Advent 2020: Our Family Traditions and Plans

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

It's almost here! In the interest of getting my *own* planning done, I'll share our Advent plans this year in case you need a little inspiration.

Please know that if you're new to celebrating Advent, particularly with young children, these are not all must-do traditions! Our family practices have evolved and been added to over the years, with just a little bit being added every year until we've ended up with a rich set of traditions. If you're just starting out, focus on your Advent wreath and maybe a few beautiful books, and pick a feast or two to celebrate with extra gusto!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase any items through my links. Books are generally available on Amazon or Bookshop, so I've linked both where possible if you would prefer to support independent bookshops.

In the past years we've done a reading at dinner from a different book, either Jotham's Journey (also available on Bookshop) or this Advent Storybook (Bookshop link) - Jotham's Journey can be intense, but it's good for older kids. The Advent Storybook has been a favorite for several years so I may pull it out again because they love it so much! It's great starting at about age 2 or 3, whenever they're old enough to listen to slightly longer stories.

November 28 (Saturday before Advent): 

Read The Last Straw (now available on Kindle! Several used copies available too) and choose Christkindls (you can read more about that here, highly recommend!!)

Print out manger straw ideas here and read through them to help kids get inspired. Cut up yarn or paper to use as straw, find a box or basket to use as a manger.

Print out Advent calendars for kids to color each day.

Clean the house, particularly the buffet where the Advent wreath will live, put up the few Advent decorations we have (mini-tree, table runner, garland, Journey to Bethlehem set, etc)

Gather greenery for the Advent wreath, throw remaining gourds and mini pumpkins to the chickens

Add chocolate coins to the shopping list NOW so you have them on hand for St. Nicholas Day


Dry oranges for garland (can be done any time during Advent)

November 29: First Sunday of Advent

Get first nativity set out (either the Little People Nativity or Playmobil, both get TONS of play throughout Advent)

Light the first candle and sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", prepare kids for beginning of St. Andrew Christmas novena

Listen to Advent music! We love Advent at Ephesus and Rain for Roots' Waiting Songs. And treat yourself to this beautiful book, which has some Advent carols and plenty for Christmas as well!

December 1: Begin nightly readings from The Story of Christmas calendar

Get December saints out for displaying on the buffet (ours are from Bright Array, AlmondRod Toys, and another shop that seems not to be in business anymore?)

December 5: 

Read The Legend of St. Nicholas (Bookshop link) in preparation for St. Nicholas Day tomorrow, put out shoes in the evening before bed, fill with chocolate coins (one per shoe, because we're stingy). I might also grab some fun socks from Sock Religious this weekend when they have their big Black Friday sale, they're so cute!

December 6: St. Nicholas Day + Second Sunday of Advent

Children wake up and get to eat their candy and each will generally have a new book to add to our Advent book basket - this year we're adding this sweet Christmas ABC book (Amazon), Peter and Lotta's Christmas (Amazon or Bookshop), this Baby Jesus board book, The Christmas Tree Ship (Amazon or Bookshop), The Queen and the First Christmas Tree (Amazon or Bookshop), I Saw Three Ships for a family read aloud (Amazon or Bookshop), and The Bells of Christmas.

Set up the stable for the nativity

December 8: Immaculate Conception

Holy Day of Obligation, get to Mass and eat a special dessert! 

Read about Mary in Mary: The Mother of Jesus (now back in print!!! Grab yours on Amazon or Bookshop, it's such a treasure!)

December 9: St. Juan Diego

Read The Lady of Guadalupe (only available on Kindle, but put it on hold from your library NOW and you may still have it by the feast, or try this version, available on Amazon or Bookshop)

(For the grownups and older kids, read a little bit about the Spanish conquistadors for some background information that makes this story SO much more amazing - this is the textbook our 6th grader is using for American history, and I never knew half of the information we've learned) 

Plan on making Mexican food for dinner!

December 10: Our Lady of Loreto

A great day to make gingerbread houses! Talk about the story behind Our Lady of Loreto, then for fun read Mortimer's Christmas Manger (Amazon or Bookshop) and make gingerbread houses - we save these as decorations until one day during the twelve days of Christmas, when we smash them and the kids get to eat all they want before throwing the remainder to the chickens. 

December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Since we've already read the Tomie DePaola story, we often read it again today, and have Mexican food again, because it's just delicious and I never need encouragement to make more!!

December 13: St. Lucy's Feast Day + Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday!)

Read Lucia: Saint of Light and sing song, eat whatever treat you decide to make for the feast day (our Lucy loves cookies, so last year we made these, which are a traditional treat for St. Lucy's feast because they look like eyeballs - they were much easier than cinnamon rolls and the kids could do it entirely on their own which is a big plus in my book).

Dress up like Lucia brides if you have girls, or skip it - make it as low-key as you want, but this is such a fun feast to celebrate.

December 17: 

O Antiphons begin, print prayer companion from Family Feast and Feria

Read each night's antiphon after grace while Advent candles are lit, sing verse for the day

December 20: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Move Mary and Joseph within sight of the stable and allow them to get closer every day until they arrive on Christmas Eve

Set up animals in the stable and read Room for a Little One (Amazon or Bookshop) or Who is Coming to Our House (Amazon or Bookshop).

December 24: Christmas Eve!

This is when we really decorate - we cut down a tree in our woods and put it up, put up outdoor decorations, trim the tree, and in the evening the children exchange their Christkindl gifts. I try to prep for our Christmas meals by making brunch foods in advance for easy heating in the morning, and I make our Yule Log for dessert (this recipe is actually gluten-free and works great! And meringue mushrooms are surprisingly easy and satisfying to make - refrigerate the yule log and keep the mushrooms separate, then add them after dinner before you serve)

After the kids are in bed I fill stockings with goodies and breakfast foods (all they care about is what's in their stockings and they will NOT eat any food I put out, so I sneak it in the stockings and they end up eating plenty!) and hang them up, and then we're done! We do gifts on Epiphany, so no last-minute present wrapping necessary.

Need more ideas? I have a whole book-a-day calendar here, complete with books and activities for each day, as well as books and activities for the twelve days of Christmas. Need some life hacks for an easier Christmas season? I've got lots right here!

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