My 11-year-old daughter is singing this cheerful little tune she learned in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium when she was six years old. Yikes! Even though Advent started later this year, I am still behind with my plans. Are you? Between the usual soccer, swimming, basketball and ballet sessions, we're researching and visiting high schools for my son, and helping him prepare for his confirmation in January. I wonder -- how can I squeeze in any other activities?
Because there is so much going on, I've vowed to keep it simple this year. Here are the things we will be doing:
Advent Spiral - for the first year in many, I've opted not to use our Advent Wreath. However, we will be counting down the days to Christmas with our Advent spiral, a tradition we started in 2010.
Decorations - I usually like to add touches of pink and purple around the house to remind the kids that it is Advent. Instead, I'm borrowing my parish's tradition of keeping the decor to a sparse minimum until a few days before Christmas, when we will "deck the halls" with red and green, and our "Marian" inspired Christmas tree (more on that in a little bit.)
Feast Day celebrations during Advent - I usually like to "go all out" when celebrating Advent saint days like St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucia's Day and feast days like the Immaculate Conception. But my plate feels so full, that I will be keeping it simple this year! Perhaps some special breakfast treats before everyone heads off to school (or work), or maybe a special dessert at night. I'll post some photos later about these celebrations.
Jesse Tree Celebrations - We have a little tree that we usually use to display the wooden Jesse Tree ornaments I made a few years ago. But this year, I participated in Michelle's (Liturgical Time: Walking the Seasons) Jesse Tree ornament exchange. We're excited to give these creative ornaments a place on our Christmas tree this year! We're slowly reading the various Biblical passages that match each ornament, and then adding the corresponding ornament to our tree. I may attempt to do another Jesse tree inspired meal like I did last year a couple of days before Christmas, when the kids are off school. It's a bit of work but hey, we gotta' eat, right?
O Antiphons - We will again be celebrating the O Antiphons from December 17 to December 23. We will use the O Antiphons magnetic board I created in 2011, and enjoy a special little treat or surprise each night at dinner.
A Marian-inspired Christmas tree - Our Christmas tree is usually filled with a loveable mish-mash of ornaments collected throughout the years. Nothing designer here, but rather 'lots of memories of our favorite things and people. However, this year I wanted to do something a bit different. Believe it or not, a bottle of Ameritech's "Midnight Blue" acrylic paint inspired me to create a "Midnight Blue" tree in honor of Our Blessed Mother. I purchased the paint to use on the Jesse tree ornaments I made for Michelle's swap. Fell in love with the deep, rich color! Decided to use the leftover paint and wooden plaques, plus some beautiful reprints of Mary and Jesus, to create ornaments for our tree. They are almost done, and I can't wait to share them with you! (Hopefully my camera will cooperate and take some nice photos!)
Reading - Although I'm not homeschooling this year, reading is still an important part of our lives. So we'll be reading our favorite Advent picture books each evening. Hopefully I can share some of them with you. For my own spiritual enrichment, I'm reading The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary's Journey of Faith by Rose Pacatte, FSP. I hope to share some tidbits of inspiration from the book on this blog.
Keeping the Faith - Can't forget the most important ways that we can prepare for Christmas! Of course, there's Sunday Mass, which is especially meaningful to me during Advent. Our area is blessed with some beautiful old churches, so we try to attend at least one Mass during the holiday season at one of those fine old churches. We'll also go to Confession as a family. I'll spend some extra time in our parish's Adoration Chapel. I also hope to participate in the Advent Vespers that our church holds each Friday and perhaps attend a Latin Mass on Christmas Eve.
Crafts and Projects - Two years ago, I purchased a bunch of Christmas fabric at a deep discount after the holidays. I'm finally getting a chance to turn that fabric into gift bags! It's been one of my goals (for years!) to eliminate some of the paper waste by slowly transitioning to fabric gift bags. We'll see how it goes! In the meantime, my sewing machine is again humming, after many years of sitting idle in a cabinet!
I'll also be sewing some pajamas that I cut out last year and never made! Gee, I hope they still fit the kids!
I'm also making the Marian ornaments for our Christmas tree, plus a few small gifts for the stockings.
Those are my paired-down plans for this year. Realistically, they will undoubtedly change as we progress through the month! (Nothing is ever set in stone around here with two busy kids!) But at least it's a framework that will ensure that we enjoy some of our favorite Advent activities.
Happy Advent to all of you! What are you doing to prepare?