“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” ~ Matthew 1:23
Here we are in our first week of Advent! Our liturgical New Year has begun and we enter into a period of preparation for the birth of Christ.
There are so many ways to celebrate and prepare in this time. Jesse trees and feast days, candles and devotions, every family and culture with their own unique traditions. Developing these traditions in your own home and with your own family, bringing the memories of your youth and experience and blending them with those of your spouse can be beautiful. But sometimes, especially when your traditions differ because you don’t share a faith, it can be difficult.
Captain isn’t Catholic, but thankfully our Advents growing up looked a lot alike. We both lit candles each Sunday of Advent and had our chocolates from the Advent calendars. We’d adorn our homes with lights and nativity sets and decorate Christmas trees whenever schedules allowed the whole family to participate. Christmas Eve we found ourselves at church singing carols and hearing about the angels and shepherds that first Christmas night and then open presents from Santa the next morning.
Something I love to celebrate that was not part of my husband’s traditions was St Nicholas’ Day. My parents had special stockings for each of us kids and we would find them on the morning of December 6th filled with candy, with a small gift and personalized ornament for each child. These ornaments would then be put on the tree with the all the ornaments of years past. I was so excited to continue this tradition on into my marriage, but since Captain didn’t grow up with this he didn’t understand the significance of the tradition. It was sad watching it go by for several years without the excitement of finding something in my stocking. But now that we have kids, I enjoy making sure my family always have something special on December 6th.
What are some traditions you enjoyed as a child during the Advent season? What traditions do you enjoy now with your family?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Seriously, there’s just something about this time that’s…magical.
Even though you tend to see the worst of people (driving, shopping, searching for deals, parking at the mall…), my faith in humanity is always restored a bit during this time. We come together as a parish to support several parishioner families that are in need of food and gifts. There’s the Salvation Army and its seasonal ringing for loose change. Also the Salvation Army, Angel Trees line the shopping malls. Toys for Tots are in stores, on the news, and in our schools. Food pantry donations overflow.
This is the precarious part of this most wonderful time of the year.
Everyone is having a party. We see an uptick in family reunions. There’s a potluck for this organization, a chili cook-off for that one, a white elephant gift exchange. You get invitations to cookie baking parties and gift-wrapping marathon movie nights. There’s a million local events ranging from free to really expensive to make your holiday memorable and remarkable.
The thing is, the holiday season in itself-that wonderful time of year-is already remarkable. In Advent, we’re preparing for the coming of the Savior. In Christmas, we’re celebrating his birth. This time is the most wonderful time simply because of what it’s about.
So how do we focus on that and fight against the stream of commercialization and secularization?
This week is moving week for me, so to say that our holidays are starting with a BANG! would be an understatement. It’s got lots of potential to be frenetic and crazed. But I know that going in, so (in true Kristi fashion) I have a plan.
Week One: November 26-December 2 This week I am focusing on moving into our new family home (our new domestic church) and unpacking. Little Miss is in charge of setting up her room and she’s going to help set Belle’s up, too. Superman and I will handle the rest amidst the backdrop of work and prepping for a work trip. As we convert our house into a home, we will have a priest come and bless it, so we start the season holy. We’re also going to begin Story of This Life’s December Nativity & Scripture tradition (the link will take you to a Facebook video, and there are instructions on their Facebook page as well). Little Miss fell in love with the idea and we’re running with it.
Week Two: December 3-9 The first week of Advent, we’ll pull out our Advent wreath and light the first candle (with prayer) each night at dinner. We’ll also use this week to decorate our home for the season (sorry…we don’t wait!) and continue our Story of This Life activity. We’ll also spend some time with family that weekend. St. Nick stops by our home, too, so he’ll leave chocolate coins, a Cutie orange, and a book for Little Miss. Don’t forget: December 8 is a holy day of obligation! Little Miss and I are also attending a holiday tea. All of our Angel Tree and Toys for Tots donations will be due this week.
Week Three: December 10-16 We’ll kick off the second Sunday of Advent with a St. Nicholas breakfast at church and will begin lighting the first two candles of our wreath at home. This is also when we go looking at Christmas lights to celebrate the feast of St. Lucy. New for us this year? We’re attending an Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass & Tamale Dinner at our parish. Again, we’ll continue the Story of This Life activity.
Week Four: December 17-23 For the third week in Advent, we’ll light all three candles and celebrate with our nightly wreath and Story of This Life activities. School will come to an end, so there will be an end-of-year party. We’ll begin reading A Christmas Carol and then watching our favorite versions of it this week, too. Our favorites, by the way, are Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Muppet’s Christmas Carol, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol…in fact, I think Disney has made all three of these! This will be the week for cookie baking, too!
