I am not crafty. I am not musical. I am not patient. I certainly am not good at doing the same thing day after day. Like almost everyone I know, however, I long to have a meaningful Advent with the little people in my home. While Advent is a season of joyful anticipation, hope, and celebration, I often find it to be the season that shines the brightest light on my ineptitude. So many Advent related things seem to have crafty, musical, and routine oriented components to them. I come close to hating Advent because it is a season which is supposed to nurture holiness and yet it seems to always exacerbate my weaknesses, and then, I sin.
This year, I have scrupulously previewed Advent resources in an attempt to find things that would resonate with my family without asking things of me which I am simply incapable of doing reasonably well. I am willing to be stretched and challenged during Lent, but during Advent, I desire to be contemplative, peaceful, and full of good cheer.
In this post, I wanted to share with you the resources that we are going use this year. With the exception of the blessing prayers, all of them are new to me. In the new year, I will review each resource in detail to let you know how they worked out for us. In the interim, I thought that you might find one or two things to help your family on your Advent journey.
My family is Catholic. For us, Christmas *begins* on Christmas Eve and runs through the Feast of the Three Kings (Epiphany): January 6th. For this reason, many of the Christmas decorations that adorn most American Christian homes are reserved until the Sunday before Christmas. Instead, we spend the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas in Advent. Advent is traditionally marked with an evergreen wreath with four candles: 3 purple and 1 rose.
This Sunday, we will bless our Advent Wreath and begin doing daily Advent prayers after dinner around the wreath. To bless our wreath, we are using this blessing from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Advent Prayer Guides
Also with my morning coffee, my reading buddy and I are going to be using the Center For Lit’s A Literary Advent. We are not affiliated with Center For Lit, we just love some of their resources.
During school each morning, my kids and I will do this short Jesse Tree daily prayer.
During our daily snack break, the kids and I will be reading through this study of biblical characters who made Advent possible: Bible Characters for Advent: The Stories That Brought Us Christmas.
Finally, the resource that I may be the most excited about for our family prayer is this historical, ecumenical, and thoughtful family Advent study. Heather from To Sow A Seed asked us if we might be interested in reviewing their beautiful Advent family guide: Experiencing Advent. I have previewed it and am really eager to rest in it during this hectic season.
Feast of St. Nicholas
Catholics around the world celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th. If you live in a part of the country that is heavily Catholic and was settled predominantly by Dutch, German, and other Germanic immigrants, you may celebrate St. Nicholas day too. In my part of the country, even the non-Christians celebrate St. Nicholas by leaving out stockings or shoes to be filled with by the kindly saint.
On the Eve of St. Nicholas, we usually read this gorgeous book by Aaron Shepard. It has been out of print for some time and so we read it on our Kindle.
This year we will be adding a new book to our routine: The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan.
When the kids were very little, we use to watch the Buck Denver: Why Do We Call It Christmas video from Phil Vischer. As Catholics, we take issue with some small things in it, but the section on St. Nicholas is pretty good.
In our home we have always laid out our Christmas stockings on December 5th. After the kids are in bed, Greg and I fill them with an orange for the toe of the stocking, some gold foil wrapped chocolate coins and a special book.
Christmas Eve: Tree & Nativity
I know that most families put their trees and nativities up right after Thanksgiving. We, however, reserve those activities for Christmas Eve. On the morning of Christmas Eve, we make some yummy breakfast and then we gear up for a really fun day. While Greg and I sip coffee and map out our day, the kids watch the Brother Francis Christmas video.
After breakfast, we spend the day decorating the house with our tree, nativities, and other Christmas decorations while also making a feast to enjoy at dinner time. Once our tree is up and dressed, we bless it with this prayer. After dinner, we all snuggle on the couch and watch Silent Night.
On Christmas Day we mark the feast with simple presents, mass, and a day of family rituals. Each of our children receive three presents from us: a gift of something truly wanted (gold), a gift of something to strengthen their vocation (myrrh), and a gift of something to strengthen their prayer (frankincense).
After presents and mass, we spend the day resting, reading and making pasta. After feasting, we cuddle on the couch to watch Max Lucado’s The Christmas Candle.
During the Christmas season we read our stack of Christmas books and we leave our tree and nativities out until the Epiphany.