Five Fun Advent Traditions to Try This Year!

Advent is fast approaching! (whaat?!?!)

I’m not the queen of liturgical living, but over the course of the past few years we’ve built in some family traditions that help us really focus on on the Advent season in some simple yet meaningful ways. In what has been a challenging year, I’m really looking forward to keeping these sweet little traditions going in the Savaryn household.

Today, I’ll be sharing some of those ideas with you! If you’re looking to add something manageable and meaningful to your own Advent season, this might just be the place to start.

The Giving Manger

We have a slightly different set, but this has become a favorite for all the kids. We start with an empty wooden cradle. Then, the goal during Advent is to make Jesus’s bed as soft as we possibly can. We do this by adding pieces of straw for acts of love throughout the season. If the kids sacrifice something for the good of the other, show kindness or selflessness, generously give, etc., then they participate in making a soft bed for Jesus’s arrival on Christmas morning.

I love this, especially in light of the teachings of Saint Teresa of Calcutta that I read recently. It reminds me of her devotion to the thirst of Jesus on the cross, and how acts of love help to quench that thirst. We’re serving baby Jesus with this family preperation, but the spirit is the same.

Purchase Here: The Giving Manger

Advent Wreath

While we eat most meals family-style in the kitchn, we love to set up an Advent Wreath in our dining room and eat a family dinner there each Sunday during this liturgical season.

We’ve tried a few brands of candles and have had the best luck with the ones at the link below. I’v also linked to the same wreath we have, which I think has a timeless quality and goes with many decorative styles.

Purchase Here: Advent Candles, Advent Wreath

Brother Francis: The Days of Advent

The Savaryn household loves Brother Francis! We generally are able to access this adorable and informative video series on, but for those who don’t have a parish subscription, you can also buy episodes and specials on DVD. There are episodes on Easter, Mass, Prayer, Stations of the Cross, and many more!

The Days of Advent includes 25 short, thoughtful reflections to take the entire family through the season. We like to watch these after dinner and before bedtime routine starts. Even if you miss a night here or there, it’s still a worthwhile tool to keep everyone’s hearts and minds focused on the reason for the season.

Purchase Here: The Days of Advent

Saint Nicholas

When I was a kid, it was hit or miss if my parents remembered St. Nicholas day in early December. As a Catholic Convert, we’re making an active effort to make the Saints a part of our regular family life. For me, this means making sure my kids know the full story of St. Nick, and why we put our shoes out and celebrate his feast day on December 6th.

This year, a friend of mine introduced Once Upon A Time Saint books to me, and I immediately fell in love! We had been hoping to celebrate more feast days during the year, with special attention to Saints that we’re named after, or ones that we have special devotions too, and this book has helped a lot! I love it because it highlights a few Saints each month and tells their story in the form of a lovely, engaging story, appropriate for the whole family to share around the fire (especially at this time of year!) Why not read up on the story of Saint Nicholas with your own kids before they set out their shoes?

Purchase Here: Around the Year Once Upon A Time Saints

The Changing Nativity

This has been a really fun tradition to grow into! I love the Willow Tree nativity set, but you can use any nativity set that you already have and love.

We display the set on the mantle in our living room, but during Advent, Jesus, Mary and Joseph haven’t arrived yet. Their pieces are set up somewhere else in the house, far away, and they journey through the house and closer to the nativity scene as Christmas approaches. We also set up the wise men in a far-off location (they start moving after we reach Christmas, and arrive on Epiphany.) We love unboxing the precious pieces and setting them up together, and the kids love finding where the Holy Family and the wise men are each morning once they start to move! The only thing weird about the Willow Tree nativity is that you can’t separate the Mary from Baby Jesus, so we’ve just made do or substituted in a pregnant mother Willow Tree carving for the lead up to Christmas morn.

Purchase Here: Willow Tree Nativity, Willow Tree Three Wise Men

What About You?

And that’s it! Do you have an Advent family tradition that you hold close to your heart? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Links to purchase the items on this post are affiliate links from Amazon, through which I earn a small commision.


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When Advent Doesn’t Go As Planned

Advent Interrupted

You guys, Advent was going to be so much fun! I was excited, and wrote this Very Catholic Mom Post about all the cool Advent family traditions we were going to start this year.

