If you want to make Jesus the center of your family's Christmas season, celebrating Advent can refocus your kids’ attention on His birth as the reason to celebrate. The Advent wreath holds five candles, which are lit in succession for the four Sundays that lead up to Christmas Eve. The ever-expanding circle of light reminds us, Loyola Press explains, "that Jesus comes into the darkness to bring new life and hope." Children's advent wreath activities occupy little hands and minds while you read stories, scripture and sing songs that emphasize the Christian story of Christmas. Active participation in the celebration of Advent makes the observance more meaningful to your young ones and creates memories as your family weaves your own brand of this ancient tradition.
Advent Wreath Crafts
Advent wreath crafts are highly adaptable to your child's age, skill and interest as well as the materials you have on hand. If your child's age or living situation make it wiser to avoid real flames or traditional greenery is not readily available, create your own paper handprint leaves. Everyone in the family can trace and cut out green handprints and arrange them around a cardboard disc or ring as the leaves, securing them with glue, tape or staples. Your child can adorn her advent wreath to design her own special creation using stickers, glitter, ribbons, beads, buttons or whatever is handy. Make candles out of rolled up strips of colored construction paper, craft dough or salt dough. Traditional Advent candles are three purple, one pink and a white but some families use green, red and white so the choice is up to you. If you prefer a more traditional wreath, you can help your youngster wire evergreen branches to a foam or cardboard ring or pizza round. Add sprigs of holly, pine cones, small ornaments and ribbons for variety, if available. For candle holders, you can choose small votive cups or store bought holders or decorated tin cans. Or make your own out of craft dough or salt dough. Insert the candles in your color scheme of choice and the advent wreath is ready to go.
Lighting the Candles
Different churches have different traditions regarding the meaning of each of the Advent candles. The first candle usually represents hope or prophecy; the second, preparation or Bethlehem; the third, joy or the shepherds; and the fourth, love or the angels. The fifth candle, lit on Christmas Eve is the Christ candle. Some traditions hold that the purple candles represent prayer, penance and good works. Some families observe Advent on the four Sundays before Christmas and Christmas Eve while others light the candles daily to heighten the anticipation that Advent represents. Your children can take turns lighting the candles, by either attaching a paper flame or gold star to the paper candles or igniting the flames under adult supervision.
As your children light the candles, they can read or recite prayers, poems and scripture passages or sing Christmas carols which illustrate the role of each week's focus trait or character in the story of God sending Jesus to earth to be born as a baby. Reading from an easy-to-read children's version or storybook adaptations appropriate to your child's age and developmental level will help you hold his attention to get the most out of the tradition. Some families also expand Advent beyond the candle lighting ceremonies by participating in service projects such as gift-giving projects for needy families, clothes and food drives or sending cards and gifts to overseas missionaries or military personnel to spread the light of hope in the spirit of Advent.
Christmas Eve is the culmination of the Advent season when your kids light all the candles, including the Christ candle and celebrate Jesus’ arrival. Make it a special celebration by inviting friends and holding a birthday party for Jesus with cake, cookies and candy. Act out the biblical Christmas story using a nativity set or puppets or a simple live drama starring your children. Let each child play a part and contribute a special song, reading or prayer. Go caroling around your neighborhood and remind your children that when they honor God through these simple acts of praise, it is a way to thank Him for the gift of His love in sending Jesus.