Advent starts tomorrow! And that means tonight is Catholic New Year's Eve, so break out the champagne!
If, like me, you are not quite ready to, um, get ready, I thought I'd share this quick and easy Advent Wreath that is our go-to every year now.
We've had lots of different kinds of Advent Wreaths over the years, but I started making this one a few years back because the kids wanted to have one that we could keep lit during our school days, and regular taper candles burn down so quickly, and make it not unlikely that wreath branches, school papers, and toddlers will at some point during Advent . . . catch fire.
Then I noticed these prayer candles! They make a quick, easy, pretty, real but less likely to burn the place down Advent Wreath.
Step 1: Get some jar candles.
Ideally, three purple and one pink. But you can also get white, and tie ribbons around the jar, or paint the jar (but that's basically a REAL craft, and we're trying to avoid that, right? Right.).
Prayer candles are ubiquitous around here, and easily available in the Latin food section of most grocery stores. Also dollar stores, Walmart, Target, etc. They sell them at Target online as well. Aldi has the white ones.
If you can find them with no labels, you're in luck and can skip the next step.
2. Get the labels off.
Soak them for five minutes or so in COLD water. So you don't melt them.
Then using fingers and table knives, scrape the labels off.
Yes. Scraping pictures of Our Lady off DOES stress me out a tiny bit. I may have actually told Gus out loud to quit stabbing Our Lady in the face and just gently slide it off. But there's nothing officially inappropriate about removing a religious image from something. We just blow Our Lady, or whatever saint it is, a good bye kiss and git er done.
For the last bits of glue, steel wool works well.
3. Gather some evergreens.
There's a lot of symbolism involved in an Advent Wreath. The flames represent Christ as the light of the world, the four candles are the four weeks of Advent, and the four thousand years that the Chosen People waited for the Chosen One, the circle stands for eternity, as do evergreen plants. Pine cones and seed pods and berries represent new life in Christ.
So, we like to gather a selection of evergreens from our yard: rosemary, juniper, pines, whatever. We find as many little cones and seeds, and berries as we can and include those. If you don't have evergreens in the yard, you might be able to scrounge some from neighbors, or a park, or a local Christmas tree lot.
4. Arrange on a platter.
It's super fast to put together!
Just plunk down the candles, one, two, three, four, and arrange the greenery around them. This is something toddlers are great at helping with. I try to keep a semblance of a hole in the middle, for the circle-ness.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we bless the Advent Wreath with holy water. Then we say the Advent Wreath prayers for the first week each night of the week at dinner, or each morning before school if we won't all be home that evening. You can find the Advent Wreath Prayers here at Catholic Culture.
Using jar candles means our wreath lasts all season long, even burning it a couple hours a day. If we somehow burn through a candle or two early, I can just grab another one at the grocery store. And there's nothing to store (and FIND!) for next year. We just let the candles burn down to nothing on Christmas Eve and toss the jars (allowed even though they were blessed, because they have been used up).
Here's my first attempt at a how-to video. Note the super-professional portrait aspect ratio. Oops.
Stir Up Sunday
The first Sunday of Advent is also known as Stir Up Sunday, because the words of the old collect (preserved in our Advent Prayers for the week) are this: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come, That by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord.
The story goes that, as wives and cooks were in Mass, they'd hear the collect and be reminded that it was time to start the Christmas Puddings! I have never attempted a Christmas Pudding myself, but I do like to use Stir Up Sunday to make some loaves of quick breads like gingerbread or coffee cake that I can store in the freezer and give as gifts to our teachers and delivery guys. And I usually save a couple loaves for our Christmas Morning breakfast! There's one thing officially out of the way.
All the kids get to help with the stirring!
As Advent begins, we'll pull out our Christmas and Advent books, our Advent decorations, and our Advent calendars. We'll put the manger out for Straw for Baby Jesus.
And this week, we drew names among the kids for their Secret Santa partners. Rather than nine kids buying junk presents for each other, we have them each choose one sibling, and all Advent they do good deeds for that sibling and they buy one nice gift for that one sibling, to give on Christmas morning. They're still welcome to give homemade gifts to all their other siblings.
We also choose our saints for the year using Jen Fulwiler's Saint's Name Generator or by randomly flipping through our four volume copy of Butler's Lives of the Saints. (There's a shorter, modernized version too.)
First Week of Advent
Also coming up for the first week of Advent are the Feasts of St. Nicholas, St. Ambrose, the Immaculate Conception, and St. Juan Diego.
The kids will leave their shoes and letters to Santa out for St. Nicholas on the night before his feast day on December 6th. And in the morning they'll find some chocolate coins and a candy cane crozier, and a book or two.
On the feast of St. Ambrose, we'll usually do a candle craft of some sort, like these tissue paper candle transfers, or these pinecone fire starters, and we'll eat meat-free for the vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The Immaculate Conception is a Friday this year, and you know what THAT means!
This post has how we usually celebrate. We'll go to Mass and have an all white meal for the day, like this yummy no boil Chicken Alfredo Bake.
And Saturday is the feast of St. Juan Diego, which is an excellent excuse for a taco night and some Mexican Wedding Cookies.
If you'd like to keep up with the feasts, these are all marked on my liturgical year wall calendar, available as an immediate pdf download here
Or as a wall calendar here. I've discounted the calendar 15% on my end, and there's also a 20% discount on top of that available from the publisher with the code BOOKCALSAVE (all caps), the code is good through midnight December 4th. If you missed that code, check here for the most recent one.
The Month of the Immaculate Conception
In fact, this entire month is devoted to the Immaculate Conception (of Mary, not of Jesus). I'm excited this year to have the calendar images to remind me of the traditional monthly devotions. And if you're also playing along with the images on your phone home screen and lock screen, George says: It's time to switch to December!
If you didn't get the images in the bundle, they're available in my Etsy shop now.
Have yourself a happy little Advent, everyone!
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