Straw for the Crib Set a box or empty crib where it is easily seen. Each night the children (and parents too) place in the crib a piece of straw (or yellow yarn or paper strip) for every kind act (or act of love) done that day. On Christmas Eve, the figure of the infant Jesus is placed in the crib.
Advent Wreath Set four candles on a circle of evergreens: three purple and one pink for the third Sunday (or use white candles and colored bows.) Light a candle the evening before each Sunday in Advent and pray for the Lord to come. You might make a small wreath for each bedroom. Some people set a white Christ candle in the center of the wreath and light it on Christmas Day.
The Christ Candle Decorate a candle with symbols of Christ like the chi rho. Carve the designs, draw them with felt-tipped pens, or press beads or sequins into the wax. Add a ribbon. Place the candle in a holder and cover it with blue silk, net, or lace as a symbol of Our Lady’s mantle. Light the candle on Christmas Eve during dinner and then on the twelve days after Christmas. The flame stands for Christ the Light of the World.
Road to Bethlehem Make a road of 24 stones leading to a scene of Bethlehem. Let the children color a stone each day of Advent.
A Waiting Chain Have the children make a paper chain with 24 links. Paste one end to a nativity picture from a Christmas card. Each day during Advent clip off a loop. Loops can contain Scripture verses or good deeds for the day.
The Jesse Tree—Family Tree of Jesus Jesse is King David’s father, an ancestor of Jesus. The Jesse Tree is decorated with symbols of people and events related to Jesus’s coming. Use an artificial tree, a limb of a real tree, a tree made on a large piece of felt or paper, or your Christmas tree. Symbols:
apple with two bites out of it (Adam, Eve)
ark or rainbow (Noah)
bundle of wood, ram in bush (Abraham, Isaac)
well or coat of many colors (Joseph)
burning bush or tablets of the Law (Moses),
lamb on the altar (Paschal lamb)
sheaf of wheat (Ruth)
root, stem, and flower or shepherd’s staff (Jesse)
harp, key, or crown and scepter (David)
Temple or scale of justice (Solomon)
six-pointed star and chain (Esther)
baptismal shell (John the Baptist)
tools: hammer, saw, angle, plane (Joseph)
lily, crown circled by stars, or M (Mary)
Bethlehem, rising sun (Jesus)
chi rho on treetop (Jesus)
Christkindls Christkindle is German for Christ Child. People draw names for a Christkindl, a person for whom they will secretly pray and do favors for during Advent. They prepare for Jesus’ coming by showing love to others.
Homemade Gifts Have the family make homemade gifts for one another. These may be gift certificates with promises to do things.
Gifts for Others Give money, gifts, or time to a group that helps the poor.
Surprise Envelopes Each day of Advent a family member opens an envelope that states a special way to celebrate. Family members prepare the contents: a poem, a prayer, a picture or an activity such as “Everyone will help with supper tomorrow.” “The person who opens this envelope will make a decoration for the tree.” “Mom or Dad will do dishes for the one who opens this envelope.” “Everyone will pray silently for five minutes now.”
Christmas Cards Every night as a family, go through the cards that came. Read the greeting on each one and pray for the person or family who sent it.
Home Decorations • An Advent banner or poster with words like “Come, Lord Jesus” that has a Christmas banner on the other side. • An Advent centerpiece for the table that changes each week. • A mobile.• Advent Scripture verses on colored paper of different shapes. Add Christmas pictures. Hang the papers from a hanger with yarn or string. • Children make a tree ornament each year.
Journey to Bethlehem In the last week of Advent reenact the journey of Mary and Joseph. Take their figures from the crib set to the farthest room. Process and sing carols as you carry the figures closer to the crib each day. On Christmas Eve process with lighted candles, and let the youngest child set the figures in place. The parents place the baby Jesus in the crib later that night.
Christmas Eve Gather around the crib scene and read aloud the story of the first Christmas from Luke 2:1–21. Sing “Silent Night.” Serve special food.
Epiphany The leader blesses each room: “We bless this room in thanksgiving to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord, our God, bless this home that it may be sacred and full of life. Bless this home that it may be a place of honor, work, and prayer. Keep all who live and enter here forever in your care. Protect us from all harm. In thanksgiving to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.” With chalk he or she writes the initials of the three Magi and the year on the doorway like so: 20 + C + M + B + 14.