4 Common Advent Traditions
Over the centuries, Advent traditions heightened the excitement of the birth of Christ through activities that counted down the days and weeks to his arrival. These traditions also provide an opportunity for each of us to individually commemorate God’s love with remembrance and prayer. Here are four of the most common traditions for celebrating Advent.
1. Advent Candles and Wreaths
Advent wreaths and candles are both a beautiful and meaningful centerpiece to the season. Since the Middle Ages, families have used Advent wreaths to measure their progress toward Christ’s birth. Each Sunday, gather your family, light an advent candle, and contemplate its meaning:
- The first candle symbolizes our hope which comes from God’s promises.
- The second candle reminds us to prepare for the Lord.
- The third candle represents the joy that Jesus brings to us.
- The fourth candle represents the love of the angels who announced the good news.
2. Advent Calendars
Another tradition that keeps Christ the center of your family life during the Christmas season is an Advent calendar. It provides a daily reminder that Jesus is the reason for the season by providing you a means to count down each day to Christmas. Typically, calendars offer windows that you pull open each day to reveal a special treat inside , such as a colorful illustration, Bible verse and candy.
3. Advent Sunday Dinners
Celebrate each Sunday of Advent with a special meal. Make your family’s favorite dishes for an intimate dinner or invite neighbors, friends and extended family to a lively potluck. Take a moment to light an Advent candle, recite a scripture, and say a prayer.
3 Ways to Make Advent Dinners Extra Special::
- Including a Bible verse at each place setting. Go around the table and have everyone read theirs.
- Making a dinner that’s similar to one that would have been eaten in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Eat it by candlelight.
- Creating meals around the Feast Days that happen during Advent. For instance, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12, you could serve a traditional Mexican meal to celebrate this patron saint of Mexico.
4. Advent Gift Giving
Advent gift giving isn’t about spending loads of money in a huge gift exchange, it’s about sharing God’s love. One way to spread the love of God is to give homemade gifts of food to neighbors and coworkers, and contributing gifts to food shelves and homeless shelters. This is giving for the joy of helping one another.
A fun and easy way to experience the joy of giving and honor the Advent traditions is with an Advent box. Each day of Advent, place a nonperishable food item or toiletry in it. On Christmas Eve, deliver it to a homeless shelter or food shelf.
Celebrating through gift exchange with loved ones is another way to keep our hearts and minds centered around the true meaning of the Advent season.
Common gifts to exchange with close friends and family during Advent include:
- Fun and decorative advent calendars
- Prayer books
- Advent wreaths and candles
- Books of meditation and wisdom
- Jesse tree banners.
Activities for the Family
With the delight of Santa Claus and elves and snowmen, it can be too easy for children to get caught up in secular holiday traditions. Advent, however, is an excellent opportunity to remind them of the true meaning of the season and celebrate Christ together.
Advent Wreath and Calendar Ideas for Kids
There’s probably no better way to help children understand the meaning behind the Advent season than giving them creative ways to participate in Advent wreath and calendar traditions that symbolism the anticipation of the return of our savior.
- Let them create their own Advent wreath.
- Make an edible advent wreath together.
- Help them help others with an Advent calendar focused on service. For each day leading up to Christmas, give them a small way they can bless someone. It can be as simple as drawing a picture for a neighbor who lives alone or giving some hot chocolate or coffee to the postman.
- Build togetherness this season with an Advent calendar that counts down the days with fun things to do as a family, such as reading the nativity story or donating toys.
- Have them read a Bible verse when they open a window on their Advent calendar.
- Make a felt nativity banner. Add pieces each day of Advent until the nativity scene is completed.
More Ideas for Celebrating Advent
7 Activities to Celebrate the Birth of Jesus
- Visit a living nativity scene, or create your own and wait until Christmas Eve to add Jesus it.
- Make your own nativity scene. All you need is a box, glue, magic marker and construction paper.
- Make paper crowns and discuss what the gifts of Magi meant. In summary, gold means royalty, frankincense was used to honor spiritual leaders, and myrrh symbolizes pain, death and afterlife. Why are these gifts so appropriate?
- Make a Jesse Tree, which illustrates the events which lead up to Christ’s birth. It will give them context to help them better understand the Christmas message.
- Turn your Christmas tree into a Jesse tree with ornaments you make yourself. All you need is a little imagination and a hot glue gun. Here are a handful of ornament ideas:
- A tree with fruit or an apple to represent Adam and Eve
- A rainbow to represent Noah and the Ark
- A whale to represent Jonah and the Whale
- A white lily to represent Mary
- A manger to represent Jesus
- Make angels to represent the heavenly hosts that told the shepherds about the birth of Jesus.
- Make ornaments that represent the Christmas story.
5 Ways to Celebrate Advent with Food
- Use your Christmas dishes throughout December, and add purple or rose to the color scheme to represent the, which are the colors of Advent.
- At dinnertime, read a Bible verse from the Gospels and sing a carol.
- Bring your family together daily to open a window on an Advent calendar, and then place a nonperishable food item or toiletry in a basket. Once all the windows on the Advent calendar are open, deliver the basket (which should now be filled with goodies) to a food shelf or homeless shelter.
- Go caroling at a nursing home and hand out cookies.
- Make Lucia Day buns on December 13.
9 Ways to Worship Through Prayer, Meditation and Stories
- Give them an Advent coloring book and color a page each day.
- Read them a Christ-centered story each evening.
- Create a prayer chain. Each day say a prayer to bless someone, then make a link with a word that represents your prayer, such as the name of a person. Place it on your Christmas tree, connect the links, and by Christmas Eve, your tree will be wrapped in prayer.
- Watch the sunrise together on Christmas Day to celebrate the arrival of the light of the world, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- Fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.
- Write a letter to Jesus thanking him for how he has blessed you. Read it aloud on Christmas Eve.
- Wrap up 24 Christmas-related books (look for them at rummage sales and thrift shops) and put them in a basket. Each night, ask your children to choose one that you will read together.
- Pray for the sender of each Christmas card you receive.
- Read an Advent devotional each evening.
Remembering Jesus during the Christmas season can be a priceless opportunity to make magical memories with your family as you bless each other and those less fortunate.
What are some of the fun ways you celebrate Advent? Add a comment to share!