I can\’t believe it\’s Advent already! I\’m just not prepared! Advent is often too hectic of a time and that makes it hard to slow down and enjoy the season! Lots of families have this problem, but really it\’s not about how much you decorate or what\’s on the table. It\’s about preparing our hearts and focusing on Jesus.  
The past few years I have struggled trying to decide how to better focus our Advent and Christmas. Christ is the meaning of the season, and I wanted that to be perfectly clear to my kids! I wanted to make sure that they had no confusion on the true meaning of our celebration!

Today, I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013
sponsored by the Catholic Bloggers Network, along with a great group of bloggers.  
And I wanted to share a few of our family\’s Advent and Christmas traditions with all of you. 
Then, please visit the other blogs listed below for more great ideas!
Advent Tree
We don\’t decorate a Christmas tree till Christmas Eve.  Why? Well it\’s not actually Christmas yet! It\’s Advent – a time to prepare for the coming of Christ!
I wanted my kids to remember that we are to prepare for Jesus, – not only in our homes but in our hearts. Advent is meant to be a time to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus, so I decided to forgo the Christmas tree till Christmas. BUT I have to admit, I had a VERY hard time giving up the beautiful tree during Advent. The Christmas tree really served as a way to help me to focus on Jesus and the meaning of Christmas. So instead of postponing the tree till Christmas I decided to deck it out in purple with the word PREPARE written in large letters across the front. This way, I get a fancy lit tree and my preparation reminder all in one!!
Read more about this here.
Our Advent Count-Down
(A wreath, a chain, and prayer)
We have an Advent Count-down Chain hanging in the house. Not only does it count down to Christmas, each day has a extra prayer to say for a special intention.
This is such an easy tradition!
It helps the kids to count down to Christmas, but also helps us to focus on praying!

And of course every Catholic house should have a Advent wreath!! BUT with a daring 2 year old, who loves to rip apart anything I hold dear, I\’ve taken a simpler approach to our Advent wreath.  We make a paper wreath. And the kids can each have on in their bedroom!
Next year I may be able to have a REAL wreath, but I imagine my younger kids will still want a paper one for their bedroom!
Baby Jesus\’ Changing Crib
 Every Advent we have an empty crib sitting under our advent tree…

But Christmas morning the crib is filled with the most precious gift of all -Jesus!!!

Then, on the Epiphany,
 Jesus changes again!!
Wisemen Adventures!
(Our Christ-centered, Elf on the Shelf Alternative)
We can\’t forget our favorite tradition: Wisemen Adventures!!

Each year our three little amigos search long and hard to find the infant Jesus. My kids just love this tradition! You have to try it! Read about them here!
I\’ll be hosting a link-up this year for others to share what their wise men are doing!!

The link-up starts Dec. 3 and will run till the feast of the Epiphany.

Christmas Creativity!
During the Christmas season my kids like to make cookies and crafts. But who has the time? Well, I like things that are nice and simple! Things that focus on the true meaning of Christmas, but still are fun and creative! Often times printable activities fit the bill better than anything else!

 Here are a few printable nativities we have tried in past years: Click here.
We created a few Epiphany
 crafts, too!
Click here for the Epiphany Crafts.

Click here for a list of Angel Crafts:

Nativities Kids Can Enjoy!
(And mom can rest!)
I like to have lots of nativities setting around the house! Most of them the kids know they are not allowed to touch, but I have a few that they can \”play\” with. 

Most of our nativities are \”childproof\”, even the ones the kids aren\’t allowed to touch them. I just feel more relaxed knowing if they do something crazy like bounce a ball while standing next to a nativity,  I  won\’t have a heart-stopping, breath-holding moment!   I like to live as stress-free as possible!
Most of these nativities are \”toy\” Nativities which we bought, and we made a few of them, too. Here is a felt set we created!

For families with young children, child-proofing all your decorations is a great beginning to a happy Holiday! It may not look \”magazine\” beautiful, but at least the kids and you can enjoy the season stress free!

Remembering the Spirit of Giving!
To help reinforce the idea of giving from the heart during the season, I asked my kids to draw a picture to add to the Cross Catholic Outreach Art Show! Kids can draw a picture and email an image of the artwork to Cross Catholic. Then they can ask friends and family to donate to Cross Catholic on behalf of their art work. 

