Family Advent Resources

Advent a family guide header image

Children learn the faith by living it in daily life. In Advent, we have an opportunity to be intentional about incorporating traditions and activities that guide our hearts and minds towards the birth of Christ. Here are a few ways to prepare your family for Christmas through the beauty of Advent.

Liturgical New Year’s Party

  • Idea: Advent marks the new liturgical year – throw a family new-years(ish) party  – invite other families to make a fun, new tradition.
  • When to do it: Advent begins December 3rd, so celebrate this on the evening of Dec. 2nd.
  • What to do:
    • Chill some sparkling cider, do a new year’s countdown and cheers before the kids’ bedtime.
    • Scripture: Catholic churches around the world begin a new liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent and with that comes new readings at Mass. This year, 2023-2024 we will be in cycle B. You might read the opening of Mark 1:1-3
      • In Year A, we read mostly from the Gospel of Matthew.
      • In Year B, we read the Gospel of Mark and chapter 6 of the Gospel of John.
      • In Year C, we read the Gospel of Luke.
      • The Gospel of John is read during the Easter season in all three years.
    • Advent is a season to prepare for the incarnation of Christ, in this year of Eucharistic Revival we are invited to prepare more intentionally to celebrate his birth.
    • Resolutions: Are there spiritual resolutions/progress we’d like to make in the coming year? Perhaps new prayer routines, regular reconciliation, serving others, spending time in scripture, etc. Advent is a time of preparation, a perfect time to adopt new practices to deepen or faith and relationship with God.
    • Tell everyone to look out for new liturgical colors in vestments and decorations at Mass/around the house.
    • Kick your party up a notch by building a family advent wreath… or you can save that for the next night.

Family Advent Wreath

  • Idea: Build, bless, and light an advent wreath
  • When to do it: December 3rd, Evening of December 2nd, or anytime – it’s never too late! Bonus points if you light it every night at dinner.
  • What to do:
    • Make an advent wreath!
      • Kits are available online, at craft stores, and occasionally through florists.
      • Make your own using four candle holders and some greens.
      • You’ll need four candles (three purple, one pink). Optionally, add a white Christmas Candle to be lit on Christmas.
      • Pine boughs or other greens are traditionally used – just be very cautious with real greens and open flames.
    • Explain
      • The purple candles are lit on the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Sundays of Advent – purple reminds us that Advent is a time of prayerful anticipation and preparation.
      • The pink candle is the “Gaudete” candle – lit the 3rd Sunday in Advent, it reminds us to rejoice – the birth of Jesus is near!
    • Bless
      • Bless your wreath with this blessing from the book of blessings – intended to be led by a parent in the home.

Turn Good Deeds into Manger Hay

  • Idea: Incentivize good behavior and acts of charity while helping kids prepare for Jesus’ birth.
  • What to do:
    • Get a small, empty, manger (crib) and a handful or two of hay/straw.
    • Cut the straw to fit in the manger and put it in a baggie or bundle it with a string.
    • For every good deed a member of your household does, they get to add a piece of straw to Jesus’ manger.
  • The Extra Mile
    • There are families in our community who need the same kind of help that Mary and Joseph needed at the birth of Christ. Use this activity as a springboard for your family to volunteer with or donate to Commonwealth Catholic Charities, Mary’s Choice RVA, Seton House, one of the many Crisis Pregnancy Centers, refugee resettlement programs, Food Banks, or Angel Tree initiatives across the commonwealth.

Nativity Set

  • Idea: Make the story of Christmas come alive with a Nativity set in your home.
  • When to do it: These span the Advent/Christmas season.
  • What to do: Set up a nativity in your home. If you don’t have one you’ve inherited, consider investing in one to pass on to your kids. Earn 500 extra Catholic points by removing baby Jesus from the manger until his birth is celebrated at Christmas.
  • About Nativities: Nativity sets are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi who, after being profoundly moved by a visit to Christ’s birth place in the Holy Land, encouraged all people to make a representation of and reflect upon the site of Christ’s birth in their homes, parishes, and communities

Advent Calendar

  • Idea: Highlight the Advent season of preparation and anticipation by tracking the days to Christmas.
  • What to do: Pick out or create an advent calendar – there’s a terrific guide here. You do get bonus points if your Advent calendar actually leads you every day into the theological reality of Christmas, but chocolate is great too (some would argue it reminds us of God’s love for us).

