Advent is coming up! Here is my basic list of Advent resources. These are all things you can do quickly and easily, if you stay calm. Remember, nobody does everything! It’s okay to say, “That looks nice, but I know I’ll make everyone miserable if I attempt it, so we’ll skip it this year.”
Advent chains to print out, designed by my sister, Abby Tardiff. Cut them out, make a paper chain, and cut one each day of Advent and read what’s inside. See the chains of sin and death getting shorter and shorter until Jesus comes! Kablammo! You can tape them to purple or pink strips of paper if you like. (This version starts on Dec. 1, so you’ll have to fudge a tiny bit. We never manage to do this every day anyway, so I figure it will even out.)
Jesse tree ornaments and scripture readings. This could be a very quick project if you have low ambitions and energy. Just cut out a bunch of cardboard discs and draw a simple picture on each one, then hang them with a paper clip. (Again, these start on Dec. 1. Not a deal breaker.)
Some years, I am feeling more ambitious, and we use paint markers and capiz shells (those are both affiliate links) to make Jesse tree ornaments, and they turned out pretty good. Yeah, I splurged on something with pre-drilled holes, and that has made all the difference.
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We make Jesse Tree ornaments the day after Thanksgiving (which is just a few days before Advent starts this year). This is officially the first day I allow kids to play Christmas music in the house. My favorite album is A Medieval Christmas by The Boston Camerata; the kids generally favor Christmas songs sung by goats.
When we can manage it, we take turns reading the appropriate reading and hanging an ornament each night before Christmas. I think we have a pre-lit fake miniature tree in the attic, but if not, we can probably find an evergreen sapling and stick it in a bucket of rocks. Some years, I lopped off a bare tree branch and hung that on a wall. You could also make a paper tree poster.
More nightly advent stuff:
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, words for all eight verses I don’t want to hear any grousing! It’s a good song. We start out singing two verses, then add two verses each week.
Sunday prayers for the Advent wreath
Advent candles. (Affiliate link)
You can sometimes find pink and purple candles just in the regular candle section of Walmart or whatever, not specifically packaged for Advent, of course.
If you don’t have colored candles, you can use regular candles and tie purple and pink ribbons on, or even make a colored cuff halfway up with construction paper. Do not attempt to dye white candles with melted crayons. I beg of you.
How to make a good-enough Advent wreath because it’s gonna be dark anyway:
Buy a cheapo twisted twig wreath at the dollar store, then use about forty yards of thread to strap evergreen branches down thoroughly. It’s hard to attach candles to they stand up, so you can find glass candle holders and the dollar store and set inside the wreath. Put the whole thing on a pizza pan, so you can easily move it off the table and store it in a safe, unpunchable place when it’s not in direct use. Little berries and pinecones and bells and doves are nice, but so it just plain greenery: Green for hope, round for eternity.
You can also just sort of heap evergreens in a bundle or in a basket, but then you’ll miss the imagery of the circle. But green is good.
Another very easy Advent tradition that we manage to keep as a family most years: “fast” from dessert except on Sundays. I take what money I would have spent, and buy extra food for the church’s food pantry.
Most years, we also make a stab at going screen-free from 7:00-9:00. We don’t manage it every day, and it’s not always fruitful when we do, but sometimes it really, really is. Try it!
And finally: Get to confession. Here are a few different examinations of conscience. Do that during Advent, and you did Advent right. Ta dah!
Who’s got other resources to share? Feel free to leave links to anything relevant in the comments.
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Carrots for Michaelmas is another good resource. She does a monthly post with ideas for living litergically each month, and it’s all easy stuff like food or kid’s books to check out at the library. She also usually throws in a couple edifying articles about whatever litergical thing is coming up.
While I was working on my son’s RE lesson for Advent (I am an overachiever and find extra worksheets and things for us to talk about) I stumbled upon the new-to-me fact that the Advent wreath was originated by German Lutherans. German Catholics adopted the tradition, of course, and we’ve made it our own but still…I am mildly disconcerted by this fact, and I don’t know why.
I am still, of course, doing an advent wreath because Advent…but my brain is still assimilating this new information.
Oh, I forgot what we did last year and the kids seemed to like it. I wrapped an empty box with Christmas paper (leaving the top open, natch) and every day of Advent somebody got to put a box or can of food from the pantry in it. Then we took the box to a food pantry on Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day). If I can find an empty box around here, and I’m sure I can, we’ll be doing that.
We also have German Lutherans to thank for the Christmas tree. I just think of it as Catholics knowing (and adopting) good traditions when they see them. 🙂
Oh, I knew that a long time ago and had come to terms with it. Because using the pagan symbols to convert the pagans is something my boys think is awesome, like the saint who chopped down Thor’s Oak and didn’t get hit by lightning. But the wreath I always associated with the Catholic Church because the churches always have one, and they have the whole blessing of the wreath and everything and candles felt so churchy…
I think I need a nap. 🙂
True. I am a cradle Catholic and grew up in Catholic Italy and I had never heard of Advent wreaths until I lived in the US.
Oh gosh, thank you for the reminder to make sure I have candles.
So, I was a contributing editor to these, but may I recommend “Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home”? You can get the full volume, or just the Advent and Christmas booklet, but it’s full of history, ideas for celebrating with little kids, recipes, song lists, etc. I’ll stick the Amazon links here, but feel free to edit them so they use your affiliate link:
(Full disclosure: these were written by Protestants. But as a Protestant who reads a lot of Catholic and Orthodox writers, I tend to figure Christians can read Christians they disagree with and still probably get some benefit out of the work. 🙂 )