The first Sunday of Advent is almost here. Some of us have dusted off our Advent wreaths, bought new candles and prepared to begin the celebration. Many of us however are new to this celebration and arn’t sure what to do. Especially if you are celebrating with children you may be a little uncertain what to do to make this a fun and instructive time without entering into the consumer frenzy which is the secular celebration. I must confess that the advertisement last night celebrating the countdown to 25 days of Christmas (the 25 days before Christmas not the 12 days of Christmas of the liturgical calendar) really infuriated me which is probably what stimulated my recognition of the need to help kids refocus on the real meaning of Christmas.
There are loads of resources out there but here are some ideas from around the world that I would suggest will really help to make this a celebration of Christ who comes to all the people in our world. And maybe it will enable you to establish new family traditions that will become memorable parts of your children’s celebrations for years to come.
GIFTS FOR JESUS
On the first Sunday of Advent, each child in the family receives an empty manger. An oatmeal box covered with bright paper will do as well. At bedtime, the children draw straws for each kind deed performed in honor of Baby Jesus as his birthday surprise. The straw are placed in the child’s manger or box daily. It is amazing how much love a child can put into Advent when s/he is preparing for his redeemer’s coming in grace.
On Christmas, each child finds an infant in his manger, placed on a small table or a chair beside his or her bed. Usually it is a tiny doll, beautifully dressed. This custom fills the child with a longing in Advent, and provides an image of the redeemer as the first happy glance in the morning and the last impression at night during the entire Christmas season.
CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD
Explore Christmas traditions from around the world with your kids and discuss the possibility of adapting some of these as part of your own celebration during the Advent and Christmas season. Christmas Around the World has a wonderful description of traditions from a variety of countries that you might like to discuss. The Worldwide Gourmet has a wonderful array of recipes associated with the Advent and Christmas season in many different parts of the world. Just reading through some of these had my mouth watering.
CAFOD: Just One world has some great Advent liturgies available as well as a downloadable Advent calendar for kids.
Countdown Christmas Traditions has a fun kid friendly Advent calendar. As you click on each day of Advent you read about traditions in different countries of the world,
If you are looking for some more traditional Advent devotions to go through with your children you might like to consider these downloadable files from Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Raleigh NC. You can even download the MP3s of most of the songs.
More resources for celebrating as a family here.
Another possibility is to work with your kids on alternative gifts that will go to those who are struggling in different parts of the world. Lots of organizations now have alternative catalogues available. Here are a few that I am aware of.
This is not always easy to explain to your relatives however as the chair of our Board found out a few years ago when he tried to give 1/2 a goat to his parents for Christmas. What am I going to do with half a goat his mother wondered?
If you have other ideas that you would like to share please add your comments to this post and have a blessed first Sunday of Advent