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December 05, 2006



We start with the advent wreath the first Sunday of advent. We sind O Come Emmanual while lighting the candle before dinner.
St. Nick arrives to leave candies (chocolate coins) in the kiddies shoes on Dec 6. We watch shows on how St. Nick became Santa.
On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Navtivity comes out, with wise men "afar" off and baby Jesus not there yet. Lights go up outside with outside Nativity too. (BTW, by the Ephipany, we are REALLY searching for the wise men...toy boxes, under sofa or where ever 2 year old has last played with them.)
Tree goes up sometime before daddy leaves to go offshore. The first thing on the tree are the 3 gold balls representing St. Nicks gift to the maidens.
I know of some that have only white or purple lights on tree if the tree is up before Christmas day, but we have to do with what we got.


I loved Susan's ideas in the last post. I often like ideas but they won't work when you throw toddlers in the mix; however, Susan's ideas would work. This year we are doing a Jesse tree, which has been met with great resistance so far. Perhaps it is due to my presentation, or else that I presented it on a day when nobody WANTED to understand anything, in which case it was doomed before I even started. (my kids do this to me on ocassion. I call it 'willful stupidity')

I always introduce the carols early so by the time Christmas is here they actually know them. I understand the reasoning behind waiting, but choirs and musicians all have to know their pieces ahead of time, so I follow this reasoning instead. We listen to everything from chant to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to the Nylons Christmas.

We decorate the house slowly, starting the first Sunday of advent with the wreath. By the time Christmas eve rolls around the house is decorated and we can spend Christmas eve baking together for our Christmas morning festivities. AND we can do a gingerbread house as well. I'd like to do a gingerbread nativity, but I've never found a kit for one.


We have an Advent wreath, which most Catholics do.

One thing that we do that's different is we celebrate the O Antiphons (the week before Christmas). I bought a menorah a few years ago, and on each night of the O Antiphons we light one candle and sing the appropriate verse of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

We don't decorate the house with anything more than poinsettias and wreaths until the week before Christmas, and we leave everything up until after Epiphany.

We celebrate Saint Nicholas Day by putting candy in our son's shoes. (Note to self: get candy -- it's tomorrow!)

We don't listen to carols (on purpose, at least) until the week before Christmas. I don't want to get sick of them! (Favorite Christmas CD: A Tapestry of Carols by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band)

Steve Cavanaugh

We also start with the Advent Wreath on the first Sunday (actually, on the Saturday vigil at dinner); the first week we use the blessing from the "Book of Blessings", in other weeks there's a prayer before the main meals, one of the kids lights the candles and we sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".

The nativity will go up sometime in the first two weeks, with no angel, or holy family or kings. Mary and Joseph arrive around Dec 16, the babe and angel on Christmas Eve, the wise men on Epiphany (duh! ; )

We don't have much in the way of rich food during Advent, although lots of cookies get made to be put in the freezer for making up platters to give away. I usually fast most days, and we eat very little meat, usually only on Saturday and Sunday.


Ah, I forgot about our Nativity. We bring it out early (around Immaculate Conception) with everyone but Baby Jesus and the three wise men. Baby Jesus is put in the manger at midnight on Christmas Eve (along with the traditional German pickle ornament on the tree -- but that's a different post!).

The three wise men are put far across the room from the Nativity, and as Epiphany draws closer, they get closer, and finally on Epiphany they end up at the Nativity.



I'd like to do a gingerbread nativity, but I've never found a kit for one.

I know Catholic Child sells a cookie cutter kit. Not sure if that is what you are looking for?

Take care and God bless,


We never put our tree until Christmas Eve. The reason given? "Well, we used to have candles instead of lights." Huh?


Oh, I forgot, If we also attend a Reconciliation Service as a family during this time too, to prepare inwardly also.
(BTW at the risk of highjacking the topic, I got to play "Who Wants to Be An Apologist" last night and I won $50! Would have won $100 but I 2nd guessed myself! I think we will make that an Advent tradition...heeehee. Thanks Jimmy)


Y'know, I hadn't really thought about what I do regarding Advent, as different from what I do for Christmas. Possibly that's because in all the years I was a Protestant (and then all the years following that when I was agnostic), I never thought of them as distinct from each other -- I must still have vestiges of that thought pattern. I think I'll ponder that some, and make some changes for next year.

But I do start the decorations, etc., the first weekend of Advent. I bought my tree and wrestled it into submission this past weekend, and decorated it. I set up my creche. I got all my Christmas CDs out and loaded a bunch of them onto my iPod, so I can have Christmas music 24/7. And I'll be finishing up all my cards over the next few days.

