From assigning secret Advent Angels to your family members to a Las Posadas door-to-door procession and celebration, these ten meaningful Advent traditions will bring your whole family closer together as you experience the joyful anticipation of this liturgical season.
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People who are truly alive in the Catholic Faith shape their entire lives with the gospel. This next four weeks, let’s shape our homes, shape the minds of our children—shape everything we do around the joyful anticipation of this holy Advent season.
1. Bless your Advent wreath and light it every night.
The traditional Advent wreath is a wreath (sometimes of evergreen branches) that holds four candles (three violet, one pink) representing the four weeks of Advent.
Bless your Advent wreath with this special liturgical blessing
Put it on your dinner table (or nearby), and light it each night leading up to Christmas with your children or grandchildren.
2. Pray special Advent prayers during dinnertime.
During dinner, pray a short Advent prayer or sing an Advent hymn with your family.
O God, Who gladdens us by the annual expectation of our redemption, grant that we, who now receive with joy your only-begotten son as our Redeemer, may behold him without fear when he comes as our judge.
Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of your only begotten son, that we may attain to serve you with purified minds, through his Advent, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.
3. Prepare the empty manger for Jesus.
Place an empty manger in a special place in your home. Have your family members place a piece of straw in the manger every time they do a kind deed or make a sacrifice. This tradition symbolizes each person’s effort to prepare a special place in their hearts for the baby Jesus.
4. Assign family Advent Angels.
Randomly assign your family members as secret “advent angels” to each other. The goal is for each person to perform acts of kindness and service (in secret) for the person to whom they’ve been assigned.
5. Make a Jesse Tree with your children.
The tradition of the Jesse tree comes from the passage in Isaiah:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,Isaiah 11:1-3
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”
The symbols hung on the Jesse tree tell the story of salvation history, leading up to the birth of Christ at Christmas
6. Make Advent Cards with your children.
Retell the story of salvation history with simple illustrations on notecards.
7. Learn the original tradition of the Christmas tree (and bless your family tree)
If possible, wait to put up your tree until later in the season, echoing the original tradition of the Christmas tree. And when you do put it up, make sure to bless it with this special blessing of a Christmas Tree
The origins of the Christmas tree are found in Germany in the 1400s, when, on Christmas Eve, some Christian put up a tree in their home to recall Adam and the tree in the garden of Eden. On Christmas day, a wooden frame with candles would be put around the tree, symbolizing Christ, the new Adam, who brings light to the world.
As time went on, people began to share stories of fruit miraculously appearing on their trees, and the popularity of the tradition continued to grow.
8. Celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas.
Have your children put their shoes by the fireplace or by their bedroom door. While they are sleeping, put little surprises in their shoes (saint cards, gold chocolate coins, a few pennies) Use this special feast day as an opportunity to teach your children about the life of this amazing saint. A great way to do this is by watching the animated movie Nicholas: the Boy Who Became Santa as a family.
9. Celebrate Las Posadas with your community.
Read Tomie dePaola’s book The Night of Las Posadas to learn more about this Mexican religious tradition with your family.
In Mexico, on the Night of Las Posadas, children dress in nativity costumes and go from house to house asking for lodging but are refused until they reach the final house. There, they are welcomed into the “inn,” where they celebrate with food, drink, and carols.
10. Listen to Advent music instead of Christmas music.
The liturgical writer Dom Guéranger writes,
“The Church also, during Advent … suppresses the angelic canticle, Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra paz hominibus bonae voluntatis; for this glorious song was sung at Bethlehem over the crib of the divine Babe; the tongues of the angels are not loosened yet; the Virgin has not yet brought forth her divine Treasure; it is not yet time to sing. It is not even true to say, ‘Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.’”
Follow the Church’s lead, and savor Advent hymns in preparation for the coming of Christ. For ideas, try out these free Advent playlists: