Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How to Prepare for a Holy Advent Series: Part 1

The Year of Mercy is wrapping up November 20, 2016 and Advent begins November 27, 2016. Something that I have found to be 100% true is that you either plan to win or you plan to fail. With Advent so close it is time to start planning to win! Let's make this the most meaningful and memorable Advent for you and your families! There is so much information on Advent that I am going to make this series. This particular post will focus on the children and family activities and resources. I hope that separating some of the information it will make it an easy resource for you to utilize while you prepare for this Advent season.

This post may contain affiliate links. I would make a small commission if you click the link and choose to purchase something. There is no increased cost to you and All opinions here are mine. I greatly appreciate your support!

What is Advent?

First thing is first... It is important to understand what Advent truly is. The definition of Advent is the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. That is EXACTLY what we are celebrating during the Advent season. We are preparing for the arrival of Jesus through his birth. It is also the beginning of the Liturgical Year. This season is most notable for the feelings of anticipation and hope! Advent is a four week celebration, which gives you plenty of time to really enjoy the season and grow your faith.

How do we Celebrate?

This is the fun part! There are several ways to celebrate this Liturgical Season. This includes an Advent Wreath, Devotions, Jesse Trees, Sacrifice Manager, the Nativity and so much more! I will include some great ways to celebrate Advent in this section but if you have more ideas, I would love to hear them! Remember this particular post is focussing on the family and children and if these ideas sound like something you would like to do, make sure to set aside some extra time in your day and that you gather any materials you may need before hand.

Advent Wreath:

The Advent Wreath has always been my most favorite display during Advent! An Advent wreath can be as simple as creating a wreath from a paper plate or construction paper or as elaborate as you can possibly imagine. I can't tell you which wreath will work for you best but I know for my family we made one. They offer cheap green wreaths and the candle holders that you intertwine into the wreath at most craft stores and I have been pleasantly surprised to learn they have also been selling the Advent candles. For an Advent Wreath you need 3 purple candles and 1 pink. You can also add a White Christ Candle in the center (I'll discuss the Christ Candle a little later). Each candle represents a week of Advent (except the white candle, that represent Christ himself and is lit on Christmas Day). To make it known to the whole family how special this wreath is, we place it on our dinner table. We light the candles as we come together to eat dinner each night and I allow the boys to take turns lighting and blowing out the candles.

Check out this cute Advent Wreath Craft from Sweet Little Ones.

The Jesse Tree:

The Jesse Tree is another fun faith filled activity but it is completed daily. The Jesse tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of King David. The ornaments on this tree tell the story of Jesus from the Old Testament. To complete my family's Jesse Tree, I normally have the boys create their own ornaments from coloring pages and we hang them from a display on our fireplace. The Jesse Tree itself can be anything that you need it to be. A tree drawn on a poster board, branches in a vase, a small christmas tree from the Dollar Tree or you could even use your own Christmas Tree if you don't plan to decorate it with real ornaments until Christmas Eve! You could also make the ornaments into a book or place them in a prayer journal. Its a fun devotion for children that really touches their hearts, so make it as simple as you like and enjoy your family time!

Want to make your own Jesse Tree? Look at this Jesse Tree from Faith and Fabric!

Fun Fact: There is a similar activity called the Jesus Tree that is done during Lent! So if you have fun with this activity give the Jesus Tree a try too. 

Sacrifice Manger or
Christmas Crib:

Something about Advent that gets overlooked is that it is essentially a mini-Lent. In Lent we sacrifice things and offer up additional prayers to repent and prepare for the celebration of Easter. Advent is similar but not to the degree of Lent. The Sacrifice Manager is a way to bring back the sacrifice that comes with preparing yourself for a Holy Celebration. You place a "manger" in a place that the whole family sees on a regular basis. The "manger" could be a cardboard box or anything that can hold straw or paper. Each time an extra prayer is said, a good deed is done or someone sacrifices something , like that extra Christmas cookie to a sibling, the children place a piece of straw or paper in the manger in an effort to make it as soft and comfortable as possible for the baby Jesus that will arrive Christmas Day! If you checkout the Resources below there are a variety of options.

The Nativity:

The quintessential piece of Advent is a focus on the Nativity. I think this can also add a lot of anticipation in the coming of Christmas. I normally set out the Nativity and leave the manager empty and I do not add the Wise Men to the location where Mary and Joseph are with the empty manger. On Christmas morning everyone wakes up to find that the baby Jesus has arrived in the manger and then allow I bring out the Wise Men and slowly move the wise men towards the Nativity as the Twelve Days of Christmas progress. If you do not have a nativity, there are so many options available to you that will allow you to still complete this type of activity. I have made a DIY Nativity scene from toilet paper rolls, there are also nativities made from peg dolls, legos and so much more!

Here is another DIY Felt Nativity, also from Sweet Little Ones.

