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We just love the Roman Catholic Advent Season! It's extra special with little children. It's fun to prepare for Jesus' birthday. One of our children said, "It's nice to have reminders of Jesus before the Christmas break."
There's so much that can be done in catechism class or simply snuggling up with a picture book at home on the couch.
Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and lasts through December 24th. See our Catholic Advent printables at these links below:
One of the most memorable of our Advent traditions is lighting the Advent candles in the Advent wreath and saying Advent prayers in anticipation of the Christmas season.
In our family we often use the prayers or readings of the Mass for each Sunday.
Kids like our Advent wreath coloring picture. Be sure to teach them that the two shortest candles and the tallest candles would be purple and that the second tallest would be pink.
The holly berries can be red, yellow, or white depending on the kind of holly you like. The ribbon can be purple for the Advent season.
Here are the Collect Prayers from the Fr. Lasance New Roman Missal that you can say on the Sundays in Advent, courtesy of CCWatershed's 1937 Fr. Lasance Missal (PDF).
BESTIR, 0 Lord, Thy might, we pray Thee and come; That, defended by Thee, we may deserve rescue from approaching dangers brought on by our sins,and being set free by Thee, obtain our salvation. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
STIR up our hearts. 0 Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son, that through His coming we may be worthy to serve Thee with purified minds. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
INCLINE Thine ear to our prayers, 0 Lord, we beseech Thee; and make bright the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
BESTIR, 0 Lord, Thy might, we beseech thee, and come; and with great power to our aid, that, by the of Thy grace, that Which is hindered by our sins may be by Thy merciful forgiveness. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
There are three purple candles and one that is rose colored or pink for a total of four candles. The rose candle represents the more joyful third week of Advent - Gaudete Sunday "Rejoice in the Lord". Well, okay, Sunday is more joyful. This is also the beginning of the more penitential Ember Week.
I remember that when we were first married we could not find the four pack of candles so we used white candles with colored ribbons at the base (beware the fire hazard). Pink candles were everywhere, but purple candles were hard to find.
At about the ten year mark we moved to Kansas and its purple K-State territory. There were purple candles even in the grocery stores!
On Christmas Eve we use the same wreaths (one on the front door and one on our table) yet exchange the pink and purple of Advent for the red and gold of Christmas. This way we are able to put up most of our "Christmas decorations" during Advent and quickly change them for Christmas with the least amount of work on that very busy day.
This is a wonderful time of the year to teach the Bible stories that surround the Birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. It's also a great time to teach children about the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary as they cover the time leading up to Advent through the year.
Simply reading the Bible stories that lead up to the Nativity, or explaining the Joyful Mysteries, can help little ones understand that Advent is the time when we prepare for Jesus' birthday.
Kids love the story of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary, the story of St. John the Baptist and the stories of the angels appearing in glory to the simple shepherds.
When does Advent start? Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas Day which makes the start of Advent a variable date. This is why Advent calendars generally show only December 1 through December 25.
Children like to learn that the name Jesus means Savior. Each of the four Sundays in Advent represents one of the four thousand years that mankind awaited its Savior. Since Christmas is on different days of the week each year, the last week of Advent is often shorter than seven days. Advent could be as short as 22 days when Christmas falls on a Monday.
The last week of Advent might not always be a full week because Christmas does not often fall on a Sunday which means that Advent is super short when Christmas falls on a Monday or Tuesday. Yea! Less penance and Jesus comes so much sooner.
Um... Yikes! Maybe less time for final preparations, especially for Midnight Mass.
When it comes to children opening the doors on an Advent calendar or coloring a new picture on each of the days of the calendar, the last few days in a short week might seem to cut some children short. I try to think of this at the beginning and work backwards. Sometimes the little one is not aware, sometimes the little one hopes to have December 24; so a little planning can be a big help.
The Roman Catholic Advent season is meant to set our minds in a hopeful direction for the true spirit of the Christmas Season. The Advent prayers teach us to prepare for Jesus in a way that we could imitate every time that we intend to receive Holy Communion, so this is a wonderful tradition for the First Communion year. Teach that it is wonderful that Jesus is coming!
Right before dinner we light the Advent candles on each of the four Sundays of Advent and then say our Advent prayers.
The easiest Advent prayers I was able to find were those in the Missal, especially the Post Communion for each Sunday. You can also use the Introit, Collect or Communion Prayers. At our house this sometimes depends on how little our youngest child is. Sometimes we say a simple Hail Mary and ask the Holy Family to help us.
