Celebrating Advent as a Family
What is Advent?
The definition is: the anticipated arrival of someone who is important. Many churches celebrate advent with special services, including the lighting of candles on the four Sunday’s preceding Christmas. These services are meant to prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of Jesus on Christmas.
When I was a preteen, our church encouraged families to celebrate advent in the home- to prepare our hearts for Christmas as a family, each evening. Each family received a pamphlet of devotions to read together each day.
My father and grandfather took a huge log from my grandfather’s farm and cut holes for candles all the way down it. Each night my family would light a candle each night until all 25 (or so depending on the calendar of advent each year).
Memories of those candles and family devotions are some of my favorites. I knew as soon as I had children, Advent would be part of our family Christmas tradition.
Family Advent can be as simple, or as fancy as your season and family allow. Today I’d like to share how my family celebrates Advent together during the Christmas season.
First, choose the best time of day for your family. For us, that means evening, after the dinner dishes are cleared away. Many families choose breakfast, or the baby’s nap time.
Each night we light a candle during our Advent celebration. For many years we used a simple advent wreath. Advent wreaths are meant to light one candle each Sunday. So we lit the Sunday candle every night for each advent week. Week one, we had one candle burning each night. Week two meant burning two candles each night, and so on.
Several years ago, my Dad (with the help of my children) made my family our own advent log from the wood of an old building torn down on the farm. Now, we use our Advent log and light a candle each night.
Each year I choose an Advent devotional book to read as a family during our Advent celebration.
This year, Family Christian sent me Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas. This book is based on the Jesse Tree, which is studying the family tree of Jesus leading up to Christmas in order ‘unwrap’ the gift of Jesus a little each day until Christmas.
Each day includes a scripture reference, a devotion to read together (with beautiful illustrations), thoughts to discuss and suggestions for family activities.
We aren’t using actual Jesse Tree ornaments, this year, but I hope to include them in our study next Advent. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift includes a link to print out your own ornaments.
After we read our devotion, I also read a picture book telling the Christmas story for my younger children. I have several versions, so we can read several different books each week. Some of our favorites are The Christmas Story and The Story of Christmas.
We finish our Advent time with a Christmas Carol Hymn.
We always have a snack or special drink with our Advent time. Keeping the kids’ mouths full means they listen to what I’m reading without talking. It also helps keep them eager to come to Advent each evening. I want Advent to be something they love, not something they ‘have’ to do. Some days we bake a special snack for Advent, others our dessert is as simple as a few Oreos or instant hot chocolate with marshmallows.
In our home Advent is an anticipated event each evening. In 20 minutes, we bring our focus from the busyness of the season back to the reason for the season.
Do you celebrate Advent as a family?
I used to get kids advent calendars and I have skipped the last couple of years. I should get a beautiful candle display it will remind us what it is really about.
I love that log! We go to the church center after mass every year and make a wreath together as a family and the priest bless them when we are done!
My mom always came up with fun and creative ways for us to celebrate Advent. We totally had the candles on the table at dinner, still do today, as well as some family acts we did in preparation for Christmas. It’s a good reminder of what we are really getting ready for these days. – Katy
I am a Christian, but I don’t celebrate Advent.
Advent isn’t something our family celebrates, but it sounds like a lovely tradition for those that do.
What a wonderful tradition. It really helps bring the meaning of this season back to what it should be, spent with those it means the most to.
I love hearing how your family celebrates Advent! It’s great that you want it to be something they look forward to, not something that feel they have to do! Have a very merry Christmas!!
We have advent calendars that my mom made. Actually the one my son uses was mine as a child ! So cool!