by Stacey Schifferdecker
The month before Christmas has got to be the longest time of year for kids! Not renowned for their patience anyway, kids have to wait and wait for the big day. It doesn't help that Christmas decorations go on sale in September now and that radio stations begin playing Christmas songs on Halloween. Help you kids make it through the long days of December by celebrating Advent. Even better, Advent also helps you keep the focus of Christmas on Jesus rather than Santa Claus, presents, and other commercial aspects of Christmas.
Advent is a Latin word that actually means "coming." In the Christian church, advent is time of preparation and waiting for the birth of Jesus. Advent officially begins four Sundays before Christmas, which means it often begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
So how can you celebrate Advent? One way is to buy or make an Advent wreath to lay on your table. An Advent wreath typically consists of greenery with four candles, three purple and one pink. Each candle on the Advent Wreath has a specific meaning:
- Candle one (purple) represents hope. It is often called the prophets' candle.
- Candle two (purple) represents peace. It is often called the angels' candle.
- Candle three (pink) represents joy. It is often called the shepherds' candle.
- Candle four (purple) represents love. It is often called the Bethlehem candle.
Many advent wreaths also include a Christ candle in the middle of the wreath.
To celebrate with an Advent wreath, you light a candle on each Sunday of Advent. The first Sunday, you light candle one; the second Sunday you light candles one and two, etc. You can often find readings to go along with the candle lightings on the internet or at Christian bookstores. Or find a Christmas book that represents the theme of the week and read it with your children.
Another way to celebrate Advent is to create an Advent calendar. Of course, kids love the calendars with chocolate inside, but the ones I'm talking about are a little different, consisting instead of different activities to do each day. For example, one day you might read a particular book or Bible passage, make Christmas cookies for a lonely neighbor, or sing Christmas carols together. Some ideas for making an Advent calendar include
- Writing an activity on each square of a December calendar
- Writing activities on pieces of paper and placing them in a jar, then drawing an activity out each day (this option is fun, but make sure all the activities are ones you can do spontaneously. You don't want to draw out baking Christmas cookies on a day you don't have time to be in the kitchen.)
- Making a set of Advent drawers out of match boxes. Just glue 25 match boxes together (five rows of five boxes) and wrap a piece of wrapping paper around the perimeter. Now you can label the match boxes 1-25 and place a slip of paper with an activity inside each drawer.
You may also be able to find premade Advent calendars online or at a Christian bookstore.
You can also celebrate Advent in your home by decorating a Jesse tree. A Jesse tree (named after King David's father) is covered with ornaments that represent people and stories in the Bible. For example, you might hang an ark, a rainbow, or a dove ornament to represent Noah or a harp to represent David. You can use a table-top Christmas tree as your Jesse tree, hanging an ornament each night and reading a passage in the Bible about the character you have chosen.
Celebrating Advent will help keep your children focused on Jesus and will give them day-to-day activities to make that endless month of December go by more quickly.
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.
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