One of the many things I love about Catholicism is the Liturgical Calendar. It is a visible way to celebrate the joy of Christ's coming and saving the world. It is also a celebration of the people of God who have lived fully for Him. Today is the last day of the Church year. Tomorrow starts Advent. I wanted to share some ideas for ways you can celebrate the season with your family or on your own. I recently bought The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions. It is written for a classroom teacher and includes activities for early to mid elementary children but I often take an idea and modify it for household use. Another book I have had for many years is The Catholic Parent Book of Feasts. Of course Alice Cantrell's Tea and Cake with the Saints is a gorgeous little book for girls (and women who wished they had this book when they were girls). Finally, I borrowed the book from Catholic Heritage Curricula called A Year With God from a friend a while ago and gleaned a few ideas there. The Catholic Culture web site is a great resource as well. Oh, and one more resource I have is the Teacher's Helper which is all kinds of great Catholic clip art, calendars and ideas from Nippert & Co ARTWORKS.
Here are some saints days of Advent:
December 3: Francis Xavier
December 4: Barbara
December 6: Nicholas of Myra
December 7: Ambrose
December 8: The Immaculate Conception
December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 13: Lucy
December 14: John of the Cross
I think it is a great idea to have a little area devoted to the liturgical year. For Advent I'm focusing on our mantle and a pie crust table (round with two tiers) for the colors and saints of Advent. I intend to make a dark blue cloth to cover the table and add some stars to symbolize the dark time of year as we wait for the Messiah's coming. You've seen some of my mantle decorations which include the colors of advent: purple and pink. Our advent calendar boxes will sit on the mantle to be opened each day. Inside is a Nativity that will be built throughout the season until the Christ Child arrives on Christmas Day.
Another tradition (which we started last year) is to create a Jesse Tree. Each day I will read a chapter from the book The Jesse Tree and the boys will hang the ornaments they made last year. Click here for a good explanation of the Jesse Tree and instructions on making your own. The Catholic Culture website has a great explanation of the O Antiphons. I keep trying to brainstorm a way to use the symbols for a wreath on my front door. I'll keep you posted on that.
Here are some ideas for two of the feast days in Advent. For St. Nicholas Day have the children put out a shoe before they go to bed. In the morning they may find some gold coin candy (reminding us of the coins St. Nicholas threw in the window for the poor family) or some little trinkets. Make some traditional cookies and give them to the neighbors. Clean out your toys and clothes and donate them to the poor or better yet donate some new items to Toys for Tots. The St. Nicholas Center has lots of great stories and ideas on how to celebrate this day.
Here is a really cute craft idea I discovered from the Posie Gets Cozy blog. It may be a little complicated for kids (well, my kids anyway) but it looks fun for me and I think the boys will enjoy looking at them and remembering St. Lucy. Apparently boys wear star hats on Santa Lucia day so we may make some simple ones out of construction paper and stickers. In Sweden they serve a special breakfast for Santa Lucia day and so you can make your own special breakfast for that day. Nathan loves to make muffins so I think we'll find a new recipe to try.
For myself (although I have to admit all of this is really exciting for me too) I will be following the reading of the Church by using The Word Among Us devotional book each morning. We will all go to adoration each Tuesday at a local chapel. This holy hour was set up with children in mind which is so wonderful.
Well, I have so many more ideas but I think I'll close for now. I hope this was helpful to you. My next project is to make a calendar to hang on our school room wall. If you would like me to send you a copy, just leave me a comment with your email or a way for me to find your email address. Don't type your email in directly to avoid spam. For ex: adventseason(at)nospamdotcom or some other form that will keep the spammers at bay.
Have a great New Year's Eve.