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The liturgical year is coming to a close which means that Advent is upon us!

For Catholics, Advent is a penitential season (similar to Lent  – and that’s why the liturgical color is purple for both Lent and Advent).

As hard as it is in today’s world, our Catholic Advent traditions should reflect this period of penance and waiting.

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.

Today, I will share with you 11 fun and meaningful Catholic Advent traditions to help you and your family spiritually prepare for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ at Christmas.

These are great for the entire family!

1. The Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree devotion comes from the book of Isaiah 11:1 which states:

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The shoot is referring to Jesse’s son, King David. We know that Jesus Christ is a descendant of the line of David.
The Jesse Tree Devotion walks you (and your family) through the entire salvation history from Creation (Adam and Eve) to Jesus’s birth. The devotion can be completed during Advent to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus Christ.
Each day, your family will read a verse associated with each part of salvation history. If you wish, you can get an actual tree and hang an ornament on it for each day. In the past, we have made or printed ornaments for each day.
Here is a free Jesse tree resource from Catholic Culture. It includes where to find the scripture in your bible and how to make your ornaments.
Here is one more resource from Holy Heroes. It’s free and you get the ornaments and coloring pages delivered daily to your inbox.

2. The O Antiphons

Many Catholic Jesse tree resources (like the ones mentioned above) will include the O Antiphons as the last 8 ornaments leading up to Christmas (Dec. 17-24)
This resource includes plenty of background information on the O Antiphons, prayers, scripture, the lyrics to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, AND beautiful 3D ornaments to print, decorate and make each day. 3$ well spent! Little kids (under 5 ish) will need help assembling them, and older kids will love this as an independent crafty project.
You could skip the Jesse Tree and just do these, or include them right on your Jesse Tree for the last 8 days.

3. DIY Nativity Advent Calendars

Since Advent is a penitential season, we try to stay away from the Advent calendars with chocolate and goodies. Here is a great free DIY nativity calendar that would be perfect for preschoolers!
We also have loved this one from Dumb Ox Publications. It also includes the O Antiphons on the last 8 days. This one is meant to be done and prayed together as a family. Here is a slightly different version that includes a Twelfth Night calendar to prepare for the Epiphany. 
Here is a nice one for ages 6 and up to do on their own. It will give them a chance to do some independent Advent prayer and study as they work on it.

4. Celebrate St. Lucy's feast day

St. Lucy’s Feast Day (December 13th) is a favorite in our house! Why not make a St. Lucy crown for your eldest daughter to wear and she serves St. Lucy buns to her parents in bed? St. Lucy is also in my Advent Saint post here.
You could also drive around looking at Christmas lights on this feast day since St. Lucy’s name means “light.”
catholic saint lucy

5. Put up a Nativity scene

If your family does not have a physical Nativity scene or Creche, you could invest in buying or making one this year!
Choose one central spot in your house to display it. Be sure to remove Baby Jesus from His manger until Christmas! When Advent starts, put Mary and Joseph in some location away from the stable. Everyday of Advent, move Mary and Joseph closer and closer to mimic their journey to Bethlehem. Your kids will love seeing them progress day to day and the arrive on Christmas Eve.
You can also enlist older kids to help Mary and Joseph make the journey.
Catholic Advent traditions

6. Read a chapter of Luke's gospel everyday

I got this idea from A Catholic Mom’s Life. There are exactly 24 chapters which cover Jesus’s birth, life, death and resurrection. You read 1 chapter of Luke each day, and by Christmas you will have covered the entire birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus! This is a very enjoyable and peaceful devotion to do on my own as my own little daily meditation! Of course, it would also be beautiful to complete as a family!

7. Pray the St. Andrew Novena

The St. Andrew novena starts November 30th. I talk a bit more about it in this post, and here is a link for you:
You could also make a DIY St. Andrew Novena chaplet to help you keep track of your daily 15 prayers!

8. Celebrate St. Nicholas's Feast Day

I talk all about celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas here.
Catholic Saint NIcholas

9. Sacrifice Manger

Our kids look forward to this every year, and it really helps them think about what they can do to put others’ first. You can make or find an empty manger. Put a basket or cup of straw or yarn pieces nearby, and whenever your children make a sacrifice or do a good deed, them place a piece of straw or yarn in the manger.

This kit is great, again from Dumb Ox Publications. You get to be a carpenter like St. Joseph and build your manger, and then fill it will sacrifices and good deeds (aka hay) to make a beautiful bed for Baby Jesus at Christmas!

Catholic Advent traditions

10. Advent Wreath

Put up an Advent Wreath and pray around the wreath as a family each night. It’s easy to DIY a wreath with some pillar candles from the Dollar Tree (be sure to  have them blessed), some purple and pink fabric, and some greenery from your yard or the grocery store. Put everything on a charger plate and there you go! 

Here is a link to the prayers.

Here is a fun perler bead Advent wreath.

Advent wreath

11. Decide on individual and family devotions and penances for Advent

Now that I have given you a whole list of Catholic Advent traditions, decide a new one (or 2) to try as a family! You should also discuss maybe a new spiritual practice you would like to start as a family such as daily Mass or a daily or weekly family rosary.

You should each also decide on a small sacrifice or penance to give up as a gift for Christ. This is similar to giving up something at Lent, and it is important to remember to do this during Advent as well! We can detach ourselves from things of this world so we may be more attached to Christ.

You could also attend Adoration together as a family. What better way to prepare for the original adoration of Baby Jesus in the manger by His parents, the shepherds, angels, and magi?

Another must is to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation some time during Advent so that your soul is pure and new to receive Jesus at Christmas!

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