The Family Advent Plans

Wait, what?  You don't want to hear me yammer on about Advent again?  Well, then nothing to see here.  Carry on your way.  But I'm going to use this little space here to write out our family's Advent plans for this year.  And if you're not yet sick of me talking about it yet, feel free to stick around :)

Our hope is that Advent becomes something that permeates our home.  A movement of the heart of  waiting, yearning, and preparing that transforms into something palpable.  Something real.  I don't want our Advent to simply be busy work that is done so I can check it off a list and feel like I've "completed" Advent with my family.  That temptation is there, isn't it?  It is for me.  Rather, I want desperately for our domestic church to breathe with the body of Christ, to be one with Him, and truly living Advent in the fullest possible way helps us to do that.  Until He comes again our Advent is never really "complete" and so every year I hope to internalize that reality more in my soul and lead our little family here in doing the same.

Of course, human soul-bodies that we are, this living of Advent becomes tangible.  There are concrete ways we live out our waiting and traditions that have become dear to us as we cycle through the rhythm of the liturgical year.  Listed below are some of the ways that we experience Advent here in our family, both old favorites and a few new this year that have me very excited.  Please do NOT feel like you need to be doing all of these, too.  If something inspires you, awesome.  But I realize that looking at other people's Advent activities could be really overwhelming if you're a newbie at the Advent observing.  These things are meant to help us.  If they don't, then don't do them.  Or perhaps pick one or two things to do (or add) each year.  That's what we've done since we were married and now it just works and comes naturally though it sure would've looked like a lot to me a few years ago.  There really are no hard and fast rules about this stuff.  The most important thing is getting our hearts ready and in tune with the life of the Church.  

The Waiting
Oh, the waiting.  We really make an effort to keep Advent as Advent.  Get Christmas music until it is actually Christmas.  Ooh, that is hard!  But hearing those joyous hymns for the first time at the Christmas Vigil Mass is so very worth it! We wait to decorate our home until at least Gaudete Sunday.  I love the idea of decorating on Christmas Eve as well but I like to be prepared...I'm one of those people who nests like a mad woman when a baby is coming and everything must. be. ready.  I carry that into my Advent observance as well and like to have the house prepared and ready for Him, just as our hearts need to be ready for when He comes again.  But until then, the only decorations are our Advent ones.  We do our best not to attend Christmas parties and celebrations until it is the Christmas season.  This isn't always possible because a lot of people don't understand and charity must always come first.  But we do our best.  Because Advent also is penitential, we keep our meals very simple and we avoid treating ourselves.  Cookies are made the week before Christmas but it is Hands Off until after our Christmas Eve feast.

Catholic New Year's Eve
I'm sure you all know that the beginning of the new year is actually the first Sunday of Advent, right?  At least, liturgically speaking.  (Hey, that's today!  Happy new year!)  So every year we have a New Year's Eve party with our little family.  Appetizer-dinner in the living room (which when you are a kid is so super special!), treats, special drinks, and games.  Since Advent is a mini-Lent, this is mini Fat Tuesday :)  We did this last night and had such a fun time playing and feasting.

The Jesse Tree
I think I may have mentioned how crazy excited I am that I got in on Jessica's ornament swap?  Yes, yes I did.  We've done the Jesse Tree since John Paul was a baby and it is such a great hands on approach to salvation history.  I'm so glad our ornaments will be getting replaced this year as the old ones were hurtin' mighty bad and can now be laid to ornament rest.  There are many many posts online with Jesse Tree resources some of them very simple to do and that have everything printed out for you.  The internet is wonderful that way.  I've switched ours up every year in the hopes of finding the "perfect" one.  There is no perfect one.  If you are hoping to begin the Jesse Tree, just find the one you can do that resonates with your family and do that one.

The Advent Wreath
I treasure our family Advent Wreath time.  We light our wreath and pray the prayers before dinner, keeping the candles lit all through dinner.   Here's our fun little spin on it:  we keep all other lights off except for the candle(s).  As we get closer to Christmas the light in the room grows.  And yes, at the beginning we are eating dinner in an almost completely dark room.  And it is awesome.

Gifts for the King
This is a new one for us this year.  A friend pinned this and I fell in love with the idea.  Throughout Advent when mom or dad notices a child having a servant heart or doing a good deed, they are rewarded with coins or dollars.  They put the money earned into their bag and during Christmas they will get to use the money they've earned to pick out a gift through the Food for the Poor catalog.  And in that way they can give a gift to Jesus through giving a gift to the poor...for when we do it to one of the least of these, we do it to HIM.  How spectacular is that?  Really, isn't that just beautiful?

