Here are some wonderful resources for both adults and children that we use during this season of preparing ourselves to welcome Jesus at His birth!
A Manger for Jesus
We purchased a little wooden crate at Hobby Lobby which we fill slowly with yarn “hay” throughout Advent. Whenever someone offers a sacrifice, does a good deed for someone, or prays a special prayer to prepare for the Infant King’s arrival, they get to lay a little piece of hay into the empty manger. When the girls walk through the door from Midnight Mass, I have sneakily laid our Baby Jesus dolly, wrapped in a piece of my wedding dress fabric into the manger, and they see how their loving deeds from Advent made Him so soft a bed.
My girls love using “The Story of Christmas” reusable Advent calendar we got here off Amazon a few years ago.
Each little hardback book has a part of the Christmas story that you read each day, then you hang them as ornaments on the tree!
This year Trish from Saintly Soaps found here on Etsy was so gracious as to send me a set of her gorgeous, handmade, 100% beeswax Advent candles! They smell truly heavenly, and since they’re not derived from soy or petroleum, I’m not burning toxic chemicals when we light the beautiful candles in our wreath. (Learn more about that issue here!)
I’m incredibly pleased with the candles. They are a bit smaller than standard tapers, but beeswax burns slowly. Each of these is rated for 7-8 hours of burn time which is plenty for us for our nightly prayers and devotions specific for the season of preparation. These are the cheapest 100% beeswax advent tapers I’ve found online!
She has a whole collection of lovely homemade goods perfect for the entire Advent and Christmas season, including the candles.
(Quick Tip: for the wreath itself, we just get one of the $5 evergreen wreaths at Trader Joes and nestle in dollar store glass candle stick holders inside and add our beeswax tapers to it that way. Fresh greenery smells so lovely and this is very affordable!)
We love this album by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. They are a traditional Benedictine order of sisters with angelic voices who have recorded many cds. Their Advent hymns are a wonderful collection to really meditate with every day!
You can stream it on Amazon Music for free if you have Prime, or order it here!
We love the following books for Saint Nicholas’ feast day:
The Miracle of Saint Nicholas is a sweet story with beautiful illustrations.
The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi is new to us this year but looks wonderful!
For Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast, we love this gorgeous book with intricate pop-up pages.
We have quite a few children’s books we love during Advent. (If you’re looking for Christmas books, this post here has a lot of our favorites)
Lucia Saint of Light is our favorite book for this saint on her feast on December 13th. Unlike the other main book you see for this saint, this one actually goes in depth into the history of the saint and the celebrations surrounding her feast. (Our girls love to dress up in these simple white dresses, carry in traditional treats singing a song about Saint Lucia, and wearing these crowns found here!)
We have several sets of these little ornament peg dolls from Grand Expression on Etsy. Any of her keychains can be requested as a mini ornament instead! We currently own Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Nicholas, and Saint Lucia! Books and peg dolls are great because they can be brought out year after year and be enjoyed and loved, making them an investment rather than a consumable something you have to replace every year.
I love the little book Donkey Bells by Catherine Doherty. It is full of lovely little traditions, stories, and prayers for both Advent and Christmas. We love the blessing of the Christmas tree out of here!
For my personal edification, everyday I use Abbot Gueranger’s Advent book found here. This masterpiece includes the Mass readings for each day according to the old calendar, hymns, portions of the Divine Office, sermons, mediations, and information on the day’s saint or feast. It is a gorgeous way to immerse myself in the season and really prepare my heart for Christ’s coming birth!
This book is part of a massive work that covers the entire year. You can find the whole set here.
If you ever listen to the very popular sermons online by traditional priests such as those on Sensus Fidelium, you’ll often here Dom Gueranger quoted.
Finally for adults, I love Around the Year by Maria Von Trapp. (Yes, that Maria!) Her masterpiece on the liturgical year gives an illuminating look at food, prayer, fun, hymns, and traditions for the various liturgical seasons, and the section on Advent is fantastic!
The Jesse Tree
The Jesse Tree is a beautiful Medieval tradition of reading through a scripture every day, tracing Jesus’s roots through the line of Jesse.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. ~ Isaiah 11:1
In this lovely devotion you read a Bible verse every day and hang an ornament with a symbol corresponding to it. You can find a full list of the readings that take you throughout the descendants of Jesus and the ornament symbols here on CatholicCulture.org.
Now here are a few ways to make the Jesse Tree easy. Read that again: so stinking easy!
First, Sara from To Jesus Sincerely has two different ornament sets for sale on her Etsy shop.
First off is the Mosaic Ornament Set found here that is pictured above. This is a physical set that she ships to you and you assemble for using for years to come. It would be awesome to set up your Christmas Tree and use these on it throughout Advent!
Next is this super fun printable coloring ornament set that you instantly download and can print out for your littles year after year! Cut out the ornaments and the kids can color the symbols every day as you read the corresponding Scripture.
Finally, we received this cute My Jesse Tree Sticker Set from My Catholic Kids last year and it was great. It has the little booklet included to read the daily scripture, and then a sticker of the person you read about from Christ’s lineage to put on the little tree picture.
This was a really great option for us years ago during our crazy last minute move to Nebraska right in the middle of Advent. Since we were packing up the house and couldn’t set up a tree or any spot to hang Jesse Tree ornaments, this was a great way to follow along with a simple setup we could even do in the hotel on during the trip to our new home.
The St. Andrew Novena
Finally, we pray the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena every day, and you can find a ton of information and some beautiful free images of the prayer from Mary Haseltine here on her blog.