Oh, and the baking. Lots of baking. I don't go in much for elaborate gift-giving, but I do have an unstoppable urge to feed everyone within a 10 mile radius of yours truly. So between now and Christmas there will be a lot -- and I mean a LOT -- of shortbread and rum cake and fudge making its way from my kitchen to my neighbors and co-workers and the various vendors with whom I come into frequent contact.

As for CDs: I have about 28 Christmas/Holiday CDs at this point, and it's tough to pick favorite whole CDs, but I do love the following:

Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration
The Birth of Jesus: A Celebration of Christmas

And I definitely have favorite individual songs -- Reba McEntire's 'O Holy Night' is currently at the top of the list. It's so pretty. Also very fond of 'Gaudete' by the Mediaeval Baebes.

Allen Bourne

In our household we try to keep Advent and Christmas in their proper places liturgically.

We have the Advent wreath in place by the 1st Sunday and then begin dinner each night (lunch too on the weekends) with prayer, scripture reading and by having the youngest light the respective candle(s). As the weeks progress we decorate the house and mantle with lights and garland and put up the tree, all as a family. (Spreading it out helps with time also!) We like to get the children involved in the preparations for Christmas, which is part of what Advent is, preparation. Helping our parents out with these things are fond memories for my wife and I, so we are trying to give them to our children as well – think family traditions.

We put all our shoes outside for St. Nicholoas on the 6th for some candy and coins. We really try to stress St. Nick's role in Christmas with this preliminary visit before Christmas Eve when he helps Mom and Dad with the wished for gifts. We really don't do Santa Claus entirely, but have "replaced" him with St. Nick. (Our oldest really enjoys the St. Nicholas story from CCC of America, and I highly recommend it.)

The other part of Advent is the penitential aspect. With that, out goes the TV, which is replaced by the nativity scene. In the beginning, the stable is bare except for some animals. Mary and Joseph begin the journey to Bethlehem from up in the kid's room and make it in time for Chrismas Eve. Jesus is added on Christmas, the battery operated star is lit and the wise men begin their pilgrimage from afar (upstairs) and day after day move closer to the nativity in time for Epiphany. The kid's really enjoy moving the statues each day. Each important event in the nativity is reiterated by family scripture reading and prayer in front of the nativity.

We make it a point to leave everything up and lit, until Epiphany and really celebrate the Christmas Season even though most of the trimmings of the season have disappeared by then, and the only carols you will hear are at Mass.

Happy Advent!
God Bless,

AB and family



We use Advent to retell salvation history up until the Nativity, and to remind the children that we are still waiting for the Second Coming.

This year, we have Mary and Joseph and the donkey traveling (by way of velcro) along a path that encircles the living room. Each step is a piece of paper that tells one OT story, starting with the creation and fall, through Noah, and Moses, etc. The children have illustrated these.

Also attached to each paper is one Old Testament prophecy that tells about the Second Coming (the lion and the lamb, etc.) for the older kids to memorize and recite at supper, when we light the wreath.

This way, Advent dominates the living room (tree goes up on the 24th), and each day begins with the little ones moving Mary and Joseph a step closer to Bethlehem, and we tell the story of the day.


Not an Advent tradition, but an Advent horror story of sorts: Shortly after they were married, my parents were given a nativity set made out of...candle wax...complete with wicks...seafoam green. My mother liked it, my father hated it. I think he was ecstatic when during a hurricane (we lived in FL), we lit the candles...melted baby Jesus and all.


Each evening we read one of the "Jotham's Journey" trilogy by Ytreeide, written as a daily cliffhanger for children at Advent. It is slightly gritty for children -- and really brings home the fact that Jesus was born into a rough, Roman soldier kind of world. We light the Advent candle. Sometimes we sing a carol, but not often enough for me. We might should do it earlier in the evening.

We put the tree up, set out several creches, and begin Christmas music while I cook Thanksgiving dinner. "Mama's Gettin' Ready for Christmas" by Aaron Tippin starts the season off among numerous other CDs of a religious nature.


Y'know, I hadn't really thought about what I do regarding Advent, as different from what I do for Christmas. Possibly that's because in all the years I was a Protestant (and then all the years following that when I was agnostic), I never thought of them as distinct from each other -- I must still have vestiges of that thought pattern. I think I'll ponder that some, and make some changes for next year.

I know what you mean! Suzanne and I are converts as well, and I didn't immediately glom to Advent as distinct from Christmas either.

To borrow a phrase from my earlier post, Advent is a "season of preparation, of recapitulating Israel's long anticipation of her Messiah." Like the shepherds, like Simeon and Anna, like all righteous Jews in Jesus' day, during Advent we await the birth of the Messiah.