Week Five: December 24-30 In this strange, final week of Advent/beginning of the Christmas season, we’ll be going to Sunday morning Mass and then Christmas Eve Mass for the Children’s Choir performance ahead of having some family time on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, Little Miss will be tasked with locating all of the hidden Baby Jesuses from our Nativity scenes and placing them where they belong prior to opening gifts. Then the race is on to find the hidden pickle ornament (a German tradition, honoring our ancestral roots, which we learned about in Epcot’s Germany on our “familymoon.”). This link will take you to a site for German beer steins (so if you happen to be in the market for some…lol), but we liked it’s explanation. We’ll then eat our traditional breakfast of cinnamon rolls with my parents and do Christmas with them ahead of going to my in-laws’ home for Christmas dinner, where we’ll have Christmas with cousins and aunts and uncles. We also begin our Wise Men Seeking Jesus tradition this week.
There’s a lot on this schedule, but it’s centered around two things: the liturgical season (and its meaning) and our family. We’ve got our own traditions as well as those of our families-of-origin, with focuses on giving and the meaning of the season. For us, this helps ensure that we’re doing the most wonderful time of the year correctly.
Here are some insights into last year’s Advent and more, with all of our Advent posts:
Don’t forget to join us on social media, posting about your own Advent 2017 celebrations using the hashtag #HowWeAdvent. We’ve got a lot of our blogging friends on board using the same hashtag, so if you’re coming up short for ideas, search it on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for inspiration.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this, the most wonderful time of the year. Let us know how you celebrate in the comments!
Even though Thanksgiving is yet to come, and Advent is just over a week away, we thought we’d join up with the CWBN Sienna Sisters Blog Hop (because, hey, it’s been awhile!) and share some of our favorite Advent traditions; that is to say, how we Advent. Here are last year’s posts on being Grateful & Intentional in Advent and 5 Ideas to Celebrate Advent.
How We Advent: Wreaths
I didn’t grow up in a home that used an Advent wreath, but we did decorate to the nines. Rachel has a beautiful Advent wreath that she uses as a centerpiece on her table. This year, we’re upgrading our wreath to a larger one with tall, tapered candles (vs. votives). Both our families LOVE reflecting on each Sunday, praying, and lighting our candles.
How We Advent: Family Time
Rachel and her husband institute a tech-free time each night in the Advent season. They simply silence their cell phones and don’t look at them until the next morning. They spend this time together, playing games, praying, or reading.
We have an uptick in family time, too: we bake together, go look at Christmas lights together (usually on the feast of St. Lucy), and read and play together.
How We Advent: The Nativity
Nativity scenes. Aren’t they the best? We were cleaning my room in prep for packing this weekend and Rachel and I discovered a bag of five (yeah…five!) Nativity scenes I purchased as gifts or home additions last year. All of my closest friends love them, as do both my mom and mother-in-law.
Some people set them out, in full, all season. Others, like us, take a different approach.
We set out the creche, the animals, Joseph, Mary, and any shepherds. Then…we wait. This kind of makes our Nativity sets interactive.
On Christmas Eve in both homes, the Magi begin journeying to find the baby Jesus, which they ultimately do on Twelfth Night, in honor of Epiphany.
In my home, we hide all the baby Jesus figures on Christmas morning and place him in his correct spots before we open any gifts. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, but…different.
How We Advent on Social Media
Since the season is upon us, we invite you to post about your Advent on social media: especially sharing pictures on Instagram. We can evangelize beautifully in this season. Join us in using the hashtag #HowWeAdvent this season!
What are your favorite Advent traditions?
It’s here! Our first EVER Advent gift guide!! Last year, we’d just begun our blog mid-Advent and didn’t have this opportunity. This year, after cultivating our identity and relationships with AMAZING Catholic artisans, we’ve got gifts for everyone…and several coupon codes to boot!
It’s important to us that you know we don’t get any money from anything that you purchase through this gift guide. We want to spread the word about these wonderful Catholic companies while also helping make your Christmas gift-giving solidly Catholic.
For the Little Ones in Your Life
Dolls from Heaven: Chances are you know we LOVE this company. Their sweet line of 18″ dolls is comprised of St. Therese the Little Flower (which we have and adore!), St. Joan of Arc, and Pope St. John Paul the Great. Right now, they’re offering a 15% code for our readers. That’s right: 15% off the entire purchase! That is by far the greatest deal you’ll get on these dolls all year! Use the code HAILMARRY at checkout by November 29 to redeem.
Paradise Jewelry: This company is a new discovery for us, but we’re so glad we found them! This shop owner, Kaycee, began making and selling jewelry seasonally in the 90‘s, her shop has now expanded to include a new clothing line, Annaree Rose! Look at these totally adorable Nativity outfits! You can find her shop on the above link or on Etsy. She’s also on Instagram and uses #ParadiseJewelryofcp and #annareerose. Use coupon code HAILMARRY20 to save 20% at checkout!
