7 Quick Takes Friday, no. 8: Advent Traditions

Happy New Year, Catholics! It’s a new liturgical year for us as Catholics which, as you probably know by now, starts with Advent. Personally, I have seen posts about Advent for several weeks now on practically every blog I follow, including this one. The Catholic blogosphere is full of Advent craft projects, Advent books to read, and unique Advent traditions. You can fill your Advent with lots of activities or you can keep it simple. So what do the Sistas do for Advent with their families? I learned a lot in putting this post together, hope you do too. Without further ado … the seven popular Advent traditions of the Catholic Sistas.


Traveling Nativity Figures

In my family we put out our Nativity set with all the figures except the Baby Jesus and the Wise Men. Baby Jesus gets added on Christmas Eve and the Wise Men travel through the house until the Feast of the Epiphany. However, some of the Sistas shared with me that they have the Mary and Joseph figures travel through their homes throughout all of Advent until they arrive on Christmas Eve. I love this idea!

Joseph and Mary make their way through the kitchen.
Photo courtesy of Mary S.

What special traditions do you have with your Nativity set?


Slow, Methodical Christmas Decorating

What’s your Christmas decorating strategy? Do you get everything up the day after Thanksgiving? Do it sometime in early- to mid-December? Or maybe you do what some of the Sistas do and decorate a little at a time? This idea is so appealing to me (though I know my husband wouldn’t go for it). Pull out the Advent wreath for the first Sunday of Advent, maybe put the Christmas wreath on the door, too. By week two you can pull out a few more decorations, get the Nativity set up, and maybe the stockings out. You could also get the tree up at week three and decorate it just before Christmas, or put it up at the beginning of Advent and decorate it throughout the season. There are a million different ways you could incorporate this idea into your Advent traditions.

How do you decorate for Christmas? All at once or throughout Advent?


St. Nicholas’ Day

Shoes at the ready
Photo courtesy of Michelle

This was a tradition I did not grow up with as an Irish Catholic, but I think it’s a really neat one. Traditionally, children put their shoes out on the Eve of St. Nicholas’ feast day (Dec. 6) and during the night he comes and leaves them little treats in their shoes. Read more about the traditions of St. Nick’s Day over at Catholic Icing.

You can see why children love this tradition.
Photo courtesy of Michelle

What St. Nick traditions do you celebrate in your family?


The Advent Calendar

Did you have an Advent Calendar growing up? Do you use one each year with your kids? I remember having them when I was little. We always had the little paper/cardboard ones you bought that had a small piece of chocolate behind the door. I love that there are so many varieties of Advent calendars now.

Cute Advent Calendar
Photo courtesy of Mary S.
An Advent calendar that consists of little books you can hang on a tree. How cute is that?!
Photo courtesy of Birgit

Do you use an Advent calendar with your children?


Jesse Tree

Are you familiar with the Jesse Tree tradition? I had never heard of this one until just a few years ago and I’m still pretty unfamiliar with it. But several of the Sistas do this with their children each year. It’s a great way to incorporate a craft into your daily schedule. Or not. As with many Advent traditions, you can do this several different ways.

A Jesse Tree you can put on your fridge.
Photo courtesy of Rachel

It’s easy to find more information on the Jesse tree through some simple internet searches. For some crafts to do for your Jesse Tree, check out this Pinterest Board. And here is another Jesse Tree craft along with the story, and suggested Scripture reading. And finally, check out this helpful booklet with Scripture for each day.

A felt Jesse Tree with felt ornaments.
Photo courtesy of Heidi

For another awesome Jesse Tree idea, check out friend of the Catholic Sistas, Elisa, who blogs at Elisa Loves. In her Advent post from a couple years ago you can see her family’s Jesse Tree in the corner of one of her beautiful pictures.

If you have a Jesse Tree, tell us about it.


Advent Wreath and Scripture Study/Prayer/Other Reading

I think one of the most popular Advent traditions is the Advent wreath. In my household it is the one thing we are consistent with year after year. Most of the Catholic Sistas also keep the tradition of the Advent wreath in their homes as well. In addition, many of us pair this tradition with some other sort of study or prayer. There are many different types of Advent reflection books available that can be used each night of Advent. Just read them as part of your wreath lighting each day. Some families do their family Rosary around the Advent wreath, read an encyclical, Scripture, or do some other sort of family prayer or scripture study together.

The Advent wreath lit on the first Sunday of Advent.
Photo courtesy of Birgit
Our Advent wreath with the Magnificat Year of Faith Companion and the Little Blue Book.
Photo courtesy of Kerri

What special Advent traditions does your family have for around the Advent wreath?


The Unwrapping of Advent/Christmas Books

The books await their annual Advent reading.
Photo courtesy of Martina

I read a blog post years ago about this very thing and then one of our ink slingers told me she does this in her family and I was excited to hear that more people do this. I haven’t done this in my family yet, but I’m looking forward to starting this tradition in a few years. I just need to start building up my book collection! So here’s the idea: You wrap up all your Advent or Christmas themed books and each night of Advent your kids get to unwrap one that you read as a family. I love that these are books the kids only see at this time of the year, so they feel new each time.  And you never know what you’re going to get each night.

What are some of your favorite Advent themed books for kids of all ages?

Want to read more about our collection of Advent ideas? Visit our Pinterest Advent board! While you’re there, be sure to follow all our boards, too!

For more Quick Takes fun, visit Jen Fulwiler at Conversion Diary.

