18 December 2011

Christmas Traditions: Advent

One of the most fun things about this Christmas is the introduction of new family traditions. 

And our new favorite traditions is the lighting of our Advent Wreath.  (Much of our new Advent tradition comes from our dear friends, Josh and Lindsay Carney, so I want to make sure I give credit where credit is due!  We loved seeing how engaged their children were in their nightly Advent tradition that we decided to do it too!)

This year, we made a homemade wreath with our church and brought it back home to light each night.  Although we wait to light a new candle each Sunday, once it's lit, we light the wreath each night after dinner.  The center white candle is lit on Christmas Day.  The children identify the name of each candle: Hope (Purple, Week 1), Peace (Purple, Week 2), Joy (Pink, Week 3), Love (Purple, Week 4).

The boys are fascinated with fire and love blowing the candles out at the end.  (We just have to make sure to keep Bennett's little curious fingers from grabbing the candles when he tries to blow them out.  By the way, he still thinks "blowing" out a candle involves some level of spitting on it.)

The boys do a wonderful job listening intently to our 3-minute nightly Advent reading and the reading of our daily wrapped Christmas book from our Christmas Book Countdown.

As a guide for telling the story of why we participate in Christmas, we read a select page from the book "My First Read and Learn Countdown to Christmas." 

This book offers daily readings to be read out loud for young children in order to help them understand elements of Christmas (Christmas trees, Jesus' birth, angels, Christmas carols, etc).

The book also offers a prayer that the children will say along with me.  Sometimes they are as simple as, "Dear God, Thank you for Jesus. Amen."  I love watching my little boys pray.

But the boys' very favorite part of our nightly Advent tradition is the opening of their chocolate Advent calendars.  Each night, we open a door corresponding with the date to find a small piece of chocolate.  The boys love this part and wait very patiently for this part to come.  (We started out with two advent calendars, one for each boy.  But Brian and I began to longingly desire a little piece of chocolate each night ourselves, so I found two more calendars at our local grocery store. :))

We look forward to using this tradition as a template for teaching about the Christmas story each year.  As the boys get older, we will begin looking for a new book to guide us.  But for now, this is a perfect mix of ways to teach the boys about Advent (which means to "wait") and the true meaning of Christmas.

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