree.  Kristen at Drawn 2B Creative explains in her beautiful Printable 3-D Jesse Tree Ornaments e-book that "the Jesse Tree is a pictorial representation of the lineage of Jesus.  The name comes from Jesse, the father of King David, in the Bible.  In Isaiah it says "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots (Isaiah 11:1)"

Below I printed, cut out and made the ornaments for Day 1 (sun, moon, stars and animals for creation) and Day 2 (tree for Adam and Eve).  Kristen's e-book gives you easy to follow directions and the scripture reading that goes with each symbol.  I'm looking forward to replacing our old Jesse tree paper ornaments with these fancier 3-D paper ones.  You can find out more information and how to purchase this fun and creative e-book from Drawn 2B Creative.

"The Little Way of Advent" (New) Tradition 
I recently purchased The Little Way of Advent book to read during the Advent season during morning prayer time.  I've always loved St. Therese of Lisieux and I'm looking forward to reading more of her wisdom with this book.   

Advent Calendar Tradition 

Our children love counting down the days until Christmas Day with our Nativity Fabric Advent Calendar.  I received ours 15 years ago when I was pregnant with our first child and it is still in great condition.  Currently, Amazon has this Advent calendar at 40% off!  They make great gifts for family, friends and Godchildren. I gave my nephew, my Godchild, his fabric Advent calendar when he was born 2 years ago. 

My children also enjoy opening the doors to this Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar with 24 Magnetic Figures and as we get closer to Christmas Day the first Christmas scene is created with wooden magnetic figures. 

There's also an Advent Calendar on DVD that my family has enjoyed watching through the years.  This DVD kept the attention of all my family members, from young to adults.  The 25 mini-documentaries about various Christmas symbols and their meanings are interesting and only about 3-4 minutes long.  

Advent Ornaments (New) Tradition  
I really enjoy celebrating the liturgical calendar and feast days with my family and I was very excited to be able to make the Advent Ornaments from Jennifer at Catholic Inspired that highlight 8 Saint feast days during Advent.  With your purchase, Jennifer provides the printables and detailed instructions on how to make each ornament.  They were alot of fun to make and we look forward to hanging these on our Advent tree after we read about each Saint during our Couch Catechism time each morning.  

 Family Advent Story Tradition 
We've been reading one of these books each year during Advent that tell of the many adventures of children who lived during Jesus' time.  You don't have to read them in any certain order, but all the characters are connected somehow in all the books.  We try to read a chapter a night with whichever book we decide to read for the current year.  My children love these books that really hold their attention and each chapter ends by leaving you hanging wanting to know what will happen next.   They make exciting and engaging family read alouds.  And I see there is a new title in the series called Ishtar's Odyssey: A Family Story for Advent!

Star from Afar (New) Tradition

Some time ago I received another exciting and fun way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with children in exchange for my review.  The Christmas Star from Afar wooden nativity set is a great new family tradition and the book and nativity set is beautifully made! When my 11 year old daughter first saw the wooden figures she exclaimed, "Wow Mom those are so pretty!" 

The creator and author, Natalie Ard, is a mom who wanted to teach her children that Christmas is much more than getting gifts and Santa.  The concept and product that she created with her family is very simple and fun!

This is how the game works according to the directions given outside the storage box:
- Set up the nativity
- Hide the star every night
- Once your children find the Star move all Three Wise Men to it's location
- Have fun and get creative!
- Repeat
- On Christmas Eve place the Star on the top of your nativity stable
- On Christmas morning the Three Wise Men reach the nativity scene and fin their king, baby Jesus! 

My 2 year old played with the wooden nativity set for quite some time and I love that the pieces have rounded edges which makes them safe and easy to hold for little hands!  Our 2 year old (with some wild hair) can be quite rough with things so I'm grateful The Christmas Star from Afar's wooden pieces can survive her play time :)
Since our family celebrates the Epiphany each year, I will keep hiding the Christmas star the 12 days following Christmas Day until the Epiphany when the 3 Wise Men visit Baby Jesus.  The Christmas Star from Afar blog addresses using the set for Epiphany
There are many ways to use The Christmas Star from Afar to start this new family tradition.  There is room to be creative and have fun to make Advent and Christmas a more meaningful and faith-filled time in your family's life.
To find out more information and to purchase you can visit The Christmas Star from Afar website

 Advent Adventure Tradition
A great resource my children have grown up with and love is the Holy Heroes website which has an annual Advent Adventure for families.  It is free to sign up and a few times a week 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 and traditions of Advent.  Check out my post HERE how I met the oldest daughter in the "Holy Heroes" family at a Catholic conference several years ago! :)

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!
I blogged about a few other Advent traditions on my Advent 2014 post if you want to check out some more ideas and resources! 
May you have a blessed Advent as we prepare our hearts and homes for the birth of the Christ Child! 



Chris said...

What a wealth of ideas, resources, traditions! Wow, Tracy. This is amazing.


I may even leave this open in my browser bar so I can readily refer back. Your orn are absolutely gorgeous. I don;t know how you do it! Wow, your kids are great.

I had no idea about the new Ytreeide book. This year we;re reading Bartholomew's passage. Never read that one before..... I;d like to pick up his new one though.

I have to go update the link in my post so it leads to your 2015 post too!

Awesome book pics as well!

Thanks for sharing all these wonderful ideas!!


Hi Chris! Thanks always for your visit!

We are reading Bartholomew's Passage this year too and I'm surprised how much of it my kids remember it from year's past!

I hope your Advent is blessed so far!

God bless!

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