Or you can read about it in my
earlier posts: here and here.
Or click here to see all the art.

It\’s a great way for kids to give to the poor during the Holidays!
Don\’t neglect the other Feast days!
To help reinforce a faith-centered Christmas be sure to remember the everyday feast days in December!
Here are a few we celebrate during Advent:

St. Nicholas
(Dec. 6)
St. Nicholas is a fun day around our house! We have a little party and give a few little gifts. I like to focus on St. Nicholas sense I try to not focus on Santa. Don\’t get me wrong. Santa is welcome in our house, but if we do talk about Santa we focus the idea of him as being more of a spirit of giving – not a old guy with a wife and elves. After all Santa was really meant to be St. Nicholas and St. Nicholas never got married or hung out with elves.
Click here to read about our St. Nicholas celebration.

Our Lady\’s Feast Days

Of course we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Immaculate Conception. The years that are extra busy we like to combine the two into one big celebration. I make cupcakes and we hang up some printed pictures and talk about the feast days or read stories from a few books.
 Here are our Lady of Guadalupe posts
and here is the Post about the Immaculate Conception.

St. Lucia

And St. Lucia\’s (A.K.A St. Lucy\’s) feast day is Dec. 13th and is a great day to take a drive to look at Christmas lights! We have also done a few other fun crafts on her feast day.  Click here to see these ideas.

St. Steven
(Dec. 26)
St. Steven was stoned to death, so every year we make some rock candy for the feast of St. Steven. Then after we read a story about him we enjoy our snack! 
Click here to read how to make this yummy and easy rock candy.

I try to keep our Advent and Christmas season fun for the whole family while still focusing on Jesus. The simpler the better! Easy activities and child-proofed decorations make my holidays much more peaceful and meaningful!
What do you do to have a meaningful Christmas at your house?
May you all have a blessed Christmas season.
Visit these great blogs for more ideas on how to Keep Christ in Christmas:
Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas
Simply Homeschool:    Living Advent Series 12/1 – 12/25
Fifth of Five:                     Keeping Christ in Christmas – Blog Link-up 2013
Coffee Moments with Sam:           The Light of Hope
Open Window:               Making hay while the Advent wreath shines
Faith Filled Freebies:         Keep Christ in Christmas
Written by the Finger of God:    Not Christmas as Usual
On the Way Home:     Keep Christ in Christmas
Sue Elvis Writes:     Bring Christ to Others
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling:         Keep Christ in Christmas
Em’s Estuary:        Keeping Christ in Christmas
Happy Little Homemaker:      December Devotion: Immaculate Conception 
Adoro Ergo Sum:     How We Keep Christ in Christmas
JoyAlive.net:      O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Home to 4 Kiddos:      Keep Christ in Christmas
Embedded Faith:         Boldly Be the Christ in Christmas
City Girl, Country Home:    Emmanuel Is With Us. Are we WITH HIM?
Journey to Wisdom:      Trusting in your Awkward Fiats
Splendor in the Home:      Ideas For Keeping Advent and Christmas Holy
Training Happy Hearts:     10 Ways to Celebrate the New Liturgical Year
Designs by Birgit:    Elf on a Shelf and Santa Claus
Catholic Inspired:         Faith-Centered Family Christmas
A Slice of Smith Life:       How we keep Christ in Christmas
Catholic All Year:      Three Reasons I love Advent
Mary the Defender:      Christmas The Battle Begins
Truly Rich Mom:     Keep Christ in Christmas
Day By Day in Our World:      40 Days Seeking Him and Keeping Christ in Christmas
Diapers and Drivel:     Keeping Christ in Christmas
Raising Soldiers 4 Christ:    Keeping Christ in Christmas
Campfires and Cleats:             How We Keep Christ in Christmas
Homeschooling With Joy:        Keeping Christ in Christmas
Mrs Domestic Bliss:     Gingerbread Nativity
The Chic Traveller      Keeping Christ in Christmas
California to Korea:     Keeping Christ in Christmas
Dominique\’s Desk:       Keeping Christ in Christmas
Our ABC Life:     An Advent Update
Journey Living:     Anno Domini
Life of Fortunate Chances:    Keeping Christ in Christmas
Quidquid Est, Est!: Reblog:    Advent Posts

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  1. I always love your posts. I pin from them ALL the time on my work boards. Thanks again for some family faith-filled activities that truly do Catholic Inspire us!!. (Cyndi from Embedded Faith doing the Catholic Bloggers Link-up!!)

