Advent is such a beautiful time to prepare for the coming of Jesus. But having children and getting to share these traditions and teachable moments with them during Advent is so fun. Here are seven of my family’s favorite and new Advent traditions to live liturgically! [LINK to video]
1. Advent Wreath. An advent wreath is a wonderful visible sign that shows the progression
through the season of advent. We keep ours in the middle of the table and light the
candles liturgically just like our parish does at mass each Sunday. You can buy an advent
wreath or you can make your own like I did. I purchased three purple candles and one pink candle
from Amazon (you should also be able to find them at your local catholic bookstore) and
then purchased my wreath from TJ Maxx. Just put the candles in the center of the wreath
and you will be all set. If you don’t have space on your table, you can also try putting
your advent wreath candles on a fireplace or windowsill with a garland instead.
2. Jessie Tree. For this tradition you need a small tree, “The Advent Jessie Tree” and a Jesse Tree Advent book. This is the one we use, plus a bag of ornaments to accompany the readings. Each night of Advent, you will read a page of the book and hang an ornament on the tree that relates to the reading. We do this reading at dinner time and then hang the ornament for that day on the Jessie Tree. The readings really help to prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas with readings from the old testament and amazing discussion questions that you and the kids will love. You could also use the Jessie Tree to build community by organizing an ornament exchange for your Jessie Tree with other mommies (i.e. 6 mommies sign up and each mommy makes 6 ornaments to exchange).
3. Giving Manger. My kids are very visual, so the Giving Manger is a great visual
representation of how the kindness and good deeds we give to others helps to prepare our
hearts to receive baby Jesus at Christmas. How it works is you set out the empty manger
at the start of Advent and each time your kids do a good deed or an act of kindness, they
get to put a piece of straw on the manger. The more good deeds and straw that goes in the
manger, the softer the bed for baby Jesus. You can either buy or make a giving manger.
The parts you will need are the manger, straw, and baby Jesus. Growing up, my parents
made their own out of cardboard and paint and we used yellow yarn for the straw.
4. St. Nicholas Feast Day. On December 6 we celebrate St. Nicholas’ feast day with small
gifts and baking cookies! The night before, the kids put out their shoes in anticipation of
St. Nicholas day the next day. Each child will get a different book that I wrap and put under
their shoes, an ornament, and then some candy in their shoes. I started the tradition of
getting each child an ornament each year and writing their initials and the year on it so
that when they grow up and have their own tree, they will have some ornaments to
decorate it with. The kids get so excited to see what St. Nicholas left for each of them in
their shoes. Then later in the day, we start making our Christmas cookies (these are my family’s favorite) and save them to eat on Christmas. In addition to celebrating on December 6, I hide a little St. Nicholas doll somewhere in the house every night during Advent. The kids love looking for St. Nicholas each day and just feel so special when they are the one to find it! If you are looking for an alternative or another idea like “elf on the shelf,” this is a great one.
Here are some fun items for a Saint Nicholas Party.
5. St. Lucy Day. We celebrate St. Lucy’s feast day on December 13 by reading her story,
eating cinnamon rolls, and having our oldest daughter Bella dress up as St. Lucy. Every
year I read the book “Lucia Saint of Light” because it tells you everything about
the feast day in story form. One of the traditions is that you make sweet rolls or hot cross
buns for the day, but I cheat a little and do the cinnamon rolls out of a can, which is
special for us because we never have these. The night before, Bella gets to sleep in a
white night gown and then in the morning we tie a red ribbon around her waist and she
gets to wear this sweet felt St. Lucy crown. She absolutely loves it and helps me make the
cinnamon rolls in the outfit. The rest of the day is normal until after dinner when each kid
gets a mug of hot chocolate and a cookie and we go and look at Christmas lights because
St. Lucy is known as the saint of light! This part is just so much fun because by this time
our whole neighborhood is full of lights and we get to listen to Christmas music while we
eat our treats.
6. Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is our new tradition for this year and I can’t wait. I will be
making enchiladas, horchata, and other Mexican food for the kids to eat while I read the
story “Talking Eagle and the Story of the Roses.” I love making themed foods for kids to eat while they listen to a story because it is such a great teachable moment. I have actually been to Mexico City to see the actual Our Lady of Guadalupe so I will actually be able to tell the kids what I saw when I went to see the tilma of St. Juan Diego. Also for All Saint’s Day this year Bella dressed up as Our Lady of Guadalupe (I found a red dress dress at a thrift store and used this blanket for her head piece) So she will dress up again for Our Lady of Guadalupe feast too, she is so excited! Don’t worry if you don’t have the book, because
you can find the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe for kids on YouTube
7. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. This feast day we keep a little more simple, but
I do make a cake decorated it like the Immaculate Heart using strawberries and then we say
a rosary together as a family. This year I am also considering doing the Christmas Novena St. Andrew prayer as a family, which is typically done during advent.
I hope you and your family have fun preparing your heart for Christ’s birth with some of these