First Sunday in Advent 2015 is the last Sunday of this month! I don’t know about you but I often find that Advent catches me by surprise – actually sticks out it’s purple foot and trips me! I’m tired of falling on my face so this year I’m going to help myself (and you) to be prepared with great activities to do through Advent. So without further ado let me begin Catholic Sistas’ November first Friday quick takes!
Quick Take one – how many days are there again until Christmas? One of my favorite ways of counting down till that ‘last big sleep’ is with what our family fondly calls the Advent Chain! There are so many variations you can do with this simple craft. We cut out several strips of paper – typically from purple and pink construction paper. However, if you don’t have that, no worries – just improvise. Use whatever scrap paper that’s lying around or grab a cheap pack of printing paper from a dollar store. Don’t even BREATH the words pink and purple if you go that route and your kids will be none the wiser! We typically make one chain per younger child so that every day of Advent EACH child can pull one loop off the chain. No arguing, errr, trying to remember whose turn it is. A nice twist to this activity is to have each child write something on each loop of the chain before you glue (or staple) the loops into a chain. They can write a sacrifice they are willing to make, a person or cause they want to offer their day up for, no sweets that day, etc.
One of the reasons that I like the idea of using a paper chain is that as the children watch their chain get shorter and shorter, we can remind them that we are getting closer and closer to the birth of the saviour who was born to save us from the bondage of sin.
two advent chains linked together by the red links we add to symbolize Christmas day
The last thing that I enjoy about this chain is that it is completely adaptable to the number of days in Advent and if, for some reason, you start late (I heard that thunk as you fell down!) – just adjust the chain to reflect the number of days left to count down to Christmas.
Quick Take two – the advent candle that needs no match – just glue! There are many variations out there and when I had so many littles vying for a chance to light the candles I began helping them make their own paper wreaths that allowed them to “light” their own candles each Sunday in Advent. I’m telling you that saved me many gray hairs. Go here and here for some examples to fire your imagination. If these do not inspire – just google paper advent wreath under images & you will find tons of inspiration!
Quick Take three – the dreaded advent calendar filled with chocolates that would break the bank if you bought one for each child… Okay – Advent is not a time of celebration but falls more into the category of waiting with sacrificial actions so why would we feel the need to buy one for each child? Picture large soulful eyes filled with tears threatening to over flow on how many days, times how many kiddos that don’t get a turn to eat the chocolate??? My solution was just not to buy them – besides they never have all the days in advent on them! Then one year I was inspired to create our own calendar but instead of candy we had ideas of what to do each day hidden under the flaps. These ideas ranged from something sacrificial such as light fasting for a cause or praying for someone we knew was in need of prayers to something fun like baking to share with another family. As we got closer to Christmas even more fun things were included such as “buy tree today”. Here is one link that will show you thirty crafty ways to create your own advent calendar. And in my
professional, experienced opinion you can adapt any one of these ideas to your family size as well as to the length of this year’s Advent. (Oh and I eventually found a great use for the chocolate filled calendars – I buy them AFTER Christmas at a HUGE discount and use them to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, two children per calendar is twelve days!!)
Quick take four: Advent tree and decorating for Christmas: when we first began growing our family in the early eighties (did I just admit to being that old?) I had not yet converted to Catholicism and it was very obvious in how we chose to celebrate Christmas though I was adamant from the beginning that there would be no emphasis on Santa but rather on St Nicholas and Baby Jesus and all the gifts were addressed as from them. So our first generation of children grew up with the tree going up very early in December and when our conversion happened it was very hard for them to adapt to holding off on decorating until the last week of Advent. So I had to get creative and this ultimately resulted in the creation of… the Advent Tree. Yes, we put up a tree the first Sunday of Advent and it is decorated in purple and pink lights as well as purple and pink ornaments. Back in the nineties we stopped decorating the entire house in early December and instead, put out a few decorations each Sunday in Advent with the actual Christmas tree going up the last week or last Sunday in Advent. I think this visibly helps the sense of waiting while also building up one’s anticipation for the birth of Christ.
