I’m a little embarrassed to post these plans…as we are already 2 weeks into Advent! But, I confess that I so enjoy peeking into your homes to see the different family traditions you all have and the different and creative ways you bring them into your homes. It is inspiring to me! So, I’ll share what we do.
We add one new tradition each year, or we might build on something we already do taking it deeper and adding new meaning or new symbolism somewhere. This year, I had hoped that my very busy husband would have time to make us a simple wooden manger, a large one for under the tree. Alas, he has been so busy and his time already spoken for…mostly by us. But, it worked out because I spent some time working on and polishing up our Jesse Tree which I think has come out wonderfully well. Our Jesse Tree no doubt looks quite different from most of yours…
Here it is – empty and waiting. We used to use a wire tree to hang our symbols on, but last year, I was inspired to make something new to help us visualize the passage of time in the Jesse Tree and the original Advent time of waiting. What we came up with provides that visual for the children to see the long wait of the people of the Old Testament. Their Advent was thousands of years long! THOUSANDS! I’m glad I don’t have to be that patient! For the Jesse Tree, the march of time begins with Adam and Eve. Mary rides on her donkey on the way to Bethlehem all the way through time and along our little Jesse Tree to show that all along God had plans to meet humanity as a person, as a baby, on a piercing cold night, in a stable in Bethlehem.
Last year, I could not figure out a way to get my handmade, laminated ornaments to stay on the pegs – this year I figured it out. Those are teeny, tiny little clothespins from Michael’s craft store superglued onto each peg. Perfect for our little ornaments!
My little Mark enjoyed jumping through time quickly and adding all of the ornaments just as they will look on Christmas morning so that you could see how our finished Jesse Tree will look. Our little Lord is placed at the highest point on Christmas Eve.
We use Jesse Tree symbols from the first day of Advent through the 16th of December. At that point, we sing together the O Antiphons, one each night. Many thanks to Mary Ellen Barrett for her wonderful site, O Night Divine (which is a treasure of new ideas to store away for each year!) and Jennifer Miller, whose original post on the O Antiphons really sunk into my heart last year and inspired me to incorporate these into the daily rhythm of our domestic church during Advent in a more meaningful way.
Rob has been working out the chords to O Come, O Come Emmanuel on his guitar and Sarah and I have been practicing the Latin verses (oy!) so we’ll be ready to start on the 17th. The boys will take turns adding the symbols for each O Antiphon to our Jesse Tree which I printed from Jenn’s post at O Night Divine and colored and laminated. I decided to color and use the star as well and I think it adds a nice touch for Christmas Eve as it seems to hang right over the tiny manger on top of Jesse’s Tree.
I may add more clothespins to the pegs for the 17th -24th of Advent if the children decide they want to continue adding Jesse Tree symbols on those days as well. Fortunately, the stature of the pegs on those days allows me to superglue more mini clothespins along the peg.
Here’s where we were as of the taking of this picture (late last week). In the center of my cabinet is the tiny little manger we fill for baby Jesus with our good deeds. This is a favorite practice during Advent which helps the little ones to really hunger for the Feast of Christmas. They offer all of their little sacrifices and good deeds and as they do, they quietly place a piece of soft straw in the manger. This is done to make Our Little Lord’s bed as soft as possible when He arrives on Christmas!
So, that’s the kitchen…on to the other parts of the house….
A quick stop in the learning room shows the winter table set up and a small wooden Nativity (one of three in our house) set out. This one is soft around the edges, and all non-toxic wooden so the Doodlebug can
gnaw meditate on each piece of this Nativity. I keep the small basket next to it filled with the pieces and John Paul and Mark enjoy arranging and imagining the Holy Night.
Father Oak is dressed in Advent colors (thanks so much to my sweet friend Jill who freed us from the peeling gold lame’ on the front of Father’s vestments and embroidered the Chi-Rho for us on each of Father’s chasubles).
The Stable is set up and waiting in darkness. We arranged a tiny set of lights inside the manger which will shine when the Light of the World arrives! Mary and Joseph slowly travel across the Feast Table during Advent.
And…of course, the Advent Calendar is out. This year, Sarah and I went shopping at The Fresh Market for special goodies to place inside the Advent Calendar. Usually, I just fill each of the days with Hershey’s Kisses – delightful in their own right! – but this year Sarah and I took special care to fill each of the compartments with tiny, symbolic treats that coordinate with the symbol and reading for that day’s Jesse Tree ornament. So, for Adam and Eve there was a shiny red apple candy, Noah’s day had a gummi fish, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception had white candy covered almonds (almonds are a symbol of Our Lady’s purity and the white…well surely you know that one), and on and on. You can see that in a nice candy store you could have lots of fun with this one! We found so much to work with, and the kids get so excited to see the surprise awaiting them behind the door of the Advent Calendar. This is definitely something we’ll continue each year.
