I am sharing with you what we are hoping to continue this year from past years as well as some brand new traditions for us. Once again, I was inspired by Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas - check out her post: How We Celebrate Advent as well. Some of the comments below her article were great, so make sure you read those as well.
First off, an Advent Wreath + Candles will grace the center of our dining table. This is something both my husband and I grew up with and thus will be a continuing tradition rather than a new. The candles are lit each night at dinner in our house, with one candle candle being added to the lit each week of Advent signifying the hope and expectation of the coming of Christmas. We have read Advent and Christmas with Thomas Merton each night the past few years before we begin dinner. There are many great books to accompany the Wreath with devotions, prayers, and scripture readings. I also received a copy of God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas that we will fit into our family's practices this year hopefully, too. Here's an article that includes the background story as well as prayers that can be prayed nightly as you light the candles.
The Christmas Tree, as I mentioned yesterday, is one of my favorite Christmas time traditions. That being said, this year we're mixing it up completely. We did already cut down our tree and put it up. However, in keeping with the simplicity of Advent, we only decorated with lights in honor of the Light of the World. Throughout Advent we will work on popcorn and cranberry strands, and add some over time. On Gaudete Sunday (the 3rd Sunday of Advent), we will add the ornaments, and then our tree will remain up through The Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th).
My house growing up was always filled with Crèches as my mama had numerous sets, collected over time from all over. Our house only has one right now, but I hope to keep in that tradition and collect more. I would also love advice on kid-friendly ones that are not plastic. We've always kept Jesus and the Three Kings hidden until their respective days of coming, but this year I am planning to try a new tradition for our family. On Christmas I will have the Jesus figure wrapped up like a gift, and we'll unwrap Him. I'm hoping this will help our children to remember the best gift we received. Yes, maybe a little cheesy, but for small tots and kiddos, I am hoping it works.
St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th. If you don't know anything about him, please check out this link that includes a bio as well as some traditional tales. In some homes (ours included), children put their shoes outside their doors the night before to be filled with candy and small treats in the morning. This is something my mama also taught me, and we've done it with Dom the past two years.
Neither David or I "celebrated" Santa Claus growing up, but Presents were still a part of our Christmas celebration. We have decided for our children that we will keep gifts limited to 1 stocking filled with small treats (and of course an orange in the toe!), a book, and then a shared gift for the family. I would like to see our children removed from any "gimmie" attitude as much as we can help it.
In attempting to make my Advent calmer and simpler this year, I completed almost all my gift shopping (and this included birthday gifts as we all have December and January birthdays) before Thanksgiving. This keeps us away from the capitalist Christmas as much as possible. We can stay home and away from the ridiculous bustle and shopping frenzy.
David + I have also decided that almsgiving is to be a part of our home during Advent and Christmas. We choose local and church organizations and charities to support each year. We also lead a Diaper drive for the local Crisis Pregnancy Center through our church each Advent through Epiphany to provide for families in need.
Christmas music is the major thing we've given up this year. This is such a hard one for me, but wow, it has helped me focus so much. I am constantly reminded to focus on hope, expectation, and preparation for Christmas when the itch to switch on "O Holy Night" (my personal fave) shows up. This is obviously something I can only control in our house and our car, but that is where we are 95% of the time, so it's a pretty huge thing for us. I am certain, without a doubt, that ALL 12 Days of Christmas we will be blasting us some Christmas-y tunes.
Alongside music, we are holding off on Christmas movies, too. I look forward to the library having anything I want though as everyone else will be done with their festivities the day after Christmas.
Christmas Books were hard for me to decide on since I had already planned to wrap one up for each day of Advent. We are going to proceed with that game plan for this year, but I might just wrap them for the 12 days of Christmas next year. I think I have enough to open several a day then, not just one. I'll share some of the favorites I've found soon.
Another tradition I hope to begin next year is a Jesse tree. As I have only known about them for a few weeks, there won't be one in our house this year, but I think they're a great idea. If you want to know more or see ideas on how to make your own, just search 'Jesse tree' on either Etsy or Pinterest, and there will be more than you can imagine.
I would love to hear about others Advent traditions as well, so please share. I already received a lovely Blessing of the Christmas Tree from a cousin, that I think we might do despite having already lit our tree. (We'll aim to have our order more correct for next year).
Does your family have an Advent wreath, Jesse tree, or other special Advent tradition? What are ways you help your children to observe this time of Preparation?
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