The concept of this is really similar to the Manger Straw that we've done in years past, where the boys can earn pieces of straw to make a soft bed for baby Jesus.  We'll probably do a bit of that this year as well but I just love the concept of saving up for a tangible gift to be given to those in need.

We went over the concept with the boys this afternoon and I think they're very excited about it.  I read them Matthew 25:31-46 about whatsoever you did to the least of these, you did to me.  And they really got it. Well, David getting it might be a stretch.  Lately, he has been so sweetly offering to give and make all sorts of random things "for the poor."  (His latest charitable offer was to make chairs and candles for them.)  But he'll catch on.  We'll be making their pouches (I don't think I'm allowed to call them purses) this afternoon.

Works of Mercy 
A few weeks ago I really felt God calling our family to do more this Advent.  And that we especially needed to be living the works of mercy more than we have been.  So this Advent we have the goal of doing every single one of the corporal works of mercy in some fashion.  I'm really excited about this and I hope to share some of our ideas and experiences here.

The Nativity
Like many families, our creche scene is put up at the beginning of Advent, except for Baby Jesus.  The Magi are somewhere "east" in the house and Mary and Joseph come from the opposite direction.  Every day they both get a little bit closer to the stable until finally arriving on Christmas Eve.  After Christmas Mass, Jesus is finally placed in His spot.  The Magi arrive on Epiphany.  The boys enjoy moving the figures around the house and creating roadblocks and creative positions for them (Elf on the Shelf, shmelf on the er, shmelf).  They were so sweet and it warmed my heart to see them so excited to unwrap all the pieces yesterday as we were getting things ready.

St. Andrew's Christmas Novena
We'll be praying the St. Andrew Christmas Novena each night after our Jesse Tree devotion.  This prayer is so beautiful and I just love sitting in the dark room in the evening (and later on having the tree lit) and praying this prayer with our family.  The boys like it, too, and I know that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it is much shorter than our normal Rosary.  Nothing.

The Immaculate Conception, St. Nicholas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and St. Lucia
These feasts often get lumped in with Advent observances since they happen, well, during Advent.  For the Immaculate Conception, we normally just have a special white dinner and maybe a treat for breakfast in the morning.

We do the whole treats in the shoe thing on St. Nicholas day.  I've simplified things for myself by getting them each a book, a bag of chocolate coins, and a candy cane, each of these things having a specific meaning.

For Our Lady of Guadalupe, we usually simply have tacos for dinner but we now own The Legend of the Pointsettia so we'll also read that this year (ahem... if I remember).

And St. Lucia day!  This year that is our Luke babe's FIRST BIRTHDAY!!  What in the what?  How is he almost one??  Anyway, I think we'll still try to have our St. Lucia bread in the morning.  And we'll light our window candles and outside Christmas lights on that day, preparing our home to welcome Him.  And from now on in our family, they'll also be birthday celebrating on that day!

(Last year on St. Lucia Day a few hours after Luke was born!  Something tells me this year's will be a little more low key.  Or not.  That little newborn is now walking and into everything these days.)

So there's this year's plan.  Once it is officially Christmas, we will party like rockstars...or er, like the fun loving and super cool Catholics that we are (i.e. very much unlike rockstars).  We celebrate Christmas for all twelve days with lots of special treats, trips, activities, and devotions.  It is awesome.

And if you've gotten this far, you're awesome, too.  May a blessed and holy Advent be yours!

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  1. I want you to know that when I say, 'I want to be you when I grow up' I really mean it.

    1. Then let me give you your first lesson, sensei: Do not want to be me when you grow up. There are way cooler people. Like Mother Theresa or Dorothy Day. Or She-ra. Be She-ra.

    2. And I just realized I completely misused the word sensei. See? You don't want to be me.

  2. I love love love how you celebrate Advent and all the special liturgical days in your home. Can I get a pass because I work full-time? Please? I'm hoping God says yes. I always feel like I don't do enough of these kind of celebrations with my kids. For crying out loud, I have an Andrew and we don't even do the St. Andrew's novena. We're pretty good about the family rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet but not much else. This Advent my goal is to light the candle at dinner and read from a 5 minute prayer book our parish gave out. I am just thankful my kids go to an awesome Catholic school and they definitely pick up my slack.

    1. You know what, though? Teaching them to pray and praying with them is FAR more important thing in all of these other things, right? So I think it's awesome that you're doing that together. You are doing a fabulous job. And yay for good Catholic schools. Trust me, there are plenty of days when I wish we had one in the area...

  3. Awesome post! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Gifts For The King idea!!! I have been searching for something like this for my kids. Totally gonna try to do that this Advent!

  4. I love the gifts for the king idea - still a few years till we get to this point, but definitely something to file away.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing all these great ideas- I love the gifts for the king idea, too, and we have been looking for something just like that.


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