Quick take five: As my middle generation of children entered their teen years they wanted to be able to have Christmas parties like the rest of their friends. But when the rest of the world has benched the tree one or two days after Christmas and everyone is planning their New Years resolutions along with their annual Rose Bowl party – how do you throw a Christmas party for your peers and still be cool? But I was not going to have a CHRISTMAS party during Advent. While the younger fries were happy celebrating the feast days in December in lieu of Christmas parties, the teens really wanted to do something a little more grownup. So out of this desire evolved our Gaudete Sunday potluck and gingerbread house party. It’s the perfect time to throw a really fun get together for all ages as Gaudete Sunday is the one Sunday in Advent when we throw aside the penitential purple and don the joyful rose because our joy over the coming birth of Christ simply overflows. AND then we are back to our penitential purple the next day until Christmas Eve. It is actually a wonderful witness to friends and neighbors. If you are not yet familiar with the wonderful feast days in December or some of the great traditions associated with some of them check out these links: St Nicholas‘ feast day is on December 6th, closely followed by the Immaculate Conception on the eighth. Then we have Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day on the 12th which is preceded by St Juan Diego’s feast day on the ninth, and finally St Lucy’s feast day on December 13th.
Quick take six: Using the church’s seasonal colours to create a very visual reminder of our season of waiting for Christ’s birth. My husband and I attended a homeschooling conference so many, many years ago it almost brings tears to my eyes to remember how long ago as we have been homeschooling for over 2 decades – with another 12 years to go… but I digress.
So what exactly can you do with the colours of the church? Well, most of us know that the colours of Advent are the penitential purple and the joyful rose for Gaudete Sunday so the easiest way to use them in our everyday lives is with tablecloths. Feeling inspired but on a tight budget I bought a strip of purple cotton material and hemmed it and bought a rose coloured strip as well. On the first Sunday of Advent the children woke to a white table cloth on our table with the purple strip being used like a runner on it. On the third Sunday of Advent I switched out the purple for pink and then back to purple the next day. On Christmas morning the children woke to a table decorated cheerfully with a Christmas themed tablecloth (which incidentally I had also used for the feast day of St Nicholas) and candles. When I first attempted this idea I had mostly little children so I had a thin sheet of clear plastic laid over it that allowed us to keep the table cloth/runner useable for quite some time. Over the years those “runners” got lost during the numerous moves we made and recently I have been trying to replace them. With dollar stores so prevalent now -it’s not too hard to find affordable alternatives or even inexpensive tablecloths.
Here is an example of the tablecloth & runner covered with a plastic sheet.
Quick take Seven: Some good reads for Advent: If you check out this link you will find quite a few reviews of a variety of Advent books you can read during Advent to your children. I discovered this list of reviews when googling to find the book I bought years and years ago to read throughout Advent to my children. Jotham’s Journey is the first in a trilogy of Advent books written by Arnold Ytreeide. The other two are Bartholomew’s Passage followed by Tabitha’s Travels . I actually read the Jotham’s Journey aloud to my children during Advent of 2004 and they truly enjoyed it. I have not read the other two but based on the success I had with the first one – I am not hesitant to offer these other two as serious contenders. If you mosey on over to this earlier 7QT post by Kerri you will read about a really cool advent book idea that I really, I mean really, like! (I’m referring to QT7 in this post and I don’t think you need to have a huge selection of books to do this.). Still on the topic of good reads, ahem, I have been given permission to give a little plug regarding my own Advent book: Advent Journey With Mary and Joseph. This book is meant to be read aloud on and off through out the season of Advent while your family recreates the journey that the Holy family traveled to get to Bethlehem.
Though this last link does not pertain to good reads, it certainly is chock full of good things to do during Advent so be sure to check this post out. And now I will finish with this very profound and important question: Have you purchased this years Advent candles yet?
And now that you have read our Quick takes be sure to check out what everyone else is sharing this week over at This Ain’t the Lyseum.
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Christi Gareis is a homeschooling mother of thirteen, with four children still at home. Her youngest child can boast that she was an aunt before she was born. Christi has been blogging since 2005 and has three blogs. In addition to blogging, Christi has been published on Catholicmom.com as well as in CCL’s magazine Family Foundations. She also wrote the section on How to ‘Prepare Your Child for First Reconciliation’ in the book '101 Stories of Reconciliation' by Sister Patricia Proctor.