4 replies, 4 voices Last updated by  baptist bumble 3 months, 2 weeks ago
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    Does anyone have any advice on how to explain and celebrate Advent with a 5-year old?


    Howard Hampson
    @Howard the Pilgrim

    Here is some guidance from the Catechism on what Advent is meant to do.

    524 When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  I would read this whole section around this paragraph.

    Here is another.  1095 For this reason the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the “today” of her liturgy. But this also demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to this spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church’s liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it.

    My wife and I used Bible readings and Advent calendars when our kids were little.  Also, Christian kids books about Christmas.  I’ve noticed that Catholic bookstores online or in buildings have lots of teaching, spiritual and prayer resources/publications for children.




    Thank you, Howard!



    Advent seems to be built into society although it has been replaced by secular notions. Come December, what is everyone thinking about including your little one?  Christmas!  Our whole focus is on the coming of Christmas Day. But that isn’t Santa, or reindeer, or toys for someone whose focus is actually on the birth of Christ. The focus is on the coming of our Lord in the amazing event of the incarnation and nativity.  Advent is just about the coming of Christ and the celebration of the Christ Mass. :).


    baptist bumble
    @baptist bumble

    I realize I’m a few days late as Advent started a few days ago.

    My kids are 7 and 5 and we are using an advent wreath and a Jesse Tree this year.  We also read several Christmas books about the nativity and one about Good King Wenceslas (which has gorgeous pictures) and I’m debating getting one about the legend of the poinsettia.

    Our advent wreath uses the traditional three purple candles and one rose candle.  I’ve done my best to explain the significance of the colors, why four candles are used, and why the candles are lit progressively through Advent.  Some of that goes in one ear and out the other but they seem to understand some it.  The ‘wreath’ isn’t a wreath exactly; it’s a crown with scenes of the nativity depicted on it.  It wasn’t my first choice, but after creating multiple fire hazards and DIY ‘Pinterest fails’ I’m quite satisfied with what we have.  

    My parents, committed Baptists, sent us a riff on a Jesse Tree that is contained in what can best be described as a ‘pop up book.’  Though to the best of my knowledge this particular iteration of the Jesse Tree was produced by an Evangelical publisher I haven’t ran into anything that sits uncomfortably with the Catholic faith (and if I did, I’d just skip over it).  In the Jesse Tree tradition the family decorates a tree with one ornament a day that depicts an Old Testament story and shows how it points forward to the coming Messiah.  There are plenty of things for sale online and lots of DIY options; I have seen a number Catholic blogs doing these over the years.  The build up to Christmas, walking with the faithful of the Old Testament, makes a good spiritual exercise for Advent and it is both tangible and relatable for kids.

    You can procure most of these things online.  If you have a local Catholic bookstore hit them up (ours had a lot of options for Advent wreaths and that is where I got mine).  If you don’t have a Catholic bookstore nearby you might find some useful items at an Evangelical bookstore (Lifeway, Parable, independent); some might carry the exact same wreaths as a Catholic bookstore (though usually a smaller selection and also with a caveat that some devotional items and books they sell may not be compatible with the Catholic faith).  

    My kids both have short attention spans.  Our routine is to light the Advent wreath and then do the activity and devotion for the Jesse Tree.  If the written devotion for the Jesse Tree just doesn’t connect with the kids (in my experience this is unavoidable at times when using commercial products) OR if the kids are in an attentive mood I will read one of daily Mass readings that I think appropriate.  We try to keep the Advent candles lit through dinner time.

     – – – – – – –

    All of that may sound like an idyllic portrait of the domestic church.  I can assure you my execution of this plan is far from stellar!   The kids are occasionally cranky, tired, or distracted.  Just as often I am distracted, rushed, or awkward (‘bumble’ isn’t part of my screename for nothing).  I often have to shorten Scripture readings, abbreviate devotions, or select an Advent reading from a different day.  My life schedule isn’t helpful either: I work 2nd shift with Tues-Weds off meaning I only see the kids two nights a week and two mornings a week.  My wife is comfortable participating if I lead the devotion but on work nights she doesn’t want to lead them herself.  We only have a family dinner twice per week and during December often one of my two weekly nights at home we are out doing something. 

    I don’t say that to elicit pity for my situation or admiration for my efforts.  I say it because to my shame for several years I didn’t do anything for Advent because it couldn’t be ‘perfect.’  We couldn’t have dinner every night, the kids were too little, the devotions weren’t amazing every single night, the readings were too short, the readings were too long, the Advent wreath didn’t look right, etc.  So I did nothing.  That was the wrong thing to do.  Half grasped attempts at Advent devotions with the kids have been far superior to doing nothing.  So we do our devotions four days a week, sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night; sometimes we have double up if we miss a day; sometimes the devotion is a flop and I fumble excessively trying to explain the meaning or enflame their hearts; the Advent wreath isn’t the gorgeous traditional version I envisioned.  It’s okay.  I’m much happier doing the best I can and celebrating Advent in fits and starts than I am in not doing anything at all while holding out for perfection.  So if you have to start late, or a skip a day, or settle for less than perfect objects I’d still encourage anyone to do the best they can with the time and resources they have as opposed to doing nothing.  GK Chesterton said “anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”  That quote should be my life motto, and it has proven itself true with how my family marks the season of Advent.


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