Advent is almost here.
Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for Jesus’ Birthday.
It is also the official beginning of the liturgical new year
While the world around jumps into Christmas mode end of November, it is important for us as Catholics to not get lost in the outside readiness. In fact, with little ones in the house it makes it even more important to imprint in their little hearts the true meaning of Advent as a lead up to Christmas.
As a mom of two, I totally understand the craziness that surrounds this holiday season. There’s always ‘so much to do” To make it easier, here’s a compiled list of Advent activities for families with kids. With contribution from Rosmin Francis. There’s a whole lot you can do, choose the ones that would be most meaningful for the stage and phase you are in.
If this is your first time, I’d suggest choosing one or two activities. Once you are familiar with them it becomes easier to keep adding on or trying different things next time. Remember, the list is not to overwhelm but simplify.
Family Advent Calendar
Advent Wreath and Candles
Straws in the Manger
Letter to the Holy Child
Crib Scavenger Hunt
Saint Feast days in Advent: St. Nicholas and St. Lucy
Family Advent calendar
The Faith Blocks Advent Calendar 2021 is designed so all ages can make the best of Advent time. Download it free. It also prompts Saint feast days, lighting of Advent candles and the starting of Antiphons so you don’t need another calendar to keep track.
Advent Wreath and candles
Requires 3 purple candles, 1 pink and 1 white. The pink and purple are arranged around a circle wreath that represents eternity. Each candle is lit on the Sunday of advent. The white in the middle is called the Jesus candle and lit on Christmas eve.
Last year, some of our community members made wreaths for the first time
Advent countdown sheet
The day we light the first advent candle, our kids will start asking how far is Christmas?
Why is it taking so long? Sound familiar?
Make it easier with this fun countdown printable of sheep.
Tick off one a day or put cotton balls to countdown to Christmas.
One of the most popular traditions of Advent is the Jesse tree. It starts on the first day of Advent and goes all the way to Christmas. Each day, you read a passage from the Bible starting with Adam and ending with the Birth of Christ. It allows us to reminisce the journey of salvation all through the Old Testament. Each day has a symbol which is used as an ornament and hung either on a Christmas tree or a bare branch.
We will be covering the Jesse Tree in the Faith Blocks Sunday Worksheets this year, so don’t forget to subscribe to them if you haven’t yet. The worksheets will have coloring pages of the ornaments along with an activity related to the passage from the Bible. You may choose to do them over the weekend or one every day. It can’t get easier than this.
This will be a first time for our family too.
Straws in the Manger
This is a beautiful tradition which allows kids to focus on the good they can do. The crib or manger will depict our hearts as we wait for Jesus to come. We soften the manger by our good deeds through the day. Each good deed gets a straw placed in the manger. You could have one manger for all or separate ones for each kid. I personally prefer a single one instead of separate ones to keep the focus on softening the manger instead of getting into competition mode. Straws in the manger could be yarn, rope, wool cut into pieces. On Christmas eve we place Baby Jesus in this manger.
Letter to the Holy Child
Each member of the family writes a letter to the Holy Child. This could include their resolutions or what they wish as gifts. Older kids and adults can write a more personal one. To be kept near the windowsill or the Nativity set from where the guardian Angel will take it to heaven to read it aloud to the Holy Child. This activity is also slotted in the Faith Blocks Advent Calendar.
Crib Scavenger hunt
This is a fun activity to do. Make Joseph and Mary (we made peg dolls) or a picture of them. Place the other characters in the crib at different places in the house. Add clues.
For eg. Find the Donkey resting with the shoe’s or the sheep are drinking water or the Angel was seen flying in through a high window.
Mary and Joseph will have to gather them all to be placed in the crib.
My son has been asking for a treasure map so we might just do that as clues for each character.
Celebrate Saint Feast days in Advent
Advent is scattered with many feast days. Here’s a few that you can celebrate
6th December we celebrate the feast of a very famous saint. Known by different names St. Nick, Santa Claus or St. Nicholas.
- Read or tell the story: This feast day allows us to tell our kids about the real historical person, St. Nicholas, who inspired the legend of Santa Claus, who was a man of faith and who was good and generous because of his love for God.
- Coloring sheets : St Nicholas is available as a coloring sheet and letter tracing in the A-Z saints set.
- Shoes/Stocking stuffing: It is a tradition in many places around the world to keep the shoes out for St. Nick on the eve of 6th December. The kids can write a letter to Christ Child with sacrifices or good deeds they will do and they can leave the letter along with a carrot for St. Nicholas’s horse in the shoe. In the morning the carrot and letter gets replaced with treats for kids. The letter is taken by St. Nicholas to Christ Child.
- Gift day: we can make use of this day to gift our children what we want to give them for Christmas so that we can focus on Jesus on Christmas day. We can also give them a note from St. Nicholas telling them what they need to improve on from now on till Christmas.
