Clearly the most important component of the Advent season is the preparation of our own hearts for the celebration of the birth of our Saviour. The preparations we'll be doing on the homefront mimic what is happening in our hearts--we are tidying, decluttering, straightening things out, and hopefully Christmas will find the halls of our hearts decked with joy and hope and their will be room in our inns for the newborn King.
I haven't mentioned our Liturgical Tree here in quite a while, but it's spent all of Ordinary Time adding blooms to its branches, each bloom representing a gift or fruit of the Holy Spirit. Throughout Advent, those blooms will begin to bear fruit--pink and purple plums will take the place of the little flowers, and we will discuss one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy as we place each one. From Christmas until Epiphany, we will harvest that fruit through our own good works, so that we have a gift to present to the King on Twelfth Night.
Our daily prayer rhythm will focus on the traditions of Advent. In morning prayer, we will place our Jesse Tree ornaments and read the corresponding scriptures. At lunch and tea times, we will use the book S is for Star: A Christmas Alphabet (more on that in my post on preparing our minds this advent.) Evening prayer will center on our advent wreath. We'll also make a paper chain for our tree with purple and pink links to count down the days of Advent. The inside of each link will contain a special prayer intention for that evening for which we will pray. On Christmas Eve, when the links are all gone, we'll replace the chain with popcorn and cranberry strings.
I'm trying a new concept for Advent wreath this year. I was taken with this image of a waldorf-style Advent spiral and sweet Mary on her donkey marking the journey. I am going to try this type of idea with something that will look more like the advent wreaths my kids have been familiar with in past years. I'm creating the spiral out of floral foam and covering it with greenery. We'll place small candles (birthday candles if necessary) in to mark each of the days of Advent, using purple and pink appropriately. Each week of Advent, we'll focus on one Scripture story of the Advent season, creating small wooden and felt figures along the way to mark the journey, much like our Serendipity Wee Felt Saints.
- First Week of Advent stories: the Annunciation and the angel appearing to Joseph (figures: Mary and an Angel)
- Second Week of Advent stories: the Visitation and story of John the Baptist's birth (figures: Elizabeth and Mary)
- Third Week of Advent stories: the census and trip to Bethlehem, no room at the inn (figures: Mary and Jospeh, donkey, wooden cave placed in center of spiral)
- Fourth Week of Advent stories: the birth of Jesus, visit of the Shepherds, visit of the Kings (figures: manger and baby Jesus)
We'll also celebrate some of the lovely traditions of saints' feast days that fall within Advent. Of course, our basketful of Catholic Mosaic picture books will provide ample inpsirational reading, especially on these feast days, but we'll also celebrate in some other special ways that have become treasured Advent traditions in our home.
- St. Nicholas Day (December 6): We fill our stockings on this day with gold coin chocolates, nuts in their shells, clementines, and candy canes. Each child receives a new book for the Advent/Christmas book basket and there's a few new family games for wintry nights. We have lots of favorite read-alouds for this feast including Demi's Legend of St. Nicholas, The True Story of Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend, and my personal Christmas favorite, The Miracle of St. Nicholas. In addition, we have a beautiful Russian icon egg with St. Nicholas on it that gets placed on the mantle for this feast. I'm keeping tea times simple--candy cane tea or hot chocolate with candy cane stirrers and iced ginger snaps.
- St. Lucia's Day (December 13): Since we have no St. Lucia's in this family and an overabundance of star boys, I'll serve cafe au lait and cinnamon rolls at the kitchen table, covered with a white cloth with a red ribbon down its center and sprinkled with star confetti. I hope to make a little display with our St. Lucy statue and a copycat version of Dawn's sweet star boys and maybe even one of try my hand at a tiny St. Lucia doll, although I know it won't compare to these.
- St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadelupe (December 9 and 12): We'll celebrate these feasts together some time in the middle of that week with a Mexican feast and maybe a visit to the mission base. We'll decorate with roses and blue cloths and make paper stars for our tree. Again, some of our favorite picture books surface for this celebration, including Tomie de Paola favorites, The Lady of Guadelupe and The Legend of the Poinsettia, as well as The Night of Las Posadas. We'll add these statues to our advent mantle as well and then wait for the saints on Christmas to join them!
I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with this mega-post! I did little to no Advent journaling last year and I really wanted to create a good record for myself this year. I'll be referring to this post myself in the morning when I make my craft store shopping list. It's a lot to write out, but it's not as overwhelming in the practical aspects--we're talking a Jesse Tree, an advent wreath, a paper chain, some felt circles we'll call plums, lots of good picture books and three simple feast day celebrations here. I love that this rhythm slows down the season for us, allows us to savor it. Maybe it adds work to a busy season, but in my experience, it actually slows down the season and gives me time to focus on leading little hearts to the little Saviour. If that's the case, there are plenty of other things I'd rather not get to than skipping this. This, in my heart, is where the path to heaven is at its most beautiful.