Well, I told you all last time that I was knee deep in creating my own Advent Calendar for the children. It was complete just in time for us to begin using yesterday, the First Sunday of Advent! I am really pleased with how it turned out.
How did I get started on this you wonder?
I had been thinking about revamping/combining several things we have done in past years and standardizing them. I felt like every year I was doing something slightly different and for me that meant more work than I wanted to be doing. We had done different kinds of Advent calendars: the traditional cardboard window types, we made purple paper chains, etc. We have also always done our Jesse tree. Back when Jacob was a little one, I bought this kit. Jacob would color an ornament each evening and we would put it on the enclosed poster or some years on a small artificial tree. Well, fast forward 5 or 6 years and things were mighty different around here. It was no longer feasible, much less enjoyable to have three children coloring and cutting our card stock ornaments. So last year I colored a set of ornaments and we velcroed them to a poster every night. OK, but now I really don't have a wall I want to hang the poster on AND I really like the tree. Oh, my, are you bored and worn out yet with my thoughts???? Then I was researching lots of cute advent calendars online and none of them fit the bill. Many wanted me to fill little boxes with treats and toys and prizes each day. That's just not what I wanted to focus on.
So here's what I ended up with....
This is all from my little imagination and was made with fabrics I bought at the quilt show in October - Michael Miller fabrics that I knew I would be terribly sad if I didn't get even though I had no plans for them yet. The only thing I bought was some remarkably similar red and white snowflake fabric from Hancock's on sale. I made the whole backing piece - layered it, quilted it and bound it like a quilt. Then I made pockets to fit certain things I wanted to slip in there - 28 of them! I made 28 because that is how many days Advent can technically have and we have 28 Jesse Tree ornaments. The hardest part was deciding how to number it. I am not much for applique and didn't really want to mess it up trying. So after much deliberation and experimentation and playing around with things, I ended up printing large numbers on the computer and attaching them to card stock. Then I decided to zigzag stitch the numbers on either side of the card stock (otherwise the machine was ripping the white paper) and set them just inside each pocket. Thankfully the numbering is easily removable if I want to attempt something else another year. I hung it up in our front entryway. The kids love it!
Inside each pocket I placed our precolored card stock Jesse Tree ornaments (I'd love felt ones) that I threaded with red thread. Then I also made a set of 28 gold wooden stars. On each star I wrote some sort of words or phrase having to do with Christmas or Advent or Jesus. I wanted them to think about a new phrase each day. Kind of like meditating on all the Holy Names of Jesus! Just for a little fun, I added four small coins (pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters - bigger as Christmas gets closer) in each pocket. So far the kids are enjoying pulling out the contents of the pocket each morning. They hand out the coins, try and remember the picture on the Jesse Tree ornament, read the star and then place the ornaments on the same little artificial tree.
I am pleased.
The other thing I changed this year was our Advent Wreath. Here is a photo of the Advent Wreath we have always used. It was a gift to us and has been loved. BUT...
Over the years it has become permanently dirty with way too much drippy wax and I have gotten tired of the little tapers that do said dripping. And, of course, every year I have to replace tapers, pick wax out of greenery and dewax the porcelain wreath base.
This year I was hoping for something bigger and more prominent, more lasting and less messy. I think I am almost there. As you can see by this year's photo below, our Advent Wreath is missing a little something. :) I ordered new 9" pillar candles from a candle company online and was so hoping they'd arrive on Saturday - no such luck. Oh, well. They are en route and I am sure they will be worth the wait. They should burn well and hopefully last a long time and surely be more, well, big! I got the wreath for $4 half price at Hobby Lobby.
Nearby on the table you can see my purple Advent "prepare" letters. I used to put them somewhere else in the other house, but this seemed like a really good place where we will read them often as we walk by. Behind that are our books for Advent prayer - our Jesse Tree book, a children's Bible for reading the stories for the Jesse Tree and our new Advent book, Jotham's Journey (I had heard so much about this book and it is finally back in print. The kids and I had a hard time putting it down today to wait for tomorrow's installment!). I also made us a chaplet from my stash of beads to use in prayer our St. Andrew Novena nightly. It sure helps to count the 15 prayers!
So I guess that is what we are up to for Advent, as well as some Saint's feasts Nicholas, Lucy, Our Lady of Guadalupe. We decorated our tree over the weekend and the children are just delighting in it. Today, amongst our schooling, we listened to Christmas music and the children discovered the box of all our Christmas/Advent books that I set out last night. What joy!
I absolutely love the beauty of this season. I love all our Advent traditions and the preparations for Christmas! It all brings such joy, especially as we try our very hardest to keep our focus on preparing for the Lord's coming. I remember agonizing over whether it was right to set up "Christmas" before it actually arrived - during Advent. Today I believe there is no right or wrong answer. The question for me is, "Where is your heart and your focus?" For me, I found that the wonderful Christmas decorations surrounding me only added to my joy in waiting for Jesus to be born. While I know it is a time of penance and preparation, it is also a time for joy in the anticipation of what we know will come!
I will post a photo as soon as my candles come.
Happy Advent! May all you do bring you joyfully closer to our precious Lord.