Advent is a time to prepare for the birth of Christ. But it takes a lot of preparing to prepare! I've been pretty busy gathering things together for the different devotions that we do as a family. I love Advent because it's full of wonderful feast days and family traditions and THEN it's Christmas time and we continue to celebrate Christmas at least until the Epiphany on January 6th which is when the wise men reached the Holy Family. As a child, Christmas always seemed to end so quickly. But now we spend so much time preparing and then celebrating and so it doesn't seem that way anymore. Tonight I started working on our Advent calendar. I'm already 3 days behind! But I finally got to a point where we can use it so we'll begin tomorrow. I bought some plain wooden blocks from Michael's and and one side I have the date, another the Jesse tree symbol, then the Jesse tree Scripture reading, then a figure to add to our Nativity scene (leaving baby Jesus until Christmas, of course!), a penance or act of charity for the day, and a special activity for the day. The Jesse Tree is the family tree of Jesus, starting with Creation. Everyday we read Scripture and learn about each family member. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Jesse, David, Soloman, Joseph, Mary, John the Baptist and finally Jesus. It helps us to remember how long they had to wait for the Messiah and it makes our 4 weeks seem very short! Some sort of penance or act of charity could be as simple as having the kids clean their rooms, pray the Rosary for the people who are lonely during the holidays, or making a card to mail to family who can't be home for the holidays. Our special activities are mostly crafts plus all the special feast day plans we have coming up. I'm looking forward to having time with the kids each day to take a break and enjoy each others company. Since I got pregnant and have been sick everyday, I haven't been able to do as much with the kids. So this really comes at the perfect time. The kids really need some Mommy time. Here are the feast days coming up:
Dec. 6th: Saint Nicholas
This is a big one for us. We don't use "Santa Claus" in our home since he was derived from St. Nick. So, on the eve of St. Nick's feast day, the kids hang their stockings (since it's been told that St. Nick went down the chimney and put money in three sisters stockings which were hanging up to dry because they needed a dowry to get married) then they also set their shoes out because there's a story that St. Nick put money in poor children's shoes. So, we do both. The stockings are filled with candy and little toys (and an orange because I always had one in my stocking as a kid) and then their shoes turn into brand new slippers and inside the slippers are chocolate coins. In Germany, they eat ginger flavored cookies and drink spiced wine so we our going to build a gingerbread church this year and drink spiced apple cider. (Another German tradition we use is the "Christkindl" or Christ Child, who the kids write a letter to on the first day of Advent, telling Him what they are giving up for Advent -this year it's the computer- and what they would like Him to bring for their siblings on Christmas. Yes, we say that it's the Child Jesus who brings them gifts, not Santa). We'll also watch a cartoon we got a few years ago called "Nicholas: the boy who became Santa Claus". We'll also have a big brunch after Mass.
Dec. 7th: Saint Ambrose
He is the patron saint for candle makers so we will be making our Christ candle which is where we paint different symbols of Christ on a white candle.
Dec. 8th: Immaculate Conception
Holy day of obligation, so we will attend Mass. We will also cover our Christ Candle with a blue veil to represent Christ in Mother Mary's womb. Then we'll have dinner with all white food to signify her purity.
Dec. 12th: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Big Mexican fiesta for the kids and some cousins with a pinata, pin the tail on Juan's donkey and a craft. Then we'll eat our Mexican feast, pray together and attend the Spanish Mass our Church has every year and they even have a Mexican band play (I know they have a name. what are they called?) Oh, and the kids will pick out roses to bring to Our Lady. At Church, they set up a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and everyone brings her roses and it looks so beautiful. I'll try to get a picture this year.
Dec. 13th: Saint Lucy
The tradition for this feast is that the oldest daughter in the family (in our case, the only daughter) wears a white dress with a red sash (or at least just wears white and red) and wears a crown of lit candles on her head (not my kids. we make the wreath and candles out of paper) because Lucy means Light. Then she serves her family sweet rolls for breakfast (we're just having glazed donuts). This year, the 13th happens to also be Gaudette Sunday -or, Joyful Sunday-the third week of Advent where the pink candle is lit ob the Advent wreath and we will eat pink things for lunch. It's joyful because only one week remains until Christmas.
Then things finally slow down a bit as we begin decorating the house for Christmas. Since we celebrate Christmas long after Christmas day, we aren't getting our tree until the 19th. We also have a few purple decorations up right now but the real Christmas decorations will come out during the last week of Advent.
Whew. I hope I can do all these things this year! The kids are so excited (and so am I!) and right now St. Nicholas Day is all they can talk about. 3 more days! I'll post pictures of my Advent calendar soon. God bless and goodnight! (don't you love this time of year?)