The Advent season is a time of preparation as we await Jesus’ coming at Christmas. There are many ways we can engage in this preparation, both within our own hearts and our homes. The Johnsons — parishioners here for three years — share some traditions that have drawn their own family into this beautiful liturgical season and their Catholic faith.
“At Christmas, of course, we have our Christmas tree,” Melissa says. “But that is not the most important part. For us, the main visual is the nativity scene that we place on our mantle. Mary, Joseph, and the animals are placed in the stable awaiting the arrival and birth of Jesus into our world.”
The Johnson family places baby Jesus in the manger in their home, along with the shepherd.
“It is a beautiful nativity scene painted in realistic colors so we can relate to the figures and bring Jesus’ story to life,” Melissa says.
Melissa and her husband, Patrick, have a few other ways they bring Advent into their home. It is never too early for children to learn about their Catholic faith. Even though the Johnson children, Francis and Faustina, are still young, Melissa says they are showing the children how to implement Advent and Christmas traditions in their family.
“We read different books on the story of the Nativity in children’s Bibles and books and they enjoy them every time,” she says.
The Johnson family enjoys making dozens of Christmas cookies to decorate and celebrates the generosity of St. Nicholas.
“And this year, a new tradition would be doing an art project with my kiddos at home,” Melissa says. “My mother, who saved all of my childhood artwork, recently gave me a big box of art projects! When I opened the box the first thing on top was an Advent wreath I made in Sunday school at a young age. When I put it together, my children were in awe. They thought it was beautiful — even though they did not know exactly what it was, they knew it was special.”
Using an Advent wreath during this season is a common way many families celebrate the season in anticipation of Christ’s coming at Christmas. Melissa suggests that families can even make their own Advent wreaths.
“However fancy, crafty, or simple you make it, the symbolism behind it is what matters,” she says. “Seeing the Advent wreath is a reminder for us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. He is the giver of light and He brings us hope and joy.”
Once the Advent wreath is complete, it can be placed in a prominent place in the home for all to see.
“We can also do a weekly prayer service when we get to light the candle for each week,” Melissa says. “I am excited to begin this new tradition with my children and I hope their Advent wreaths last a long time as mine has.”
Being an artist herself, Melissa values the visual aspects of Catholic traditions. Along with an Advent wreath, she suggests families can look at making a Jesse Tree, which looks at the genealogy of Jesus, beginning with the Old Testament, as ornaments depict various moments throughout the Bible.
“The ornaments can be made prior to Advent or made each day during Advent,” Melissa says. “A special way families could participate is to make ornaments depicting the important stories and people leading up to the birth of Jesus by using different symbols to represent these.
“For every ornament you hang on the tree, you read Scripture that shares the significance,” she adds. “These can then be placed on a small tree to call your Jesse Tree. There are numerous resources that can be found online for what would work best for your family on how you would like to create the ornaments and tree.”
We thank the Johnsons for sharing their own family’s wonderful Advent traditions, and we hope that your family enjoys the opportunity to embrace some Advent traditions of your very own!