Advent Calendar:

Advent Calendars have always been a nostalgic treat for me. There are many different types of Advent Calendars but I always imagine the ones where you get a small chocolate each day until Christmas arrives. There are re-useable calendars that I have seen people place their Jesse Tree ornaments inside and other cute ideas. Do you have an Advent Calendar you use during this season? If you are looking for some great kid options check out the items listed below:

Elf on the Shelf:

With the popularity of this particular item, I did not feel I could leave it out of this Advent Planning Guide. My boys do have an Elf on the Shelf named Buddy... that would be thanks to the movie Elf. My boys really enjoy the book that comes with the Elf on the shelf but they also offer the Elf dolls separate. I have not really embraced the "naughty elf" idea that I think most people are utilizing this toy for. Instead, I have our elf bring the craft items or ingredients for a special treat with him on his return visits from the North Pole. I also know some families that use a Christmas Angel and other ideas similar to Elf on the self that can be used to create a magical and faith-filled Advent for your families. Here is a small list of examples that I do with Buddy:

1. I normally host a "Welcome Back Buddy Breakfast" the day after Thanksgiving. Including a special breakfast of hot cocoa and pancakes complete with lots of sprinkles and whipped cream. We also enjoy the Elf on the Shelf Movie.

2. Buddy will bring prayer cards or medals during the Saints' feast days sometimes or handwrite a special prayer to the kids. See the list of Feast Days below.

3. Buddy will draw the focus toward something important like the Advent Wreath on the first Sunday of Advent and sit near or on the wreath. 

4. Buddy brings us an Advent Bucket List of activities including visiting a live Nativity, making gingerbread cookies, go look at Christmas Lights and so much more.

5. Buddy will also bring reminders that the reason for the season is Christ, not presents, candies and other material things and remind us to do good things like donating items and other good deeds.

Looking for more ideas? or ideas that are more specific? I am contemplating writing out exactly what I have planned for Buddy the Advent Elf at a later date. 

Feast Days to Remember in Your Advent Festivities:

These special days are fun and add to the anticipation and hope of Christmas. I will be sharing more detailed plans, crafts and other ways to celebrate these following feast days but I thought I could still share an idea or two to get everyone started. I will link to those plans as I have time to write them up here.

First Sunday of Advent:
November 27
Make sure to bring out all the Advent decorations! The Advent wreath, Advent calendar, Sacrifice Manger, The Jesse Tree, The Nativity and adorn your home with the color of the season, which is purple. Today is a great day to do an Advent Wreath Blessing as a family and light the first purple candle. The first Sunday of Advent is also known as Stir-up Sunday and is traditionally celebrated with some sort of plum pudding or fruit cake that everyone in the family can "stir-up".

Saint Andrew:
November 30
Start the Saint Andrew Novena! Also known as the Christmas Novena. It is believed that if you recite the Saint Andrew Christmas novena prayer FIFTEEN times each day from the feast of St. Andrew until Christmas Eve, that you will obtain the favor requested.
Saint Andrew Christmas Novena:
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Saint Francis Xavier:
December 3
Food is always the quickest way to my family's heart so we like to enjoy some Xaver Suppe on the feast of Saint Francis. There is also an adorable animated film you could watch as a family called Saint Francis Xavier: Samurai's Treasure. My children love all of the CCC Kids movies.

Second Sunday of Advent:
December 4
The second purple candle is lit today on the Advent Wreath. This week doesn't have any popular traditions or customs I am aware of but I would love to hear if you know of any. 

Saint Nicholas:
December 6
This feast day is one that is so easy for children to relate to because most know of "Saint Nick" or "Santa Claus" already. On the eve of his feast day, it is traditional to leave your shoes or stockings out and Saint Nicholas will fill them with small gifts, nuts and fruits. As you can see from the pictures above: I like to include chocolate coins, candy canes and a book with a pair of socks or slippers. There is also another CCC Kids video called Saint Nicholas: The Boy who Became Santa and a Veggie Tales movie called St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving.

Saint Ambrose:
December 7
Remember when I said I would discuss the Christ Candle again? Well Saint Ambrose is a patron saint of candle makers and today would be the perfect day to create a Christ Candle! All you need is a white candle and some art supplies. I usually head over to the Dollar Tree and purchase the candles they have that are inside glass. I will then create a Chi Rho on a piece of paper and tape it to the outside of the glass to make the candle a Christ Candle. It is also symbolic to place a blue ribbon around the candle to symbolize Mary, who carried the baby Jesus in her womb.

The Immaculate Conception of Mary:
December 8
A fun Marian feast day. The Immaculate Conception of Mary can be celebrated in a multitude of ways. Make a Mary Candle. It's traditional to make Moravian Spritz, or gingerbread cookies. Enjoying a nice all white dinner would be a great way to honor Mary's purity.

Saint Juan Diego:
December 9
Making some Mexican food is always a favorite tradition of mine of this feast day. There is also an animated film called Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe and a great Glory Story CD about him. Which by the way... I believe you can get for FREE at Holy Heroes so check it out. 