  2. Thank you for so many wonderful ideas! We have started the wise men adventures this year. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. I love the Advent countdown. Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas!

  4. Wow! This post is chock-full of great ideas. What a novel approach – decorating the tree and putting the word 'waiting' on it! I grew up with the tree put up on Christmas Eve but now compromise – ours goes up the weekend before Christmas. Blessed Advent to you and yours!

  5. Wow! I love this! We adopted our little girl this year (just finalised yesterday, Yeay!) and I'd already begun to think of what to do to start to keep the commercial out of Cjristmas. This is fantastic because I've already got about three more things I really want to start doing!9 children; awesome! I'll be adding your blog to my blogroll. As a new mum you're definateley someone I can learnt from!

  6. So. Much. Greatness!!! So, as a newbie Catholic I am looking at all of these wonderful ways of celebrating and it is a bit overwhelming! 🙂 We HAVE done the Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath for several years now, so now we are just taking what we are doing and adding a Catholic bent to it. We are celebrating the Feast of St. Nick for the first time this year so I am excited about that and I hope to add in a few others. I have decided that I'll just have to take it slowly and add a new thing in each year and be ok with that. I LOVE that about our Faith – SO much we can do to celebrate, honor and live our Faith!!!

  7. Wow! So many celebrations! Your kids are so lucky! Wish I had those growing up! 🙂

  8. SO GOOD! Is it ok if I forward this list to the teachers at my school? They are always looking for good activities for Advent. God bless!

  9. So many great ideas.I love my Christmas tree. But I do think calling an Advent tree may be a great alternative.Blessings,Emily

  10. Hi Jennifer, I was happy to see you on my follow frenzy list but to be honest, I would have come by to visit you anyways, my friend! You are truly gifted in teaching our faith to children as well as making it fun. Love the use of color in all of your posts… especially the feast days. And I think that your tree is very clever because that is what we're doing now \”preparing\” our hearts for Jesus. This year I am working so it has a whole new feel of busyness to it and I work in my church so it's Advent related.. but hectic. Just thought that perhaps I should make a Prepare sign or something and place it on my windowshelf at work. I have this beautiful painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe that hangs over my desk and I've looked up to her often asking for her intercession. It's comfoting, I think.Anyway, may your Advent be filled with love, graces and blessings!

  11. Your Advent tree is beautiful! We wait to get our tree until Christmas Eve, but I think yours is a great alternative.

  12. Hi Jennifer!I always get inspired by your ideas! Our family is hosting our homeschool's Epiphany party this year so maybe I can incorporate your baby Jesus Epiphany ideas! Thanks for all you do to share our beautiful Catholic faith with so many! Happy Advent!

  13. What great ideas. I'm going to pass them along to my wife.

  14. SO many great idea! I love the big Prepare on your Advent tree. We put our tree up with lights,but I told the boys NO regular ornaments until Christmas Eve. I'm trying to use it as a Jesse Tree instead. I just have a hard time getting my act together to get it done in a timely fashion.

  15. We decorate out tree early, but like you, it's gold & purple. Because seriously, it takes 2 weeks to get it decorated. Christmas is only 12 days :).

  16. Oh my goodness! What a treasure trove this post is! Thanks so much for all the ideas. I'll be coming back here to click around for sure. 🙂

  17. As always, Jennifer, your post is super inspiring! 🙂 Our Advent is a bit simpler this year with a crawling, clingy baby around — I am IN AWE at how you manage to do so much with 9 kids — we have only 3 so far, and I'm already so tired most days! 🙂 Thank you for sharing all your ideas and resources! God bless always!

  18. Great collection of ideas, Jennifer…and nice pictures! It must be fun at your house!

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