11 Replies to “7 Quick Takes Friday, no. 8: Advent Traditions”

  1. My husband decided that our family is going hard core traditional this year for Advent. No tree until Christmas Eve, and no Advent wreath because he said it is a Protestant tradition. I feel like the house of Grinch. I understand the significance of waiting, but after 40 years of secular Christmas decorations it is super hard. Our teenagers hate it. I did leave stockings full of goodies in their rooms yesterday morning though…

  2. Robyn, would your husband consider an Advent tree that could then be switched over to a Christmas tree on Christmas eve? A very loving priest I know suggested this for families who do not decorate at all before Christmas since the Advent season is so important.

    As for the Advent wreath, our church has incorporated many different things to help include others and bring them towards Christ (sort of “meeting them where they’re at” type of thing). The Christmas tree is one of those things as well. Perhaps reminding him that the Church herself deems the Advent wreath worthy of using as a visual reminder (and the Church LOVES Her visual reminders!!) of the waiting we are doing for our Savior’s birth.

    Good luck and even without decorations you can have a very blessed Advent season. I’m saying a prayer for you and your family to have a very beautiful and holy Advent!

  3. My kids love the Jesse Tree. I love it too! It teaches the kids all of the stories of Salvation history from creation to Jesus’ birth. We also have an Advent Angel that comes each night and brings them their new craft and bible story. It is similar to the Elf on the Shelf, but instead of the focus on presents the focus is on Christ.

  4. We decorate throughout Advent. Last weekend we got out our Advent wreath Jesse tree, front door wreath, and Nativities. Tomorrow we’ll tag our tree and put up our lights. Next weekend the indoor decorations go up. The last Saturday before Christmas we put up our tree.

    Our Jesse tree is a little 3′ tree. I printed off pictures and glued them to cardboard. We’re slowly replacing them with real ornaments.

  5. Oh my goodness….the same green Advent Calendar with Santa has been in our family for 27 years! The kids thought that was neat that someone else has the same one. It isn’t very “Catholic” but was a gift from my Mom with our first baby and I believe was from Avon!

    Love all the suggestions on today’s blog. I like the simple Jesse Tree on the fridge. Sometimes I don’t get all the different Traditions done because they are too involved so a simple one is appreciated.

    Blessings on you and yours during Advent….Love Catholic Sistas Blog~

  6. Although the exact origins of the Advent wreath are unknown (and most likely pagan), early Christians put their own stamp on them (much like they did with the Christmas tree). In further claiming the Advent wreath for Catholics, Holy Mother Church has used liturgical colors for the candles and used it to carry four candles – one for each week of Advent. All of this counting down toward Christmas is Catholic in practice and most, if not all parish churches use it. That a wreath, with candles on it, has also been used by others (including pagans and Protestants) should in no way detract from the very Catholic character of this practice when done with the proper disposition.

    I hope that you and your family can find some common ground and will pray for a happy Advent for you and for all! God bless!


  7. Lisa C – we had the same one growing up and loved it (though we usually also convinced mom to get one of those ones with little doors and chocolate for each day!), and I was happy to find the exact same one at a rummage sale last summer!! much more of a nostalgia thing than a specifically Catholic thing, but I figure we’ve got lots of “Catholic stuff” too, a little Santa won’t hurt! 🙂

  8. I printed Jesse tree ornaments from here (http://www.eriercd.org/jessetree.htm) 6, and painted them. Every year, we print off the devotions (the dates/devotions vary depending on the number of days in Advent), and then nightly, we light the advent wreath, and put the day’s ornament up. Neither of us was raised Catholic, so we’re never sure if we’re doing things “the right way” but I feel like with Advent activities, you’re doing it right if you’re doing SOMETHING!

  9. Rebecca, that is a great attitude. You’re absolutely right, as long as you’re doing something you’re celebrating Advent. I was raised Catholic but never did the Jesse Tree, so I’d be the same way wondering if we were doing it “the right way.” Maybe when my kids get older we’ll try out this tradition. Thanks for visiting our little blog and hope you come back.

  10. Hi Kerri 🙂 I am ALL ABOUT Take # 2 above! Things have been slowly, slowly morphing over here. People are so different! We usually put our tree up around Laetare Sunday but I think the feast of St. Lucy (Feast of Light) or St. Nicholas Day would also be nice.(We often have a fresh tree so it’s no good to put it up at Thanksgiving and try to keep it alive until after Epiphany anyway!)Decorating it slowly would be very nice but not everyone here is that patient.

    We also do an Advent wreath, Advent calendar, traveling wise men etc., and I have wanted to do a Jesse tree for years. I have half-made ornaments that need to be finished and used eventually! Did you run across anyone who puts straws in a “bed” for Baby Jesus, for doing good deeds? This has always really motivated our kids to offer little sacrifices throughout Advent.

    For books, I like choosing some to match the special days we celebrate throughout Advent. The Baker’s Dozen is lovely for St. Nicholas Day, The Lady of Guadalupe for Dec. 12th, etc. There is a pretty good list in this post from Elizabeth Foss http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2012/11/quick-advent-tour-through-the-heart-of-my-home.html (also see her Dec. 4th post for why they decorate ahead of Christmas – love this explanation!)

    Great topic! It’s so nice to hear what others are doing. At the same time, it’s important to take on only what works for your own family because (thank God) there is SO MUCH good out there, and it’s easy to get swamped. I read recently to only do what draws your family closer to one another and to God, while keeping a peaceful, nurturing environment for the children. Sounds like a good goal!

  11. We’ve waffled over the years on when to put up the tree, the decorations, etc. In the end, no matter what each family chooses, it always comes back to proper disposition of the heart, which obviously varies from family to family. I think as long as the focus of Advent is on the preparation for His birth and the Christmas season is focused on celebrating His arrival, the details will fall into place. 🙂

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