Of course we aren't really waiting for Jesus' actual birth, only its celebration -- but we are literally awaiting the Messiah in his Second Coming, and Advent is also a reminder of that.

In that connection, I've always found it interesting that Advent (the beginning of the liturgical year) immediately follows the Feast of Christ the King (the end of the liturgical year), which of course anticipates the end of history and Jesus' Second Coming.

We're supposed to be waiting for Jesus, anticipating his coming. The Feast of Christ the King is a wake-up call that Jesus is coming back... and it's immediately followed by Advent, the season of waiting.


Advent at my place consists of lighting the Advent wreath, singing “O come, O come, Emmanuel” and leaving a small gift in my husband stocking on St. Nick’s day.
I am the oldest daughter, so when I was still living with my parents I would bring cookies to my family while they were still in bed on St. Lucy’s day.
My parents do not put up a tree until the 23rd of December and then leave it up until Epiphany. My husband and I bring our tree over to my parents and then (depending on if there is a burn ban or not) we burn them during the Epiphany party. Fun stuff.


The only music that I allow myself to listen to at home or work are the first twelve movements in Handel's "The Messiah." This is the section that is taken solely from the Old Testament prophecies. It begins with the Overture and ends with "For unto us a Child is born" (Isaiah 9:6).

And although I've never been diagnosed with OCD, I realize that my admitting to the above would probably go a long way in support of it!

caine thomas

The last few years we have set up a card table with a blanket over it as a stable and attempted to get a precious and holy picture of our kids acting out the Nativity to send to all the relatives. We make costumes out of big t-shirts and different colored baby blankets (the kind you take with you from the hospital that look sort of Hebrew).

The staging process has never been holy, and while the pictures are certainly precious, there have been grave theological and doctorinal errors present every year.

1) Two years ago we had two Marys and a stuffed bear was baby Jesus.
2) The Archangel Gabriel is usually played by Elmo.
3) After our son was born last year, baby Jesus was well represented, but 2 of my 3 daughters somehow weaseled their halloween costumes into the mix. Mary had a princess and a red dragon for company instead of angels and shepherds. I thought the red dragon gave a Rev. chap 12 feel to the scene.

I'm going to try to force authenticity this year!


I wish people a happy new year on the first day of Advent.


We sing the Marian antiphon from Compline throughout the year, so during Advent (or rather, from Advent through the Feast of the Purification) we sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater.

We started on this tradition with the Salve Regina; I remember singing it to my son only moments after he was born.

You'd be amazed what a kid can pick up: he's two now, but can sing the Salve Regina, the Regina Caeli, the Ave Regina Caelorum, and (I expect soon) the Alma Redemptoris Mater. Kids are just amazing. :)

Thomas A. Gill

We basically do both for both the indoor and outdoor crech. Although the kings don't arrive until the Epiphany. Outdoors there's no moving the kings closer. They just arrive on the Epiphany:
"I know one common custom with creches is to set up the whole creche except for the Christ child at the center, and then to place the Christ child in the creche on Christmas eve.

I've also heard of a custom involving the Magi figures, in which they are originally placed somewhere at a significant distance from the creche, and are periodically moved closer to the creche, and finally arrive on Christmas eve. Anyone do anything like that?"

These are set up sometime after Advent starts and stay up until some time after the Epiphany.
We open the Advent calendar each day . Tree goes up day before Christmas Eve - up until at least the Epiphany.

Kathy Haas

We have our entire house and roof outlined with white lights and a lighted outdoor nativity scene (from my childhood) but no baby Jesus until 12:01 a.m. on the 25th. Our display is called "Waiting for the Light of the World".

We decorate the Saturday after Thanksgiving when the college kids are home. Everything stays up until the Epiphany.

At dinner each night someone draws from the Advent jar, which has slips of paper with various good deeds listed on them. Everyone's favorite is "do dishes by yourself tonight." We've used the same slips of paper for over 20 years.

We emphasize doing acts of charity every day. Each child chooses to give to charity a portion of what we would spend on them for gifts; each chooses his/her own charity. We also buy gifts for an entire family in need. This year we also sent a care package to our troops in Iraq. The past few years we've also given blood at the Red Cross bloodmobile; last year there were 6 of us giving.

We don't make goodies until the 24th, when everyone bakes, cooks, frosts, etc., while we listen to Christmas music. Our favorites are anything by Mannheim Steamroller and Trans Siberian Orchestra, as our stereo has a great subwoofer.