If you want to read appropriate Bible readings, again you can use the Missal and turn to the Epistles and the Gospels for the different Sundays of Advent. These make great Advent readings from scripture. This way you have the confidence of knowing that you are praying as the Church prays.
Another favorite Advent tradition of ours is when Dad moves the people and animals in our Bethlehem scene. During the last week we bring out Mary and Joseph so that the children can think of them traveling to Bethlehem. Each day they move closer and closer to the crib.
On Christmas Eve Dad moves Baby Jesus into the crib so that the little ones can see Jesus first thing in the morning. If we go to Midnight Mass, Dad's usually the last person out of the house, checking on things of course. :-)
Our St. Anne's Helper printable Catholic Advent calendar prints in three pages:
This calendar is the simple fruit of a labor of love and we hope that it helps you teach your children about Jesus in a way that increases their love for Him and His sweet Mother Mary and Foster Father Joseph.Our daughter comments below with a submission that has our printable Advent calendar colored and pieced together complete with photo.
There are several ways to use this Advent calendar.
1. The children can either use the colored pieces to assemble their own Nativity, or color and cut their own colored Nativity pieces. Print the page of your choice: color or black and white to color. At our house, we take turns adding the pieces to the calendar.
At the time of this writing we have eight children, so when we start on December 1, every child gets to place three pieces by the time Christmas comes. The youngest get to place any extra pieces depending on the number of days.
Now that we have this printable calendar, every child can have his own calendar, or the children could make them as gifts to give to family and friends. The finished product can also make an endearing homemade Christmas card.
2. The very littlest ones love coloring their own pieces. Have them color first and cut last. :-)
3. Simply coloring the image on each date can be an Advent calendar, too, even without the cutting. Simply color each figure one per day as we count down to Jesus' Birthday.
Each year the actual number of days in Advent varies as the beginning of Advent is a movable feast, at least date-wise. During shorter Advent seasons the extra Christmas images can still be used to decorate the Nativity scene - or dry the tears of any left out children. :-)
What is Advent? The Roman Catholic Advent Season is the liturgical season previous to Christmas. It is a warm season filled with the anticipation of the coming of Jesus, or in other words the Advent of Jesus. Advent means "coming".
"The ecclesiastical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, that is, on the Sunday next, whether before or after, the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, November 30.
"Following this are the four weeks of Advent and the Christmas festivals, ending with the Epiphany, January 6.
"The Sundays that follow are called the first, the second, and so forth, after the Epiphany. They are never more than six in number, and their series is, as a rule, interrupted by the coming of Septuagesima Sunday, which is the ninth before Easter Sunday and the first of those on which the liturgy is of a penitential character." (Fr. Lassance Missal p. 1622)
The Roman Catholic Advent season and Christmas traditions depend upon the birth of Christ. After all Christmas is Jesus' Birthday. Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Also, Christmas means Christ Mass - the Mass of Christ.
Advent represents what mankind had hoped to see since the time of God's promise to Adam four thousand years earlier. Christmas, the Birth of Jesus, was the first manifestation (to most of us) that our hope is true!
Every year we commemorate this pivotal point in history by preparing our own hearts and homes for the coming of Jesus as St. John the Baptist had warned "Prepare ye".
The more that you explain, especially using respectful picture books, the more your children will love the season of Advent and the better they will prepare for Christmas. It can be like telling a very interesting story about your great great uncle.
It is really fun to see their faces light up when they recognize the Christmas themes at church and school or in the stores and restaurants.
Starting on November 30, we like to say the St. Andrew's Novena after Rosary each night. This is also called the Christmas novena.
We keep a crib to fill with soft papers for Baby Jesus, and follow the Advent calendar.
After Rosary is a regular time to say the St. Andrew novena, so that we do not forget. Afterward we add papers or yarn bits for our acts of love and sacrifice for Jesus.
You can use our free printable Advent calendar above to help keep track of the days in the novena. Children love the count-down. We also have beautiful printable Saint Andrew prayer cards, a worksheet, and a coloring page here.
Jessica has wonderful ideas on her Shower of Roses blog. As she prepares for the feasts throughout the year she shares her projects on her site. You might enjoy her Jesse Tree ornaments. We sure do!
Here is an older page of hers that describes other Advent activities and the O Antiphons.
Here are some pages to help keep the Roman Catholic Advent Season:
Use printables in your Roman Catholic catechism class, Faith formation, or Sunday school lesson.