This year Advent begins on November 30th and continues for four weeks leading up to Christmas. As with most years I was a bit behind on getting organized for Advent but with the help of my husband and children our home is now ready. During Advent our family prepares for Christmas by following several family traditions. Some of these traditions were passed on from our parents and some we discovered on our own. For the last few year our traditions have included setting up a Jesse tree, an Advent wreath, a nativity scene and an Advent book shelf. Here is how each of these Advent traditions work in our home:
The Jesse tree is a biblical Advent calendar of sorts. It uses Bible stories to count down the days up to Christmas and comes in all shapes and sizes. I sewed our Jesse Tree out of felt almost six years ago and we use it along with The Advent Jesse Tree book as well as various picture books. For more information about the Jesse Tree visit this blog.
The Advent wreath, with its evergreen branches and four candles, three purple and one pink, is a reminder that Christmas is drawing near. We light the candles, one for each week of Advent, while we do our Jesse Tree Bible readings. The Advent wreath usually sits on our table, constantly shedding needles, which is also a good reminder that Christmas is getting closer.
We set up a nativity scene in a prominent place of our home at the beginning of Advent. I start by putting out Joseph and Mary and slowly add more characters as Advent goes on, eventually adding baby Jesus on Christmas day. My children find it strange that baby Jesus is missing and usually I find all kinds of little toys put in the manger until the rightful owner takes his place. We also have several smaller nativity scenes, including a Playmobil one, that I place around the house for my children to look at and play with.
A few years ago we started the tradition of having an Advent book basket. I really enjoy books and have a particular weakness for picture books. Over the last years I have amassed a rather large collection of Christmas books so that they no longer fit into a basket. Now I fill an entire shelf of our living room bookcase and a basket. The first year we started this tradition I was inspired by Shower of Roses and wrapped one book for each day of Advent. The following year I opted out of this practice as I found it to be too time consuming and wasteful. Now we read one (or two…or five…or zero) of these books from the bookshelf everyday during Advent and we enjoy the freedom of choosing the books that interest us.
Along with these family traditions this year I subscribed to Matthew Kelly’s Best Advent Ever at the recommendation of a friend. I have really enjoyed Mathew Kelly’s books in the past and our family often uses his coined phrase of “becoming the best version of yourself” in our daily conversations regularly. He even has a children’s book on this topic: Why Am I Here?: A Story about Becoming The-Best-Version-Of-Yourself!.