- St. Nicholas giving box: Remind our kids how important it is to give to others especially the less privileged. Make a giving box in which they can contribute throughout advent for the needy and poor. Advent and Lent, our kids open their piggy boxes and decide what they want to put in church and how much for a gift for themselves. Last year our eldest surprised us by giving everything he had at church.
- St. Nicholas ornament: Make a St. Nicholas ornament with kids using paper or felt paper.
13th December is St. Lucy’s feast. In Scandinavia, this day marks the beginning of the Christmas season. She is the patroness of the blind and is the female version of Santa Claus.Well, almost…
- Read her story: A very inspiring story of a young martyr. On days we don’t have time for much, we read/hear the story of the Saint. This brings in loads of food for thought and is a wonderful conversation topic for the family. Kids have brilliant imaginations and a fertile mind. Their questions and reflections on these stories have often left me awed.
- Coloring sheets : St Lucy is available as a coloring sheet and letter tracing in the A-Z saints set.
- Craft: Make a St. Lucy crown. This is a crown made of 9 candles depicting the light in the darkness and coz that’s how she used to take food to the persecuted Christians in the catacombs. Wearing a crown of candles left her hands free to distribute food.
- Play dress up: St. Lucy is marked with a white gown showing her virginity and a red sash for martyrdom. In many traditions the eldest daughter dresses up as St. Lucy with the crown and brings in coffee and baked stuff for breakfast. If you and your kids like to bake, this might be a good way to celebrate or make do with some sweet buns
- Food: Here’s the recipe for a traditional Lussekatter ( St. Lucy’s cake) https://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2014/12/lussekatter-st-lucia-saffron-and-cardamom-sweet-buns-for-st-lucys-day.html
Or simply bake a cake shaped as a crown and light them with candles. We will be putting eyes on cupcakes 😉
- Pray for the Blind: She is the one to pray to for the blind or with weak eyesight. St Lucy’s eyes were gouged before she was killed and is often depicted holding eyes on a platter. Draw a simple platter with eyes and let children make a list of those they know with weak eyesight or wearing spectacles and pray for them especially today. Check out the images.
Psst.. after her death, her eyes miraculously returned to her in-corrupt body.
The ‘O Antiphons!’
Dec 17th marks the beginning of the second part of Advent, called the O Antiphons.
If you miss out on starting Advent prep on the 1st Sunday of Advent, then here’s another chance
The O Antiphons are seven precious jewels of our Catholic Liturgy, counting down the last seven days before Christmas with building anticipation. Because each antiphon begins with an “O” this group of antiphons are called O Antiphons.
The Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one—Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia—the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come”. Therefore Jesus, whose coming Christians have prepared for in Advent and whom they have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to them: “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to their Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.” Father Saunders
Based on the prophecies of Isaiah, each antiphon is a name given to Christ:
With so much tradition, meaning and secret codes happening, there’s so many different things that can be done to make this time exciting.
- Listen: Play the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel daily till D- Day!. If you haven’t noticed, each stanza of this hymn refers to each day of the O Antiphon. And is a good one to sing during family prayer.
Here’s a simple version:: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKmmPvGf_Q0
- Prayer: The Divine Office calls for reading or chanting the antiphon, then reciting the Magnificat, then reading or chanting the antiphon again. Get it free in the Advent Bundle
- Craft: Multiple ways of doing it. I’ve posted a simple one I put together this time. Basically, each letter gets unveiled on the corresponding day, followed by activities and ending with prayers. On the last day, I will put the baby Jesus inside the star and decode the message of ERO-CRAS.
You can unleash your creativity on this one based on your child’s age.
- Activities, simple ways that will engage all their 5 senses:
Dec 17th- Bake something. Wisdom is depicted using the Bible ( Antiphon refers to Prov 2 :6 and says ‘sweetly’) So, bake a rectangular cake and use icing to write HOLY BIBLE on it. Or you could make cupcakes and write on them instead. While you eat them would be a good time to learn the verse Prov 24:13-14 “Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”
Dec 18th- Make/build a house of sticks/stones/ blocks/ leaves or anything
Dec19th O Root of Jesse- Make something with a root plant. Carrots, Beets, potatoes… there’s myriads of options
Dec20th- Provide a bag of locks and keys mixed up in a bag and let them match n open the locks.
Dec 21st- Wake up at dawn and watch the sunrise!
Dec 22nd- Make a crown, staff and ring for a king. Dress up as a king and place your crown at the feet of the cross.
Dec 23rd- Make baby Jesus and wrap him in the length of wool/yarn as long as your child. (Shhh… We’re sending these as keepsake Christmas gifts to Grandparents and Godparents)
There you go, everything in one place.
Wondering what to do after Christmas till Epiphany? Check here
I’d love to know what you are gonna try this year.
Don’t forget to join the community and share the pics.