Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Advent......

I know I can't be the only mom out there unnecessarily stressing out over our family's Advent traditions and celebrations.  Being a convert myself, I don't have any Advent family traditions of my own to draw from and it's easy to quickly become overwhelmed when you start looking into what other people are doing to celebrate the season--which of course is not the point!  Still, I can't help but envisioning my sons all grown up and talking with the priest who is visiting them in prison and telling him, "Well, if only we'd celebrated Advent properly and had that Jesse tree growing up we may have understood the real meaning of Christmas and things could have turned out differently for us......"  Am I being silly? Probably, but I can't help but fret over things like this and constantly feeling that somehow I'm just doing it all's just in my nature I suppose.  This year I've tried to just pick a few things to focus on and to do my best not to turn into a mad woman who attempts a perfect family Advent only to give it all up halfway through because it isn't going according to plan--not that that sounds like something I would ever do.....

For our family, that means at the very least lighting the Advent wreath at dinner.  I love the excitement on the boys' faces as we light the candles each night and eat by the candle light.  We don't get super fancy with it yet--they don't last long when prayers start getting long and dinner starts getting cold, but just seeing the progression of one more candle being lit each week really builds their sense of anticipation and wonder.....

This attitude of expectation is one which the Church wants to encourage in us, her children, permanently.  She sees it as an essential part of our Christian drill that we should still be looking forward; getting on for two thousand years, now, since the first Christmas Day came and went, and we must still be looking forward.  So she encourages us, during Advent, to take the shepherd-folk for our guides, and imagine ourselves travelling with them, at dead of night, straining our eyes towards that chink of light which streams out, we know, from the cave at Bethlehem.  
In Conversation with God, Volume I, page 2

As long as we do the wreath and I don't completely give my home over to total pre-Christmas Christmas craziness I feel like Advent will be a success.  For the building of our wreath this year we did pretty much the same thing as last year:

Step One:  Procure an Advent wreath candle holder thingee, some candles and a sad five dollar pre-made but flattened pine wreath (this particular beauty came from Lowe's).

Step Two:  Send your husband and children off into the wilderness with the wagon and giant, manly knife to collect more exciting greenery.  If you have husbands and children like mine you may also get ridiculously oversized new friends such as this with your delivery......

Step Three:  Put your wreath form on top of your sad wreath and then pull the pine branches through to hide the ugliness.  Then proceed to stuff your new greenery in to fill out your sad wreath--I don't bother with securing anything in--it just sits on the table so nothing falls out--add candles and......voila!

I may have gotten a little carried away with the amount of things stuffed into this wreath.  There are magnolia leaves, some kind of red berry bush from our yard, various pine needle branches and some white stuff--we really need to work on our nature identification skills around here......

While I was at it I made another wreath for the front door--again stuffing random greenery into another sad wreath and replacing the bow with something prettier.  This time I did secure everything with floral wire since it had to, you know, hang vertically :)

I'm not sure which one I like more.....I was pretty excited about them both!  And now every time we open the front door or sit down for dinner we get that wonderful pine smell.  I've also convinced Chris to let us get a live tree this year so we will probably go and pick one out closer to Christmas.....I'm pretty excited about that too :)

In addition to the Advent wreath we've got several nativities out--some for little hands to explore and others for me to (perhaps over-zealously? ) guard.   Our "nice" nativity set was put on a toddler accessible shelf with a bowl of hay for the kids to put into the manger whenever they do something kind for someone else (to make a soft bed for baby Jesus).  This may or may not be a disaster since I told the boys they can put the hay down but under no circumstances are they to touch the fragile porcelain figures.....we'll see how that goes......

We've got baby Jesus tucked away in my sewing cabinet awaiting his soft bed on Christmas morning and our wise men will be slowly making their way over for their appearance on the Feast of the Epiphany......

We've also got the wooden nativity set out--which the children are allowed to touch--theirs does have baby Jesus because really, he's everyone's favorite to play with.......

Of course like most activities in our house, the nativity was quickly incorporated into the giant train track set up that was already on the floor and baby Jesus hopped a faster ride to Bethlehem than any old donkey could provide......

For the grand finale of Advent preparations, I pulled out our collection of Advent/Christmas picture books and David has already been demanding choruses of The Little Drummer Boy which was by far his favorite book last year.  I have a hard time every year not stockpiling ridiculous amounts of excellent picture books for the season, but I keep telling myself that we have years and years and multiple children to get books for so it will probably be okay if they don't have every wonderful book out there this year.  I do have it on pretty good authority though, that St. Nicholas is bringing some more books this week on his feast day (along with chocolate coins of course) and I've picked up a couple more for the feasts of St. Lucy and the Epiphany.  I'm thinking we'll do some special baking projects, read relevant picture books and color some fun coloring pages to celebrate these three feast days this year and just keep things simple.  

I've been cataloging some of my favorite ideas and resources here in case anyone needs some more inspiration!  Maybe one year we'll get around to putting together that Jesse Tree, until then I'll try not to stress out over it and just enjoy this season of joyful waiting!

Disclaimer:  Some of my links here are Amazon affiliate links :)


  1. Loved this beautiful post! Your Advent wreath is gorgeous and mine looks totally wimpy in comparison :) Thanks for linking up with Little HolyDays!

  2. I'm new to Advent traditions too (RCIA this year!) It's like you have a great start on some lovely traditions!

  3. Your wreaths are both beautiful! And I love the train to Bethlehem. Baby Jesus has been riding in a spaceship around here (there may or may not have been dinosaurs involved). I think you are doing a great thing by reminding yourself that you don't have to do it all at's so easy to get overwhelmed with everything that is out there to _do_ and forget that a big part of Advent is just learning how to _be_ where we are...waiting! Thanks for sharing your ideas and photos of your preparations.

  4. Love it all and am missing you hospitality! And creativity, so thanks for sharing. ;)

  5. Your wreaths are indeed beautiful!
    I would love to know: where did you get the wooden nativity set?

    Advent blessings~


    1. Thank you! I bought the nativity set last year on Amazon but I can't find it anywhere now! It's originally from One Step Ahead but their website says it's not available :(


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