Kidderbug Kreations: Were so glad to have Anne’s products featured once more on the blog! We discussed her reading pillows last month, but today were featuring these too-cute hooded towels! For a direct link to these towels, click here.
Hairbows 4 Life: This sweet company makes hairbows for little girls. Beyond the usual bow, these are decidedly Catholic in that they feature saint medals on them. The company (a family business) is also heavily involved in pro-life ministry. For you, dear readers, they’re offering 20% off with the code Christmas2017 as well as free shipping on orders over $15! Be stylish, save money, and promote life, all at once!
Amy Brooks is an amazing lady: a huge proponent of adoption and prayer journaling, this busy mom of three blogs at Prayer, Wine, Chocolate and has given young girls a wonderful gift in this journal. Little Miss loves hers! While I’ve seen these available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, you can also buy them directly from Amy’s website here.
For Your Domestic Church
Sara is another fantastic blogger (at To Jesus, Sincerely) who focuses on prayer and your spiritual relationship with God. This year, she released a Mosaic Jesse Tree ornament set complete with a daily devotional. This is a sort of Advent calendar activity designed to begin on December 1 each year. The ornaments are beautiful, and she’s selling sets that are pre-assembled as well as those you assemble in a DIY manner. Check out her Etsy shop for more information!
Telos Design, LLC: Owner Jessica Connolly and I actually met at Edel ’17 in August. She makes beautiful jewelry (she had a St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes medalion necklace I had to get for my mom for her birthday!) and stunning liturgical calendars, as seen above. The 13-month Sacred Art Calendar features art from current and classical Christian artists, daily readings, feast days, seasonal colors, wire binding. And new this year, prayer cards! The bottom section of the calendar can be removed and used as a prayer card with the art on the reverse side. How amazing is that? Better still, she’s offering a discount code of 10% when you use AdventHM10 at checkout. She’s also on the “Catholic Etsy,” Peter’s Square.
Sweet Little Ones Shop: The mission of Sweet Little Ones Shop is to help Catholic women decorate their homes in a meaningful, faith-filled way on a budget. They offer wall art printables that aim to serve as beautiful visual reminders that will inspire a deepening of the Catholic faith in our everyday lives. For the majority of the shop, which are instant downloads, there is no deadline for Christmas delivery, but for custom orders, the deadline for Christmas is December 8. Owner Jessica is offering a 20% off code CHRISTMAS20, which is good for 20% off all wall art printables and bundles (excluding customizations and some custom bundles – see Sweet Little Ones Shop on Etsy for details). This coupon is good through December 25, 2017.
Give Him 5: This ministry is all about inspiring you to spend time with Jesus and to grow in faith and holiness. Their slogan is “Give him 5, He gave you everything.” which is powerful to think about. They’ve got mugs, cups, books, prayer cards, promotional items, and prayer bags for sale. To receive orders by Christmas, they must be placed by December 12. For 20% off your entire purchase, use code Christmas at checkout.
Grace Painted: Valerie and her goods are new to us, too, but they’re so pretty! The shop designs custom Bibles that are lovely. Right now, she’s running a 20% off sale on all items in-shop until December 23. Use ADVENT2017 at checkout.
Relics by Rose: We’ve been Instagram buddies for awhile with this shop! They specialize in unique, faith-inspired jewelry that combines remnants and relics from bygone eras with stylish modern designs. Order by December 5 to guarantee Christmas delivery and use ROSESGIFTS15 at checkout to receive 15% off.
Just Love Prints: Catholic artwork and gifts for every occasion! We’ve been blessed to receive some of these as gifts and love them! Take 15% off your order when you spend $25. Use code HAILMARRY15. Expires December 30, 2017. Order by December 20 (expedited shipping recommended) to receive by Christmas.
Get to Shopping!
Thank you to all of the artisans featured here for your beautiful products, your witness, helping us evangelize, and your generous discounts!
Little Miss is back for a child’s take on a new movie! Today she joins Kristi to talk about the animated film that was released TODAY from Affirm films and Sony Pictures Animation, The Star. Like when we reviewed I Can Only Imagine, we were given advanced preview tickets to a screening of this movie a few weeks ago, and Little Miss was able to come, too!
There are a few spoilers in the story here, but then again…its’ a very well-known story. It’s a perfect Advent family film…but don’t take our word for it! Take the word of a child. Grab your beverage of choice and join our conversation!
We mentioned a Catholic discussion guide to the movie in the podcast. You can find that here.
The movie website also has an animated coloring book and several other activities you can download and do with your kiddos. Be sure to check them out!
Have a great week!