Now, before I write any further, I still am very excited for these traditions we (attempted) to start. They are concrete ways our kids can understand the season, and they are ways we as a family can come closer together and anticipate Jesus’ birth.

But… this Advent, almost nothing went as planned. But the toughest part was the health issues we dealt with as a family over the past two weeks.

Our Sunday Advent family dinners were interrupted Week 2, when Felicity (age 6) had a stomach bug. Several of the rest of us went down with a mild virus that week, which included several changes of sheets #ifyouknowwhatImean.

Our Sunday Advent family dinners were interrupted Week 3, when Mary got sick in her high chair. And the rest of us battled a stronger stomach bug through the first half of the week.

But then things took a scary turn. We had a hard time getting Mary’s fever down for over a day, her breathing was rapid, and she was not looking well. So I took her into the ER.

She was diagnosed with RSV and Pneumonia, and we were admitted for what would turn out to be a two night hospital stay.

Let me tell you… anyone who has ever had a sick child… you know. And my prayers are with anyone whose kiddo has a longer, more harrowing hospital stay than ours did. Because…

It broke me.

She’s so little. She can’t talk. She can’t explain how she’s feeling. She can’t fully understand. She was hooked up to fluids and an oxygen monitor, and poked and prodded and given medication.

Through that first night as her levels dropped, I stayed up holding an oxygen mask on the face of my sleeping child. As she worked hard to breathe, and fought to fight fever, I held her so she knew her mother was near.

There we were. Work, and school, and plans aside. Spending the some of the final days of Advent…

Taking care of a helpless baby that we love more than our own lives.

I would have traded places with her if I could. I wanted her back stressing me out by climbing on the coffee table, and on chairs, and finding hazardous things and otherwise keeping me on my toes.

Advents Past

In Advents Past, I have thought about Mary, heavy laden with child, preparing to give birth. That’s what I had hoped to do this Advent as well.

But, as the fluorescent hospital lights filtered through the blinds onto my chair where my baby slept, I thought of a different Mary.

A Mary who saw her baby suffer. Who stayed by his side. Who knew the anguish of watching her child in pain.

Sometimes knowing you aren’t alone helps. But I also knew I had someone who understood who could pray for me while I could barely summon the words to pray myself.

And it’s all connected, really, isn’t it?

Welcome To Our World

There’s a song by Chris Rice called Welcome to Our World that I watched with Mary on Praise Baby Christmas while she was sick, but before we took her in to the hospital.

One of the verses strikes that connection in a powerful way.

“Fragile finger sent to heal us

Tender brow prepared for thorn

Tiny heart whose blood will save us

Unto us is born”

-Chris Rice, Welcome to Our World

That little baby was going to grow into a man who would right all that is wrong. Who would heal us. Whose suffering would bring about our ultimate redemption.


And as Mary now sleeps peacefully in her own crib, there is so much to be thankful for. We’ve had a rough couple of weeks, but we are overall healthy, and we will heal. We have time together as a family coming up through the end of the year, so we can enjoy each other’s company. We have years to build our family traditions together. And so much more.

So whether our Advent is filled with family traditions that help us joyfully anticipate His arrival, or whether we have fallen upon some harder times, let us give thanks.

He is coming.

He is coming to fix all that is broken.

Come Lord Jesus.



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This Catholic Family is Ready for Advent!

Liturgical Living

I’ve thought about the liturgical calendar this year more than I ever have before. I’ve thought about what little ways we can start incorporating the calendar of the Church year into our home.

And here we find ourselves, as we always will at this time of year, at the beginning of Advent.

We want our home life to reflect the life of the Church, and in response to that I started planning ahead for Advent this year. I came up with a few ideas, then read this article about How to Celebrate Advent like a Catholic, and rejoiced, because it seems like we are on the right track.

I know not everyone’s Advent will look the same way, and a different phases of life different things make sense for different people. But here’s what This Catholic Family is doing to celebrate Advent this year.

Holding Off On Merry Christmas

I definitely don’t plan on being Scrooge, and will respond in kind when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas before December 25th. But if I initiate the good tidings, I plan to say “Happy Advent.” In the Catholic world, it ain’t Christmas until it’s Christmas. And the waiting is a beautiful thing.

