I’m a little late, as we’re already in the midst of the Advent season, but I’ve had fun searching the Internet for useful, Advent-themed links to collect in one place and share with you. And it’s not too late! You can jump in on the countdown ideas, Advent wreath or Jesse Tree. Just start where we are in the month and take it from here.A word of caution: don’t get overwhelmed. Use these for idea-starters, not a to-do list.We only do a few things (only a tiny fraction of the things I found to share with you here) and keep our celebrations simple. When I scroll through sites with lots of ideas, I look for things that fit us. I might only find one thing that seems like it would work for the Kroeker family. Musical families may want to do more with hymns and Handel, while a scrapbooking mom may enjoy lots of creative crafts as part of her family’s countdown.Enjoy idea-hunting so that you can build memories that fit your family!(Feel free to bookmark, because I plan to add to this list. Include your own traditions, links and ideas in the comments below!)The CountdownVariations on the countdown are endless.
- Quick-n-easy: The paper chain. You can quickly cut and staple one together with the kids’ help right this minute with whatever paper you have on hand.
- You can add Scripture to the chains like this site suggests.
- You can add Advent activity ideas to the chains (or to any other countdown concept you’ve created.)
- Pre-made countdown calendars filled with toys or chocolates. These may be on sale at this point.
- Teachingmom.com offers a clickable Advent calendar. Click on the day for readings and resources right at your fingertips. I haven’t gone through each day’s offerings, but the first ones I explored looked very helpful.
- Here is a very pretty, simple, homemade countdown concept that uses envelopes or matchboxes, Inside each of the 25 is an activity; one per day. She includes the ideas, some of which are warm-weather-oriented.
- For even more family activity ideas, here’s a list at We are THAT family.
- We created a countdown by setting up a nativity set with the stable on one end of a table and Mary and Joseph (without Jesus) on the other end. The kids set up a path of 25 small stones and take turns moving Mary and Joseph one stone per day, heading slowly toward Bethlehem. The wise men hang out on a set of shelves in another part of the room. The shepherds, sheep, cow and donkey can be moved within the scene wherever the children wish, but Mary and Joseph must only move to that day’s stone. On Christmas morning, Mary and Joseph arrive in the stable and Jesus appears in the manger, where the shepherds, animals and angels gather. The wise men and their camels show up later, on Epiphany, January 6. Here’s a snapshot of the humble scene (the tan fabric is covering a bowl turned upside-down to create a “hill” where the shepherds are abiding and keeping watch over their flock):
- My in-laws bought us a beautiful book of devotionals to use throughout Advent along with a recording of Handel’s Messiah. The entries are not geared for young kids, but can be creatively simplified. The photos and artwork are fabulous.
- Cookie Countdown: Bake your favorite sugar cookies and write numbers in icing, 1-to-25 (enough for each member of the family). Freeze. Pull out the appropriate cookie each day while preparing dinner and have one for dessert.
- This isn’t exactly a countdown, but for personal or family worship, you can use Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours, which simplifies the idea of fixed-hour prayer by providing prayers you can use morning, noon, evening and at bedtime throughout the Advent season (and beyond). Here’s a handy online version of the book’s text. (I think you’ll have to type in your time zone and then it’ll automatically bring up the prayer for that time of day. And, by the way, I can’t vouch for the rest of the site.)
- Taking the idea of having activities on each day of the countdown, here’s a way to zero in on one specific type: you could write a loving note (or kids could draw pictures) to send to someone different every day of the 25 (or remaining) days of the countdown. Ideas for letter recipients? Friends, family, soldiers, teachers, doctors, pastors, etc.
- An educational BBC “Bach” countdown calendar. Click, listen each day, and learn! It’s not always spiritual, but could be the perfect online Advent pitstop for the autodidact.
- Pretty pictures with a verse behind virtual doors, if you want something computer-generated and simple.
- Click on each day for creative recipes, crafts, activities, songs. Don’t try to do them all–just drop in to visit, and pick and choose what might work for your available time and family personality.
The Advent Wreath
- Ken Collins has a nice explanation about the Advent wreath and what the candles can represent.
- We like the Advent wreath concept, with light increasing week after week. It pulls us together to sit and talk about Jesus. Because I’m disorganized and inefficient, I invent readings every year. My justification for this lack of continuity is that I’m seeking to gear it to the kids’ ages and developmental stages, which change year after year; but I’ve really just failed to pull it all together in a notebook that I can conveniently reference. Here’s our wreath — I bought the base from Michael’s eight or so years ago and decorated it with whatever stuff they had on sale at that moment. The white candle was the “unity” candle at our wedding, now serving as the yearly “Christ candle.”
Jesse TreeI like the idea of looking back to what the prophets wrote that Jesus fulfilled. The Jesse Tree is a way to add symbols throughout Advent that help families see how it all fits together.
- Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer has a simple description of the Jesse Tree.
- Another more in-depth explanation.
- You and/or your kids can make the symbols, or print them off in color here.
- The Ragamuffin Diva is making her own Catholic-inspired, very artistic, collage-ish symbols and posting photos. Here are two random examples from her growing collection: The Fall, and The Flood.
- This Catholic resource explains the symbols simply.
- More printable symbols in pdf format.
- More ideas for making your own, many of them more 3-D.
- Lent & Beyond: An Anglican Prayer Blog has collected links — so many that I haven’t yet previewed them all, but I see some overlap with links that I’ve landed on.
- Ten O’Clock Scholar’s Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions
- Rachel Anne’s annual Cookie Decorating Party
I prefer to minimize the commercialism and add some Christ-centered symbolism and content (as well as some fun!) to our celebration. And these are some suggestions toward a more meaningful Advent.What Advent or Christmas traditions do you enjoy?