I was looking at some Halloween pictures on-line this past week and I noticed a “different” costume on the daughter of my friend. Her little girl was dressed as a Jack-O-Lantern, but she had little Elf Shoes and a Santa Hat on. The caption of the picture said that she was dressed as… The Christmas Creep. Not only was this a cute costume, but it was also very applicable. Think about, September was barely in the books when stores started putting out their Christmas Displays.
I understand that The Christmas Shopping Season is when most retailers make enough money to get into the black, but how are we as parents to handle this creep within our families? How do we keep Christmas as special as it is while we are reminded of it’s presence starting in the Fall? How are we supposed to help our families remember that Jesus is the reason for the season and not getting new stuff? One way that our family does is pretty easy and fun: We celebrate Advent.
I grew up in a black Baptist church and when I was a Junior in college, I converted to Catholicism. Growing up, the only thing that I knew about Advent is that there was a cute little calendar that had chocolates, one for every day leading up to Christmas (My father’s side of the family is German and I attended a German Language Elementary School.) Once I became Catholic, however, I learned there was whole season in the liturgical calendar for Advent. Advent gives us the gift of four week of preparation: preparing our hearts and our homes for the coming of the Christ Child. It is four weeks for us to re-focus on what is most important, getting ready for the bridegroom to come to his bride.
Having two little ones, my husband and I know that we have to keep our Advent activities simple but still educational. It is important to us, as well, to make Advent just as meaningful as Easter, Lent, or Christmas. Some of our favorite Advent activities are:
– The Advent Wreath: This wreath of evergreen branches sits on our dining table and has 4 or 5 candles (1 candle for every Sunday of Advent with an optional candle for Christmas Eve) Three candles are purple, one is pink and the optional candle is usually white. I don’t have to tell you that kids and candles are always a hit. Before sitting down for the Sunday meal, we say one of the “O Antiphons” and light a purple candle. On week 2, we light 2 purple candles, etc. Week 3 brings the two purple candles and the pink (Gaudate Sunday: Time to Rejoice! The Christ Child is near!) and week 4 we light all four candles. On Christmas Eve, we light the white candle in the center, along with the other four and turn off the rest of the lights in the house and dine by candlelight. The candles stay lit though the evening meal and we let the girls take turns blowing the candle out after the meal.
– Advent Garland: This activity is great for preschoolers. First prep a series of purple and pink strips of construction paper along with some tape (you will need 3 purple strips for every 1 pink strip) to make chain garland. The garland follows the pattern: Purple, Purple, Pink, Purple (just like the Advent Candles on your wreath.) Not only does this make a cute Advent decoration, but it also helps to teach pattern recognition in your child!
– Jesse Tree: This activity does take a little more prep on the part of the parents, but you can make it as simple of as elaborate as you would like. The Jesse Tree tradition comes from the passage in the Bible where it talks about Christ coming from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1.) The tree can be just about anything: a bare branch from outside, a tree painted on your window, a hand-drawn tree on a large piece of paper. There are 24 Jesse Tree Ornaments (one for every day of Advent- not counting Sundays, or you can start your tree on December 1 and hang an ornament daily.) We usually hang our ornaments after dinner: we read the bible passage that matches the ornament or tell the bible story and the girls get to hang the ornament. You can either print off Jesse Tree ornaments or you can make them. Google “Jesse Tree” for some additional ideas or images.
This year, Advent begins on November 27 and ends on December 24 and I hope that these suggestions help you to start a few new traditions within your family and to stave off that “Christmas Creep” a little longer!
Have a blessed Advent!