Advent for Children: Ways to Celebrate
How to celebrate Advent With Your Children
During the month of December, people are often very focused on material things as they get ready for the big day. There's lots of shopping to get done, lots of lights to put up, lots of presents to wrap, and LOTS of bills to pay. Many people forget that before it became a major source of revenue for every business imaginable, Christmas was a major religious holiday, and the primary reason for the season lies in paying reverence to a baby born over 2000 years ago. Those who wish to share the more religious aspects of the season with their children may find it rewarding to begin observing the holiday during the month that comes before - Advent.
What is Advent?
In Western Christian churches, Advent is a time of preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ. The word advent means "coming." Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, which usually takes place sometime between November 27 and December 3. For the very devout, Advent is often a time of fasting and prayer. For families with children, it can be a time of contemplation and bonding for a special birthday party, and the activities can make the time of waiting more rewarding. Here are four things you can do with your kids to celebrate the coming of the Lord.
Make Your Own Advent Calendar
Most people have seen commercial advent calendars, which feature 25 windows that you open up on successive days to find a surprise each time. Some of them have chocolate hidden inside. However, it might be more meaningful for you and your family to create a personal advent calendar. There are many ways that you can do this, but these are two of my favorites:
- Collect 25 different Christmas cards with religious themes, complete with envelopes. Look up the appropriate bible verse for that particular day. Here is a sample lectionary. Write the appropriate bible verse for the day in each Christmas card and then seal them. If you like, you may rewrite the bible verse to suit the reading level of your child, or use a children's bible. Each day of Advent, open up one of the envelopes and have your child read it aloud. Then talk about what the lesson means. If you like, give your child a piece of chocolate afterwards!
- Create an Advent Activity Calendar. Take an ordinary calendar for the month of December. In each square, write the book chapter and verse for the day, as well as a particular activity you would like to do in observance of coming of the Lord for the day. Here are ideas for some of the activities you might put on this calendar.
- Look at Christmas lights
- Make cookies,
- Read a book.
- Hug somebody you love.
Light the Advent Wreath
Many Western churches observe Advent by creating a wreath made of evergreen branches and wire, and inserting four candles in it securely. Traditionally, three of these candles are generally purple. The fourth may be pink. These four candles stand for the four weeks before Christmas. Each week, on Sunday, members of the family may gather around the homemade advent wreath and light these candles. Light one candle the first week, two the second week, and so forth. Read the appropriate bible verse from the lectionary for that day. Children love to light the candles.
The following video shows how to use an advent wreath.
Celebrating Advent with an Advent Wreath
Share Books about Christmas
I am a youth services librarian, and I always love finding a good excuse to share books with my children. There are hundreds of wonderful books about the season that you can share with your children, and you can check them out for free at your local library. Some of them may be secular books, such as "The Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore, and some may have a strong religious message, such as "December" by Eve Bunting. They may even be funny books, like "It's Christmas, David" by David Shannon. No matter what book you choose, reading to your children is a great way of bonding and sharing books about Christmas together on a regular is a great way to prepare for Christmas.
Remember the Needy
Most churches and department stores will have an Angel Tree which features small angels representing needy children (and sometimes seniors) who are asking for specific items for Christmas. Find one of these Angel Trees and let your child choose one child to help. Have your child help you pick out the particular gift you will donate, and if possible, encourage your child to help pay for part of it out of his or her allowance. If you can't find an Angel Tree, try donating a toy to Toys for Tots or some other charitable organization. Help your children learn that during Christmas, it is more blessed to give than to receive.