On Christmas Eve, each family member tells of a time during the year when he/she has particularly experienced Jesus.


There are sadly not enough albums for Advent. However, in this age of iPods/iTunes/MP3 players, this is no longer an issue. I was able to grab as many Advent songs as I could from my numerous Christmas recordings, as well as praise and worship songs that emphasized Christ's second coming, or themes of light and hope (and some considerable Marian songs too).

There is one album I'd like to endorse wholeheartedly; Steve Eulberg's "Hark the Glad Sound!" which is a largely Appalachian instrumental project based entirely on Advent hymns. It can be included on anybody's Christmas playlist without anybody batting an eye.

There are some incredible individual songs that have become my favorites, regardless of genre. "Wake Awake And Sleep No Longer" is a song I wish churches do more often. "Creator of the Stars of Night." Just this past weekend my parish introduced a relatively new song, "Jesus, Hope of the World" by Paul Tate (WLP), and I like that song greatly. "So, Come" by Kevin Prosch (covered by Crystal Lewis as "Even So Come") is a knock-out, as is Charlie Hall/Passion's "Prepare the Way." Lastly, who can forget the Talbot Bros: "Advent Suite"?

Love2learn Mom

There are a whole bunch of links to ideas and traditions about Advents at this month's Catholic Homeschool Carnival, hosted by O Night Divine, which is a blog devoted to the celebration of Advent and Christmas.

Peony Moss

I have an empty manger with a little dish of straw (like packing material; shredded paper would also work) next to it. When my five-year-old does a good deed, he gets to put a piece of straw in the manger to make a nice soft bed for Baby Jesus on Christmas.

I did this for the first time last year and it seems to have made a good impression -- my son was asking when we were going to set it up.

Peony Moss

I have an empty manger with a little dish of straw (like packing material; shredded paper would also work) next to it. When my five-year-old does a good deed, he gets to put a piece of straw in the manger to make a nice soft bed for Baby Jesus on Christmas.

I did this for the first time last year and it seems to have made a good impression -- my son was asking when we were going to set it up.


Speaking of "empty mangers", the town of St. Albans have set up a nativity scene with no Mary, no Joseph, no Jesus.

The baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have been omitted from a manger display in St. Albans, West Virginia because of concerns surrounding the separation of church and state according to the park’s superintendent.

Separation of Church and State?

Like Leno joked last nite, "It's no wonder the town is called St. Albans!"


These are all such good ideas. I really like the ones involving the Three Wisemen, although it's kind of disappointing because we Puerto Ricans have a tendency to think the Magi somehow belong to us.

I don't know if this was mentioned in the other combox, but in Puerto Rico we do this: at Epiphany, the children take three shoe boxes and fill them with grass. They place the boxes under the tree (in my parents' times, under the bed); the next day, the grass on the boxes is gone and - lo and behold - there are gifts under the tree! It was the Three Wisemen. Their camels were the ones who ate the grass.


...at Epiphany, the children take three shoe boxes and fill them with grass.

Grass but not 'grass', I hope?

(sorry, couldn't help it...) ;^)

Ed Peters

Did y'all see SDG's feature article on NATIVITY in December Catholic World Report? Worth a read (as are most things in CWR).


Everybody should buy the 'Inside the Vatican' Calander this year.


Grass but not 'grass', I hope?

No. But I only speak for my family...

David B.


Yeah, It was a good article.


We always used to get our stockings filled on St. Nicholas' Day. The candy and little toys kept us occupied and made us less whiny as we approached Christmas, I think. When I remember, I give my parents stuff for St. Nicholas' Day now.

(Which reminds me....)

We had an Advent wreath, but we never burned the candles much. (Mom is not a fan of candles in the house, except on the windowsill. The Advent wreath doesn't fit in the windowsill....)

We usually would put up the tree about the 3rd Sunday of Advent, sometimes later. We didn't decorate it until Christmas Eve, usually. Then we left the tree up until Jan. 6th.

The Nativity scene came out early in the month, but was set on one of the side-tables until the Christmas tree went up. Then the Nativity scene goes under the tree. (All our figures except one lamb are glued in there, so no missing Baby Jesus for us!) The roof of the Nativity scene used to be just covered with moss, but I never liked the moss. So I had a Martha Stewart moment during childhood, and made clouds and snow out of cottonballs that covered the roof. It's pretty that way.

Actually, I did something Advent-y this year. I made an "Advent wreath" out of pink and purple wrapping paper and tacked it up on the side of my cubicle at work. I look forward to relentlessly chopping down candles each week as I add more flames of yellow paper. :) Since my boss' boss did a huge candle-filled Kwanzaa exhibit last year and the Christmas trees and giftwrapped cubes are rampant, I figured an Advent wreath would be okey-doke. I seem to have been correct.