Third Sunday of Advent:
December 11
Today is known as Gaudete Sunday and is celebrated with the Rose (pink) colored candle being lit. It is the Sunday that we "Rejoice" that Christmas is almost here!

Our Lady of Guadalupe:
December 12
The feast of Our Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego really can go hand in hand. So anything you could do for the feast of Saint Juan Diego you could do today. 

Saint Lucy:
December 13
Today is a festival of light! It is tradition that the oldest girl in the family will wear a white dress and crimson sash and stockings. She will also wear a wreath crown with white lighted candles. In the morning, she will wake up the family with steaming coffee and some kind of sweet rolls or bread, also known as Santa Lucia Bread. There are processions and songs sung by children. Boys can also participate in the fun as Star Boys!

Fourth Sunday of Advent:
December 18
The last purple candle is lit on the Advent Wreath today. If you are willing, it is tradition to setup your Christmas Tree today. I will be the first to admit we have a family tradition of putting up the tree on Thanksgiving because of how busy the holidays are so do what is best for your family.

The O Antiphons:
December 17- December 23
These are known as the Golden Nights. Each night is a celebration of a unique title that was given to Jesus from the prophecies. These are amazing nights and can be very awe-inspiring. I will be sharing more on the O Antiphons in a future post. 

Christmas Eve:
December 24
The final preparations for Christmas should be completed tonight. Be ready for the twelve days of Christmas and the the Epiphany. Cook, clean and have your heart and soul ready to receive Our Lord as he is born. The time for preparations are coming to end and the real celebration is about to start. Advent ends on the afternoon of Christmas Eve because the Christmas Celebrating starts in the evening. 


Check out these amazing resources that will certainly help broaden your horizons and help you tap into that craftiness you have deep inside you. If you can't already tell, I am so excited about this upcoming Advent. Let's make sure it is a holy and prayerful one that brings us closer to God. 

Holy Heroes

Have you ever heard of the Holy Heroes Advent Adventure? This is a FREE Adventure for children. All you have to do is sign up with your email and you will receive emails several times throughout the week with links to videos that explain the season of Advent, coloring pages, cross words and fun activities that are so fun for your entire family! If you chose that you would rather have all this sent to you in a workbook versus printing it yourself, you can also order the Advent Adventure Workbook.

In addition to the Advent Adventure, Holy Heroes also has ornaments for a Jesse Tree, a sacrifice manger and Advent wreaths. They have great gift options that are meaningful and products you can add to family traditions and celebrations you already celebrate during this amazing time of the year.

I am a huge advocate of the Holy Heroes website because they offer many FREE resources but also sell products that connect with your families at an extremely reasonable cost! They offer most things at a bulk discount so if you get your parish or church groups involved, you can often save money and spread the faith.

I have included the link to my Pinterest Account because I have a nice assortment of DIY crafts and ways to celebrate Advent. I also have another board dedicated to Christmas if you are already planing your Christmas Celebrations as well. 

This amazing blog offers some great recipes to celebrate the Liturgical Year. It is a resource I refer to often because it is separated by Liturgical season and month. 

It's the .:Most:. Wonderful Time of the Year! 10 of Our Traditions for Advent and Christmas~ Wreaths, Trees, Recipes, Crafts, Stories, Santa, Science & Savoring

I hope that these activities, crafts and resources are helpful to you and your families as you prepare for the holy season of Advent. The next part of this series will focus on prayers, devotions and a more adult view on the season. In addition to that, I will be including a series on the O Antiphons, music and movies, an Advent Bucket List and a Christmas Shopping Guide. There is so much information to share and I am attempting to consolidate things into an easy to access resource that can be looked to throughout the season. Would you be interested in an Advent style blog hop? I literally have ideas just pouring out of me right now and would love some input. I have also began a series on Christmas including the 12 Days of Christmas and so much more so please make sure to stay tuned for the excitement to come!

Checkout How to Prepare for a Holy Advent Series: Part 2

This series is now part of the CWBN Blog Hop. Follow the link to more ways to keep Advent a special prayerful season for you and your families. 


  1. Even though we are empty-nesters, we still enjoy celebrating every aspect of the Liturgical Year. Would you believe that I had never heard of a Jesse Tree until a few years ago?! I have just been doing a paper one, but would like to get a better one. Thanks for all of the resources. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

    1. I love celebrating the Liturgical Year too! I think i enjoy it more than my kids sometimes. Jesse Trees are awesome and I love that a lot of these fun ways to celebrate can be done in all different fashions. I am so glad you enjoyed these resources and I am excited to share more soon!

  2. Wow!! This post packs a punch - in a good way! I will need to come back to this when I am at my computer, instead of on my phone, and write some of these ideas down. Future Advent project as my oldest gets older - the Sacrifice Manger. I have been wrestling with how to make it a "mini-Lent," and I think that is the perfect solution!!

    Thank you for this great list!! And, I look forward to your future post about the O Antiphons - a new-to-me celebration, as of a year or so ago.

    1. Thank you so much! I hope these ideas are helpful! The O Antiphon post should be up soon :)