Here are a few more easy ways in which we observe the beginning of the new liturgical year, and count down the days until the real Christmas season! These are simple, but oh-such-cherished traditions.
The Advent Wreath
Pretty self-explanatory. We love ours. It's an old hand-me-down from the friend who introduced me to Catholicism. It's not about how the wreath looks -- it's imperfect and crooked, like I am. It's about what it reminds me of, what (and Who) it points to.
For nightly prayers, we like to use selections from Prayers and Customs of Advent and Christmas.
This page has prayers for the beginning of Advent, along with short daily prayers for each week. This page has some nice prayers for very young children. Some short Advent meditations are here. All of the prayers on this site are short and easy for families to use.
When we light the candles on the wreath each night, we divide up the "duties" (which are seen by the kids as fun and privilege, thus the fighting over them which resulted in the division of duty.)
One child lights the candle, one reads the prayer, and one gets to snuff out the candle at the end of the meal (the antique candle snuffer we use makes this especially attractive.) This way, everyone is involved, duties rotate and everyone is happy. Some nights, though, everyone reeeeeally wants to light a candle, or everyone reeeeeally wants to snuff a candle out. So, sometimes, I must admit, we relight candles just for the fun of it, and snuff them out again and again.
Because we're easily amused, I guess.
The girls and I pray together before breakfast every morning. (Let me amend that: unless something interrupts our routine, we pray together. If we have somehow missed morning prayer, it becomes obvious. In all of us. A hovering crankiness and irritability are sure signs that we forgot morning prayers.)
I vary our prayers with each liturgical season. Mounting a list of prayers on construction paper is a simple way to teach about liturgical colors. They know that if the prayers are on a green background, we're in ordinary time. During Advent, the prayers are in purple, on a purple background.
We read from our Muppet calendar every night. We also have another booklet-a-day calendar based on A Christmas Carol.
More and more and more Advent Calendars ....
Hmmmm ... maybe our Advent calendars are getting out of hand?
Naah ... We also do this one, which, like the Muppet calendar, was a gift from my mother years ago. We love this calendar. I have no idea where she got it, but every child loves to do this kind of simple activity. We hang one tiny wooden ornament per day on this wooden tree.
And, who can resist the chocolate-a-day-calendar? I have to confess that my kids do not get the highest quality chocolate in this kind of calendar, as I buy mine at the dollar store. But, they love them anyway, and it's a yummy way to count down the days.
We will also:
* fill an empty manger to make a soft bed for the long-awaited Baby Jesus (I simply use a small basket, set up in a central location, and pieces of yarn)
* decorate a Christ candle (I use an inexpensive white candle, and the kids decorate it with sequins and jewels; it sits in the middle of the Advent wreath but will not be lit until Christmas day)
* ready Mary and Joseph for their long journey (their figures are placed as far from the Nativity set as possible, and the kids move them a little closer to the stable each day.)
(These three activities and others are mentioned in this wonderful article by Michaelann Martin, which you can see for more details.)
And, we will:
*Read all our favorite Advent books
Warning, warning: this will require a separate post!