"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."
(1 Jn 4:16)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Beauty of Advent

Each year my family and I look forward to Advent with eager anticipation. When Advent arrives, we set aside our regular learning schedule and focus on preparing for the birth of Jesus. We prepare physically for Christ's birth by slowly decorating our house, focusing on some of the saints' feast days, and baking for neighbors.

On the first Sunday of Advent, I place a wintery tablecloth on our table. Then, we take our Advent tub off of a shelf in the garage and carry it into our living room. The first thing to come out of the tub is our Advent wreath which was given to us by my parents the first year my husband and I were married. The Advent wreath is placed on the center of our table and one of the children places the candles in the wreath.

Next comes Christ's manger and a little box that contains yellow strips of yarn (hay). The manger is placed in front of one of our statues of Mary. Throughout Advent, our children offer their good or special deeds to Baby Jesus by taking a piece of yarn and placing it in the manger. Through their good deeds, they are trying to make a soft bed for the Divine Child. On Christmas morning, the first thing the children do is check to make sure Christ has been born. Then we all gather around the manger and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.

After the manger has been placed in front of Mary, we take out our nativity scene and set it up. The stable is placed in the living room. Mary, Joseph, and the donkey are placed at the opposite end of the room, so that they can slowly travel from Nazareth to the stable in Bethlehem. Each day, one child is chosen to help Joseph and Mary travel. The shepherds are placed in what we refer to as a field. The three wise men are hidden away until Christmas morning, when they will begin their journey. The wise men arrive at the stable on January 6.  The animals are in the stable, save for the donkey. The angels and Baby Jesus are put safely out of sight until Christmas morning.

We hang a traditional Advent calendar on one of our kitchen windows and we organize our interactive Advent calendar. Our interactive calendar consists of a calender from my childhood that contains 24 pockets. In each pocket, I place a figure from our Playmobil Nativity set, trying to make sure that each child will draw something that they feel is fair. As each figure is taken out it is placed in the girls' bedroom or boys' bedroom (we switch each year).

This year, we will add a new tradition to the season of Advent. We will display an O'Antiphon House. The inspiration came from Katherine sharing the houses that she and her children made, here and here.

On Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent), we hang our Christmas lights outside and grace the front of our house with our outdoor Nativity scene (some years, like the one pictured below, we only put a couple of figures out). Our neighbors, across the street, are always happy to see us setting up the Nativity scene.

A day or two before Christmas, we buy a Christmas tree and place it in our living room. My husband and I hang the lights on the tree. After the lights are hung, my children and I decorate our tree. Once the tree is decorated, my husband does a final inspection which usually means moving ornaments so that the tree looks prettier. Then I place our Little People Nativity sets in front of the tree.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, once the children are in bed, I carefully place Baby Jesus in the main manger and in the Nativity manger (along with the angels). I pray that the external decorations affect my family and me internally and help us prepare our hearts for the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ!

Related post: The Beauty of Advent II


  1. I love your family's traditions and the picture of your nativity scene is a joy. I can well imagine that your neighbors are gladdened by it!

  2. Your family's Advent traditions are beautiful and I am honored that you will be incorporating my humble idea into them. Have a blessed Advent.

  3. These are all beautiful customs. I would like to steal more than a few!

  4. This is beautiful Christine, please submit it to the December Carnival of Homeschooling.


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