Advent is here and with it our six-week break from homeschooling. Instead of doing school work, we do an activity each day preparing for Christmas. Some are distinctly religious. Others are not. Here are some ideas for activities you can do with your family.
Learn and sing Advent hymns
Sunday at Mass, D was amazed that I knew many of the verses of O Come, O Come, Emanuel by heart. Well, that was the only Advent hymn I learned in Catholic school, and I don’t recall singing any other one at Mass in the 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until I started praying the Divine Office as an adult that I learned some of the beautiful hymns I had been missing. Here are some you will want to learn along with your kids, if you don’t know them already:
- People, Look East. This song by poet Eleanor Farjeon helps you to see all the preparations for Christmas–including setting a merry table–as preparations for Christ. This is a good one to start your Advent.
- Wake, Awake, the Night is Dying
- Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
- O Come, O Come Emanuel. Sing this one beginning December 17, when the Church prays the O Antiphons.
- Behold, a Rose of Judah. My personal favorite for Advent, save this one for the last week or two before Christmas.
Learn or review salvation history
The Jesse Tree is a popular devotion that teaches children about the different events that set the stage for the coming of Christ. Since we use a Nativity Advent Calendar every morning, I like to do a more involved activity than just hanging pictures or ornaments on a tree. This year we are drawing pictures of several Biblical events, using the Dover Stories from the Old Testament coloring book, Draw 50 People from the Bible, and other art books as guides. Since each of my boys is writing a version of the Bible, we will use this artwork for our illustrations. I encourage them to do their very best work.
Play the Nativity
Each of my sons has a Nativity set for children. We get them out on the first day of Advent and let them play with the figures through Advent and Christmas, reserving Baby Jesus until Christmas Eve. Then we pack them away until next year. We also have king, shepherd, and sheep costumes that they can use for a living Nativity. Of course, no one here plays Mary!
Celebrate Feast Days
Although Advent is technically a penitential season, I have to admit ours gets rather festive. We celebrate as many feasts in the liturgical calendar as we can.
Our stockings go up on December 5, waiting for St. Nicholas to come. Then we have a special breakfast with hot chocolate and coffee cake.
On December 8, we make and hang paper snowflakes to symbolize Mary’s purity.
December 9 is the perfect day for watching the animated movie Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe produced by CCC. It often airs on EWTN on this his feast day.
Garlands and bows decorate our print of Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast, December 12.
On December 13, the Feast of St. Lucy, we bring out our Christmas candles.
One of my sons has a name day on December 14, St. John of the Cross. He gets to choose the dinner and dessert.
There is an overabundance of Christmas books, but not all of them are worth reading. Here are some of our favorites:
- The Night of Las Posadas, The Friendly Beasts, and The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie de Paola
- A Little House Christmas: Holiday Stories from the Little House Books. (Yes, these are exciting enough for boys.)
- The Little Match Girl and The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
- Waiting for Noel: an Advent Story by Ann Dixon.
This year we are also reading Family Christmas Treasury by Michael Hague.
On days in between, we slowly decorate the house, bringing out my Nativity set and pinning up Christmas cards. The tree goes up around Christmas Eve. We make wrapping presents and addressing cards a family activity, using stamps and stickers. And of course, all along we light our Advent wreath.
Advent can become one of your favorite seasons, as it has for me.
Share with us: What are your favorite Advent hymns and traditions?