I put "traditions" in quotes as some of these things will just be started this year, but by the time our kids have kids of their own, hopefully they can look back on their Advent and Christmas traditions with good memories - because I know I do!
I made a point to sit down earlier this week to write out and calendar what we hope to do this year. That way when Advent rolls around in one week I will be ready. I would love to hear what your family does each year, as I'm always looking for good ideas. In no particular order here's what we plan to do:
~We will offer something up, like in Lent, to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus
~Every Saturday night in Advent, we will have a special dinner (something traditional like ham and potatoes) and light our Advent wreath
~Every evening at dinner (or every morning with Avila - I haven't decided yet) we will put an ornament on our Jesse Tree and say the verse that goes with it. I found mine here. We'll use a little (fake) tree and eventually I would like to purchase all the ornaments. For now, I'll probably make them out of felt.
~Our Advent calendar is a little house with doors that open. Before Advent, we'll write down small service opportunities that can be done each day, for example, make cards for the firemen down the street, pray for certain people in need, write letters to the homebound, etc. - something simple that will orient our hearts towards service. I will put the strips of paper in each door and we'll pull one out everyday until Christmas
~We will have a small manger with the baby Jesus under our tree. Everyday we will add straw to the manger in preparation for Jesus to come. (When our kids get older I might turn this into something where, if I see them do something "good," they can place straw in the manger for their good deed.)
~I know a few other moms that do this, and I love the tradition we started with Christmas gifts to our children. Because baby Jesus only received 3 gifts, that's good enough for our kids, too! I have to consciously think of 3 special things and I find it means so much more than getting a whole bunch of little trinkets.
~Aside from the 3 gifts, I want to give each child an ornament with their name and year on the back so when they have families of their own, they can have a batch of ornaments to start out with - ones that carry special meaning and memories
~I would love to know what other families are doing about Santa. I don't want to cut out the magic (and have my kid be the one who spoils it for everyone else!) but I know we don't want to lose sight of the meaning of Christmas. We're thinking of simply calling Santa "St. Nicholas" instead, and leaving all the other magical stuff the same, but I'm not sure yet. Any ideas?
~The days after Christmas will be celebrated with Mass, crafts, and good family time