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Just a quick note to say: Hallmark Cards seems to carry Advent candle sets for $7.95. Each of these three stores seem to have a few boxes left.

Hallmark
250 The East Mall, Unit #123
Cloverdale Mall
Etobicoke, ON M9B 3Y8
(416) 239-0272

Hallmark 5244
25 The West Mall, Unit #1153
Sherway Gardens
Etobicoke, ON M9C 1B8
(416) 626-5584

Hallmark
270 The Kingway, Unit #54
Humbertown Shopping Centre
Etobicoke, ON M9A 3T7
(416) 231-3591

We tried Michael’s, dollar stores, various party stores, convenience stores, but no one seemed to have all the key descriptors (some had purple, but no pink; some had purple and pink, but only small ones, or only scented ones, or only in large decorative jars; etc.) But wreaths, real or otherwise, and candleholders, seem to be available everywhere.

Do you know of another source of Advent candles in our neighbourhood?

Super duper good news: it’s not even Advent yet! This little-known often-overlooked liturgical season which helps us prepare for Christmas only starts on November 30 and continues until December 24, the day before Christmas. So, for the perennially-late and forever-procrastinating sorts like me, we’ve got TIME. I usually get hit by the reality of the Advent a few days before it starts, if I’m lucky. My hint is usually that the rest of the world gets into full Christmas mode and I think Ha! The radio stations are playing Christmas music and the malls are shiny and decorated… it must be… Advent! But since the malls and the radio stations are getting started earlier and earlier, it means that I get a bit more time.

Time to do what?

Well, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ. Advent is the period of waiting and preparing that happens beforehand. Sometimes called “little Lent,” it is a time that involves increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

For us, the prayer part of Advent has involved three very old yet simple traditions: lighting candles of an Advent wreath each night at dinner along with a little prayer, and hanging an ornament on a Jesse tree (usually at night before bedtime) along with a little Bible story, and setting out the Nativity scene (without Jesus, because… he’s not there yet.).

Basically, I need to buy/make a wreath and four candles, and find the Jesse tree ornaments and the nativity scene somewhere in storage. Seems so simple…

Advent wreath. Image by Andrea Schaufler.
This is what we’re going for.

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This is usually what happens. No wreath. Candles don’t quite stay in candleholders. Fatter candles?

E for effort, I say. Also, I’ll need to hunt down the card that has the Advent prayers for when we’re lighting the candles of the wreath.

The ornaments of a Jesse Tree represent the descendants of Jesus form the Old and New Testaments. It’s such a great way to get familiar with the Bible characters and their stories.

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We made these simple Internet-downloaded and kid-coloured ornaments a few years ago. I’m sure these are somewhere. Probably near the Nativity scenes. Behind the sleeping bags? Beside bathing suits and flip-flops?

OR you could make your own felt ornaments.

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Or buy fancy ones from Etsy. At all price points. (from InspiredTraditions on Etsy)

Some kind people have put together the accompanying Bible readings to go along with each ornament here or here. Or sometimes we just use the Bible story books that we already have around. Or sometimes we just say, “This is Noah’s ark… ok, time for bed.”

It’s not yet Advent! There’s time!

Sometimes, it feels as if the world is saying Hurry up! Advent says, slow down. Although it seems as if the world is in full Deck the Halls mode, Advent says, let’s keep it simple. Although it takes some doing to guide the mood away from frazzled and stressed to calm and quiet, it really is worth it. Advent involves low-key and simple traditions that serve to gently turn our heads towards an empty manger, our hearts towards Someone who is coming again.

I am often tempted to turn Advent (and Christmas, for that matter) into a big Pinterest-worthy extravaganza. It usually doesn’t work. I suspect that the Holy Spirit is reminding me that, at its heart, Advent is about making room in my heart for Jesus who is coming. Making room implies less, not more. Less stuff, less things on the schedule. Less means that I might hear voice calling out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord! Make his paths straight!’

The Advent Wreath

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[left] November 30; [right] December 1; Sigh. Candles don’t usually fit into candle-holders, right? For now, the only one that needs to be standing is the first week.

The candles of an Advent Wreath are a beautiful and quiet way to mark the days leading up to Christmas. Last year, we made a super cool Advent wreath made out of everyone’s hands traced and cut out of green paper. I had great hopes for making a similar one this year, every since the lady at the local religious goods store upsold me some Advent candles a full TWO WEEKS before the season started. I had so much time! Well, here we are, a week into Advent, and I believe we’ve cut out a grand total of five hands. Not quite enough to make a wreath. We may give up and try to purchase one. Or not. The kids are so awe-inspired by lit candles that they may not remember/notice that there was actually no wreath beneath them in 2013.

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Given the baby crawling around enthusiastically foiling our craft attempts, this was a big accomplishment.

Sometimes, the prayer that we use when we light the Advent candle before saying Grace is not handy (read: lost) and we’ve adopted a new tradition of singing the refrain of O Come Divine Messiah. Short and sweet.

The Jesse Tree

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They’re not lost!

Because our nine-year old is a gift, she’s taken it upon herself to keep this tradition going, despite her parents’ lack of involvement. (God gave her to us first because he thought we would need someone that came pre-parented as our first born.) On the first Sunday of Advent, we all read the Creation Story and ceremoniously placed the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil on the lowest branch of the Jesse Tree. Our evenings since then have been more than a little hectic and I noticed today that she’s put up the the next few symbols (Noah = the ark, Abraham = a tent, Isaac = a ram, Jacob = a ladder). The ladder symbol is on the tree but do the little kids remember who Jacob is? Probably not. Hopefully we will get a moment to address that at some point, before they leave home.

The Nativity Sets

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The pretty one out of reach

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The Toddler-friendly one on the living room floor

Both the ceramic Baby Jesus and the plastic one are hidden away. I hope I remember where I placed them in time for Christmas.

Here’s wishing you a calm and quiet Advent. Or even small bits of calm and quiet in Advent, whatever you can scrounge together during what can be an intensely busy time. We do what we can. God really does give us what we need when we need it and he has our families, yours and mine, in his loving heart.

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Find the Fisher Price Nativity set. Check. Find Baby Jesus. Check. Hide Baby Jesus. Check.

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Clear the top of the piano. Check. Dust the top of the piano. Check. Extract St. Joseph and Mama Mary and donkey from large creche box. Check. Fiddle with St. Joseph’s staff for too long and then give up. Check. Contemplate super glueing it to his hand…

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Transfer dried arrangement in a vase from decoration duty to Jesse Tree duty. Check. Consider watering the limp plants…

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Compare our humble colouring page download Jesse Tree ornaments to the fabulous ones that Susan from the parish office lent us. Check. Sigh. Internally celebrate the fact that we didn’t lose them since last Advent. Check.

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Totally copy a great Advent wreath craft idea from a facebook friend. Check. Consider our collective level of table manners and consider laminating the whole thing. Check. Find candles. Nope. No luck. Schedule Advent-candle-hunting errand. Check.

Recycle all toy store flyers. Check, check and check.

What is this?

Here a volunteer parishoner at St. Clement shares her personal experiences as her young family tries to keep the Catholic faith alive in their homes, living out the promises of their Baptism. Thank you for stopping in and be sure to share some of your stories as well!

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