Next year, a giant Advent calendar of goodies! :)


I took out my Advent wreath the first Sunday.

I will put out my creche, without the baby, on the third Sunday, and also pull out the statuettes where I can't remove the baby because he's attached.

Then, on Christmas Eve, I will add the baby.

Kelly Clark

I don't do anything "Christmasy" during Advent. I'm such a sinner that I'm grateful for the time to prepare the dirtiest thing I know of...my soul.

It's a blessing that I live near confessionals and places where Adoration is available constantly.

After midnight on Christmas Eve I hope to put out the creche. On Christmas day the tree and decorations go up and remain there until the season is done.

Then I send out gifts and cards. Epiphany gifts and cards. It heightens my joy during the Christmas season. (And besides...uh...it's cheaper!)


We don't observe any special Advent customs within our home--there is enough to be had with Christmas, and we enjoy the 'peace and quiet'. By taking this approach, I've found that when Christmas comes, we're ready to celebrate, and don't suffer from 'Christmas burnout' and 'Christmas over-kill'--I'm also one of those people who really starts to enjoy celebrating Christmas AFTER Dec. 25! As a final note, I've cut out virtually ALL gift giving, with a couple of small exceptions--so I've been able to avoid the useless financial stress associated with excessive gift giving. My approach may be a bit in the 'spirit of the Puritans', but I've been freed up to concentrate on the spiritual aspects of Christmas--and have enjoyed much peace and joy.

Casey Truelove

As far as a creche scene goes for me, I prefer to set up the stable with nothing but the animals. Mary and Joseph came from Nazareth, which is North of Bethlehem, so Mary and Joseph will be somewhere in the house, North of the manger. The Magi came from the East, so they would be somewhere East of the manger, but much farther than Mary and Joseph. As Christmas gets closer, Mary and Joseph get closer to the manger. They may arrive shortly before Christmas and once I have returned from midnight Mass, I place baby Jesus in the manger and ay angels or shephards will arrive then too. As the 12 days of Christmas are celebrated, I move the Magi closer to the manger. They arrive on January 6th (or whenever Epiphany is clebrated).


We have an Advent wreath that I usually set up the day after the First Sunday of Advent (because the Sunday always catches me unawares). We also have an old Advent calendar with little books to read every day that plot the Christmas story. We usually avoid carols and tree-setting-up until about the week before Christmas. We do, however, set up our single-candle-in-every-window, preparing for the Holy Family to come. I've used the straws in the manger for good deeds, also, mainly to potty train (sorry if this shocks anyone, it works). Children are very proud to have dry pants for Jesus.


"Children are very proud to have dry pants for Jesus."

I just choked on my fresca, I was laughing so hard. That's priceless.

Therese Z

I have the angel from the Nativity scene explaining things to Joseph and Mary, the Three Kings off at a distance, the Advent Wreath in the center of the dining room table, and a little cluster of purple and pink votives in the living room.

At work: Advent Calendar on my door, and I invite people to open a door when they're in my office. I brought oranges and chocolate coins in for everyone today, put them in a basket in the snack area."

I am so lucky in my memories; my childhood was very much Advent, then Christmas, even with my culturally Christian parents. We went to bed Christmas Eve with no decorations in the house but what we'd made in school, and got up to EVERYTHING, Santa brought it all. What a gift to us children!

A wreath on the door, and lights outside (weather requires), but no tree until about a week before.


Reading your blog, thought you might like this music video – not your typical Christmas song!
“Xmas Stan”:


From the first Sunday of Advent to Christmas Eve we turn off all the lights in the house, light the appropriate number of candles on the wreath, and kneel around the advent wreath as a family (including my grandparents who live nearby) every night and we pray traditional advent hymns in French, German, and English (we're a multilingual family) and pray for our extended family near and far. We have advent calendars all over the place during advent.

We celebrate St. Nicholas Day. On Dec. 6th St. Nicholas brings branches he sticks in our shoes and on these branches are chocolates, pretzles, cookies, candies, etc. . . and an orange in the shoe. We have a special St. Nicholas Day breakfast.

We put up our Christmas lights, the Christmas tree, all the decorations, EVERYTHING on Christmas Eve. It's a team project. Although when we were younger we would go and spend the day with our grandparents and the Christ Child along with the Angels would be the one to bring the tree, decorations, gifts, etc. . .

Definitely no Christmas songs before Dec. 24th.

We actively celebrate Christmas through to January 6th.

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