But I longed to embrace Advent. I want my family to take the time to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, not just hustle through a different to-do list each week in preparation for whatever gifts will be opened that weekend.
Let's be honest, the to-do lists aren't going anywhere. But this year I took a couple evenings before Advent began (anyone else loving how early Thanksgiving felt?) to plan out our month, and although we're only on the second day of Advent, I'm already loving the difference.
I saw so many wonderful Advent countdown ideas online - everything from family activities for each day to Truth in the Tinsel, and Jesse Trees that ran the gamut of print-out coloring pages to gorgeous heirloom-quality ornaments. For our family right now, I feel like our almost-two-year-old is too young to appreciate a Jesse Tree (though I really want to do one in a few years!) and our kitchen is already cluttered enough without pulling out different craft supplies every day. And those cheapo punch out calendars with the nasty chocolate inside are not my thing.
So we're going with a book countdown this year (e.g. as seen here). Every evening we'll open one wrapped package containing a book or holy card as we walk through Advent toward Christmas. This idea appealed to me because it was a simple way to decorate (purple wrapped presents on the mantle fit the bill for decorating for both Christmas and Advent!) and it wasn't a lot of extra work (we read every night anyway!).
|Just books and real holly, because decorating is unfortunately not my forte.|
We'll be adding the stockings on the Feast of St. Nicholas (Dec 6).
The only part that could be kind of tricky is in gathering over 20 books. Luckily I had seen this idea last year and latched onto it, so I was able to buy some beautiful books for half-price after last Christmas and kept my eyes open at thrift shops for other Christmas books throughout the year. I also alerted my mom to my plan so she could help out, too.
But come the end of November, I still didn't have the 23 books I needed. That was okay, though, because I realized I wanted to incorporate holy cards, too! I loved the fact that sitting down to plan the next several weeks facilitated us finally marking other holy days, like the feasts of St. Nicholas, the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucy, etc. I would really love to find books about each of those topics, but my local Catholic bookstore at least does not have them (with the exception of St. Nicholas), so holy cards had to do. For the most part I scheduled them to be opened on the night before the feast day, so that we could appreciate it throughout the entire day (for example, go to mass, ask for their intercession, etc.).
|In case you're wondering, there's no feast for St. John the Baptist during Advent, but I wanted to include him since several of the Sunday readings are about him.|
Speaking of scheduling, I really took some time this year to figure out which books to open when. Because I am a
Many of these are simple board books and I hope to incorporate a few nicer and longer ones as our children's patience continues to grow. Most of the books are about the nativity story, but there are a few others thrown in - a Santa book or two just so Miriam knows what the other kids are talking about, and different books for birthdays. My husband loves putting up trains at Christmas, so we're opening The Little Engine that Could on his birthday, and we're going to look over Miriam's first year album on her birthday (the goal being for her to get a new photo album for each birthday... though this year she's not getting it until Christmas... ahem).
I probably made all this sound entirely too complicated, but what I love about this is that it really is a simple way to stop and celebrate. Each evening before bed, we unwrap a book and enjoy it, spending just a few minutes to appreciate this liturgical season. As the mound of gifts on the mantle dwindles, the anticipation builds as we see that Christmas - the true gift - is drawing near.
|Night one of Advent: opening a holy card of St. Francis Xavier.|
Yes, I left her bow on with her pajamas for a good photo op. Naturally, a meltdown occurred shortly after this photo was taken. Just wanted to keep it real for you.
I would also like to eventually do something like this for the 12 days of Christmas (yes, the ones following Christmas). I may wait a year or two on this, though, in an effort to hunt down books for those specific holy days as well. I may also wait to do this until we start doing a Jesse Tree, so that Advent and Christmas are differentiated and not just one long book unwrapping season.
Finally, we're also still doing the Advent wreath. My husband decided we would eat supper in the dining room after lighting it, and I'm very excited about that little extra effort that will help mark each Sunday evening.
I'm so excited to be sharing in the Little Holy Days link-up! I'll be spending the rest of naptime checking out other people's posts - I hope you do, too!