I’ll shout Merry Christmas from the rooftops on December 25th though, and straight through till Epiphany.

Good Deeds Manger for Baby Jesus

Advent is a penitential season. We are waiting for Jesus’ birth, and while there is great anticipation of what is to come, he is not here yet. This year our children will place a single piece of straw in the Manger for acts that are sacrificial and placing another’s needs before their own.


Our hope will be that baby Jesus will find a soft and warm bed upon which to lay, when we place him there on Christmas morning. Here’s a link to the one we bought on Amazon.

Advent Calendar

A few years back, I couldn’t find an Advent Calendar I liked, so constructed this one out of felt.


This was still in my “I’m Never Going To Be Catholic” days, but I liked the idea of a calendar leading up to Christmas. I no longer have time for this sort of Pinteresty goodness, but it turned out pretty cool. Each pocket has a little ornament that gets hung on the felt tree, (though, note that the pockets are empty this year as the ornaments are in a baggie in the closet. We have a very grabby 11 month old who likes to destroy all things beautiful and fancy.) The ornaments are kind of random wintery stuff, but leading up to Christmas itself is an Angel for the 23rd, Baby Jesus for Christmas Eve, and a star for Christmas Day to go on the top of the tree.


The kids each have a child their age from our Parish’s Giving Tree. We went to the store with the sole purpose of making sure these kids have a present on Christmas morning, and they practiced a corporeal act of mercy by delivering it to our Parish on the first Sunday of Advent this year. This was a nice way to start the season off with the thought of the needs of others, and of compassion and love.

Simplified Calendar

We are no longer going to be scurrying around like little consumerist mice this Advent season. I, somehow, some way did nearly all the Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving #ThanksAmazonPrime.

So we’ll be wrapping gifts soon, but I think that’s fitting as this is a time of preparation and anticipation. But I just didn’t want shopping to the be name of the game this December. I know that’s unrealistic for some people, and it took a lot of pre-planning, but it feels good to know it’s done.

We also aren’t going party crazy this year. Not that our calendar was brimming with invites, mind you, but other than the kid’s school Christmas program and a date night for my birthday, things are pretty chill.

We did, however, plan a Christmas party for the small group at our parish. But we planned it for the 12th day of Christmas – on January 5th- because one of the many great things about being Catholic, is the holidays aren’t over until Epiphany, and we thought that would be a fun tie in to the liturgical calendar, and a good excuse to celebrate with our friends.

Blessing of The Christmas Tree

You know you’re really Catholic when you start blessing stuff around the house.

And our Christmas tree is no exception. We found this lovely Blessing of the Christmas Tree on the USCCB website.

It’s beautiful and simple, and puts a focus on Christ in our lives and in our home.

Advent Wreath

This is one of the things I’m most excited about. I wanted an Advent wreath last year, but what with being a bajillion months pregnant at the time it didn’t happen.


We will share a slightly elevated Christmas dinner together as a family. (This means we will bust out placemats and cloth napkins. Because that’s how we roll when fancy time comes in the Savaryn household.) We will light the appropriate candles and will do an Advent reading while we share the meal.

I’ve never done this before, and while I’m realistic about what dinnertime looks like for our family, I also have high hopes that some lovely moments will arise here and there throughout the season. And if not, well, we’ll call it our learning year.

Birthday Cake

Jesus gets a birthday cake this year on Christmas Day. Because cake is delicious and it’s also something my children identify with birthday celebrations in our own culture and time. Awesomely, Mary Charlotte gets a birthday cake on the day after Christmas, because that’s when she decided to make her first appearance.

I just feel like everyone wins with this one.

Here We Go

So This Catholic Family is kicking off Advent in Catholic style. It’s so great to have these solid and beautiful traditions to keep our hearts and minds on the reason for the season.

Mary worked very hard while we put up the tree to single handedly destroy all the things, all while flashing the cutest smile ever. So, whatever okay fine.

And though these pictures look lovely and peaceful, rest assured we nary make it a single day without one of the children having some sort of a meltdown. But the tools are here for us just the same, and help retrain our eyes and souls on what really matters this holiday season.

Come Lord Jesus.



What Are Some Of Your Family Advent Traditions?


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