This is our Mary Candle – new for this year. I made it out of a pure beeswax candle (which is why it’s not white and has a sort of strange, honeycomb appearance…but it’s what I had), carving a small niche for the baby Jesus to be tucked into. Then (and, I knew I would somehow destroy my work before I was finished tweaking…) I had this brilliant idea to use the lighter and sort of melt the wax in the niche to smooth it – not a good idea. The wax did smooth, but what was left behind was a black, sooty mark inside the niche AND above the niche. Waaaaaah!!!!! How could baby Jesus sit in a niche when it looks like the flames of hell have been licking the candle. sigh! My ever-encouraging husband tried to reassure me that it looked just fine, but I was not convinced. Picking up my carving tools, I attempted to carve away the sooty, black remnants above the niche and within – thus the attempted halo/rays of light emanating from the baby Jesus’ niche. sigh.
The candle was veiled in a small embroidered linen (embroidered by my Granny, I believe – I thought it would make a perfect veil for our Mary Candle with its blue flowers).
On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception we place the Mary Candle with the children’s Garden Enclosed shrines on the mantle for our Lady. I think their offerings each look so lovely!
Finally, the book baskets…
(This picture was taken before the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – so no Enclosed Gardens are on the mantle and you can see our Mary Candle is still veiled.)
In the left basket are catalogs for assisting internet shopping on cold evenings with the fire cheerily blazing, my husband watching some ball game or maybe a holiday movie whilst I shop happily filling my digital shopping carts all from my happy little macbook. 🙂
The middle basket contains all of my treasured books for helping me live out the liturgical year (if my house was burning I would grab my kids and this basket!)…
Note: many of these treasures are out of print now. If you are persistent though, you can find a good used copy searching on the used side of Amazon, or used book sites such as alibris and abebooks. oop = out of print**
~ Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family by Maria Augusta Trapp (oop)
~ Cooking For Christ by Florence Berger (original book published 1949 oop)
~ Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger
~ Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs by Fr. Francis X. Weiser (oop)
~ The Year and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland
~ A Book of Feasts and Seasons by Joanna Bogle
~ A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz
~ My Nameday, Come for Dessert by Helen McCloughlin (oop)
~ Year of Grace by Pius Parsch (oop)
~ The Holy Bible
…and right now I’m reading my tattered, printed copy of The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy so it’s sitting in the back of the basket.
And finally, the basket on the right contains all of our Advent picture books. Many thanks to Cay Gibson who opened up so many of these covers to us through Catholic Mosaic and Christmas Mosaic. My basket isn’t nearly as big as hers…
The titles (mostly in the order they are read):
~ The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean (we read one a night – this is a treasure!)
~ Wenceslaus, the Eternal Christmas Story by Geraldine McCaughrean
~ Good King Wenceslaus (the carol illustrated) illustrations by Jamichael Henterly (oop)
~ The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
~ Saint Nicholas, the Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegmeyer
~ The Real Santa Claus by Marianna Mayer
~ Mary, the Mother of Jesus by Tomie de Paola**
~ The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie de Paola**
~ The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson (warning kleenex a must!)
~ The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola**
~ Our Lady of Guadalupe by Father Lovasik
~ The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe by C. Lourdes Walsh
~ The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie de Paola
~ The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett (just ’cause we love Jan Brett’s winter stories!)*
~ The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
~ The Hat by Jan Brett*
~ Saint Francis and the Christmas Donkey by Robert Byrd
~ Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett*
~ Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett*
~ The Greatest Gift by Melody Carlson
~ The Mitten by Jan Brett*
~ The Nutcracker illustrated by Don Daily adapted by Daniel Walden
~ The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
~ The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger (this is a must have in your basket!)
~ The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett*
~ Mary’s First Christmas by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
~ The Nativity from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke illustrated by Ruth Sanderson
~ Christmas in Prose and Verse (Platinum Press, Edited by Allison C. Putala)
~ A Christmas Treasury of Yuletide Stories and Poems (edited by James Charlton and Barbara Gilson)
~ Dorling Kindersley’s The Night Before Christmas
Jan Brett has a wonderful website with so much to offer – free printables, coloring pages and activities that coordinate with ALL of her books! Recipes too!
And finally, this year, I decided to start using my new best friend, ical, to pull it all together for me. Obviously – the times on the calendar mean nothing, but I do like being able to list the picture book for the night, the Jesse tree readings, any craft for the day, the feast of the day, special cooking that coordinates or ties in the feast, special teas to celebrate the feast. I have started pulling all of my plans together in this way and it sure has made the planning and celebrating in Advent simpler for me. I uploaded a page so you can take a look – these will be added to and polished each year to print and help keep us marching to the rhythm of the liturgical year….without my plans tied together, I fear we’re always marching about 10 steps off. Typical. At least, this way I can look to the day, choose what we can do, and if a few days are thrown off by the festive visit of a virus bedecked in all its generosity, we can just pick up where ever the Church happens to be at that time. It is a help as well in planning and shopping for crafts and cooking at the beginning of the season. You might consider using a calendar – ical or google cal – to pull your plans together.
May your days of preparation be joyfully rewarded on Christmas morning with the coming of the tiny baby Jesus into the hearts of your families and the heart of your home! Gaude!