This is usually how it works for us. We have a LOT of stuff going on before Thanksgiving (like the Library Tree) and then we tend to go away for the entire Thanksgiving weekend. We get back and, bam, Advent is upon us. For this reason, I HAVE to keep my plans reasonably simple AND not allow myself to get stressed if things don't go perfectly or if I don't get everything started on day one.
My kids are all sleeping. They probably will be for awhile since we got home late last night AND Frank was sick during the night. So I'm making my plans to get Advent going this morning. I feel like I already have a jump start on our usual plans since I did manage to pull out the Advent volume of the Liturgy of the Hours for last night's Evening Prayer.
Here's what I hope to get done this morning:
1. Pull out our manger and leftover paper straw from last year.
My description of our manger tradition made it to Conversion Diary's "Baby Steps for Celebrating Advent" (which is a lovely collection of simple ideas!):
We have a simple wooden manger my father-in-law made for us years ago. It goes with an inexpensive baby doll. We cut up strips of yellow construction paper and the kids put a piece into the manger when they do a good deed. Baby Jesus arrives on Christmas Eve to a nice cushy manger.And it really is the first (as in the most important to us) thing I think about setting up - even before the Advent Wreath.
2. Set up our Advent Wreath AND buy candles from a reliable local source (we'll be heading there today anyway). This also involves putting a few leaves in the table that we haven't been using for dinner lately (we usually eat around the kitchen counter, which has a lower counter for eating at).
3. Pull out the pink and purple construction paper so the kids can make their Advent chains.
4. I may or may not get some of the books and our Advent DVD pulled out while I'm getting the rest of the pieces together.
What I'll probably get to later:
1. Take out our Jesse Tree ornaments and put a Bible on the mantle for easy access to read the readings. We're always a bit hit-and-miss on this one.
2. Put the Nativity set stable out with the pieces that would be there initially - like the shepherds and animals - and place Mary and Joseph at the other end of the house to start their journey.
We get some things set up in time for special days during Advent. Our most consistent days for celebration are: St. Nicholas Day (hang stockings the night before), the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (get to Mass, bake a cake), Our Lady of Guadalupe (try to get to Mass, have a yummy Mexican dinner) and St. Lucy's Day (the kids pretty much handle this one by baking late into the night on the previous night and waking us up early with breakfast in our room the morning of).
These are some lovely free print-outs I'd like to put together for our two youngest readers:
My Little Advent from O Night Divine
Jennifer also has a lovely collection of links and ideas here:
Advent from Family in Feast and Feria
P.S. The picture is of Frank posing with his Advent Chain last year. The chain has extra large links and makes Frank look like a midget! :) The kids cut and staple their chains themselves and, of course, take off one link each day until Christmas. They really love this tradition!
P.P.S. First child just woke up (8 year old Kate). I asked her if she knew what today was. She said, "Lent!". I waited for a second and she continued, "No, Advent!". I asked her what that meant we got to do today. She answered, "Make Advent chains!" She's working on it already. ;)