Prayer Guide and Journal

  • Idea: A short daily Advent reflection guide, with themes of the Eucharistic Revival.
  • What to do: Follow the guide! It offers seven questions for reflection, and those questions are repeated each week. While not a kids resources, the content is easily adaptable for conversations with people of any age.
  • Resource: Click Here

Advent Music

  • Idea: Advent music exists – it’s an incredible way to immerse your household in the season of anticipation and preparation.
  • Playlist: Spotify
  • Album Suggestions
    • The Brilliance, “Advent Collection”
    • Future of Forestry, “Advent Volumes 1, 2, 3” and “Advent Anthology”
    • Matt Maher, “The Advent of Christmas”
    • The Porters Gate, “Advent Songs”
    • Melanie Penn, “Immanuel” and “Immanuel the Folk Sessions”
    • Rain for Roots, “Waiting Songs”
    • Josh Garrels, “The Light Came Down”
    • The Oh Hellos, “Family Christmas Album”
    • Soverign Grace Music, “Prepare Him Room”
    • Ordinary Time, “Good News”
    • Page CXVI, “Advent to Christmas”
    • Sister Sinjin, “Incarnation”
    • The Choir of Kings College, “100 Years of Nine Lessons and Carols”

Advent Feast Days & Solemnities

  • December 6th Saint Nicholas
    • Put out your shoes to be filled with candy coins and read the story of this bigger than life Saint.
  • December 8thSolemnity of the Immaculate Conception
    • Pro-tip: this day celebrates Anne, Jesus’ grandmother’s conception of Mary – not Mary’s conception of Jesus.
  • December 12thOur Lady of Guadalupe
    • If you’ve never been to a parish that does a blow-out celebration for this feast day, you’re missing out – go find one!
  • December 13th – Saint Lucy
    • Read the incredible story of this saint and light candles in preparation to welcome Christ, the light of the world.
  • December 14th Saint John of the Cross
    • This 16th century contemporary of Saint Teresa of Avila challenges us to realize the good and beauty in taking up our cross.

Jesse Tree

  • Idea: Each day of December decorate a small tree with ornaments that tell the story of salvation history and track the lineage of Christ.
  • When to do it: Throughout the Advent season.
  • What to do
    • Option 1: Hop on to and check out their “Rooted” series on the Jesse Tree.
    • Option 2: Purchase a Jesse Tree set, or craft your own.
      • Jesse Tree Scriptures 
        • December 1 Creation: Gen. 1:1-31; 2:1-4 Symbols: sun, moon, stars, animals, earth
        • December 2 Adam and Eve: Gen. 2:7-9, 18-24 Symbols: tree, man, woman
        • December 3 Fall of Man: Gen. 3:1-7 and 23-24 Symbols: tree, serpent, apple with bite
        • December 4 Noah: Gen. 6:5-8, 13-22; 7:17, 23, 24; 8:1, 6-22 Symbols: ark, animals, dove, rainbow
        • December 5 Abraham: Gen. 12:1-3 Symbols: torch, sword, mountain
        • December 6 Isaac: Gen. 22:1-14 Symbols: bundle of wood, altar, ram in bush
        • December 7 Jacob: Gen. 25:1-34; 28:10-15 Symbols: kettle, ladder
        • December 8 Joseph: Gen. 37:23-28; 45:3-15 Symbols: bucket, well, silver coins, tunic
        • December 9 Moses: Ex. 2:1-10 Symbols: baby in basket, river and rushes
        • December 10 Samuel: 1 Sam. 3:1-18 Symbols: lamp, temple
        • December 11 Jesse: 1 Sam. 16:1-13 Symbols: crimson robe, shepherd’s staff
        • December 12 David: 1 Sam. 17:12-51 Symbols: slingshot, 6-pointed star
        • December 13 Solomon: 1 Kings 3:5-14, 16-28 Symbols: scales of justice, temple, two babies and sword
        • December 14 Joseph: Matt. 1:18-25 Symbols: hammer, saw, chisel, angle
        • December 15 Mary: Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38 Symbols: lily, crown of stars, pierced heart
        • December 16 John the Baptist: Mark 1:1-8 Symbols: shell with water, river
        • On December 17, the Church begins to intensify the preparation for Christmas with the use of the “O” Antiphons during the Liturgy of the Hours. The symbols for the Jesse Tree from December 17 to 23 are based on the “O” Antiphons.
        • December 17 Jesus is Wisdom: Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus in old Bibles) 24:2; Wisdom 8:1 Symbols: oil lamp, open book
        • December 18 Jesus is Lord: Ex. 3:2; 20:1 Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets
        • December 19 Jesus is Flower of Jesse: Isaiah 11:1-3 Symbols: flower, plant with flower
        • December 20 Jesus is Key of David: Isaiah 22:22 Symbols: key, broken chains
        • December 21 Jesus is the Radiant Dawn: Psalm 19:6-7 (in older Bibles this will be Psalm 18) Symbols: sun rising or high in sky
        • December 22 Jesus is King of the Gentiles: Psalm 2:7-8; Ephesians 2:14-20 Symbols: crown, scepter
        • December 23 Jesus is Emmanuel: Isaiah 7:14; 33:22 Symbols: tablets of stone, chalice and host
        • December 24 Jesus is Light of the World: John 1:1-14 Symbols: candle, flame, sun
        • Activity Source: Jesse Tree Kit, A by Betsy Walter, Pauline Books and Media, Boston, MA, 1983