I’ve always wanted to make my own Advent Calendar. I love this dear Grandma’s calendar idea….
From the “Catholic Family” Magazine, Australia
In past years it was possible to go to a Catholic Liturgical Supplier and buy an Advent Calendar which delighted and instructed my children. The family took turns each day to open a small door, and disclose inside a picture or symbol connected with the coming Birthday.
This led to a discussion about the real meaning of Christmas, and why we were placing straws in a basket beside the hearth where the Crib would be set up, to represent the acts of sacrifice which were to be presents for the Newborn King.
However, the quality of these Advent Calendars declined as worldliness increased, and there was a year when there were lollipops and peppermint sticks and tinsel-wrapped presents behind the doors, so no more were purchased. Nowadays it is common to find real chocolates and other gaily-wrapped sweets inside the doors.
So passes the old austere Advent, and the new “Me” generation takes over. There are a number of ways in which traditional Catholic families can restore old traditions, and “Catholic Family” has been helping them powerfully to do so.
Here is a different form of Advent Calendar, and to make it all you need is: 1. A large sheet of cardboard, and a small cord, or bluetack to hang it. 2. Your last year’s Christmas cards — and old drawing skills if suitable pictures cannot be found. 3. Knowledge of the Christmas story — and this had better be good, because the children will have lots of questions to ask you as Advent passes.
To begin with, copy the calendar for the Advent season, ruling your sheet into the appropriate squares. The First Sunday of Advent is on 27th November, so in this year of 1994 you’ll have these four November days; on your calendar (some years, only December days appear).
You are going to need pictures or drawings, one for each square. The Sundays are simple — each of the 4 squares shows either the Advent Wreath with its 4 candles unlit, and the child whose turn it is “lights” one candle, the second Sunday another is “lit” (e.g. colored in with yellow biro), and so on.
It is also possible to cut out pictures of lit candles from your old cards, and in this case you will need 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, or 10 pictured candles. The child whose turn it is — you can begin with the eldest, or the youngest, as you prefer, then sticks the picture onto the appropriate square — you will have numbered each square in the top left-hand corner to leave room for the picture.
Now, after the ceremony of GLUING (a very serious subject at “kindy” for those who participate!) comes the discussion, and why there are four Sundays in Advent. Waiting for Christmas is hard for the little ones.
You then tell of sin, and the need for Redemption, and the thousands of years the world had to wait for the Redeemer…
You can light the candle on your Advent Wreath at this time, and read the prayer, and sing hymns, or whatever is your family custom.
Your remote preparation for making the calendar consists in gathering suitable little pictures for the story your calendar is going to tell. You are going to begin in Nazareth, and it is not hard to find pictures of Eastern towns — the children’s imaginations will supply what is missing.
The Holy House of Loreto — so tiny, so simple — you may know someone who has been to visit it. If not, reread St. Therese’s account of her visit with Celine (in Story of a Soul).
The Angel Gabriel — the Hail Mary will remind you of what to tell here. As the days go by, and the pictures grow in number, you will be recalling all those marvelous events as you gather together around your calendar.
Joseph — the little donkey he borrowed for the coming journey — the edict from Rome, a drawn scroll with tiny writing such as “every man must go to register…” — a lantern, a crook, a small casket for their needs and those of the Baby, and on 8th December, Our Lady. Here is the time to speak of her Immaculate Conception, and the part she plays in our Redemption.
“Setting out” can be the holy pair with their humble beast of burden. Then comes the long weary walk from Nazareth.
Pictures of a winding road, hills, trees, a few late tiny flowers, and you can explain the difference between the climates of the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Maybe your tree could be wind-blown? It was no easy journey, this. Snow. Other travelers along the way. Sheep in the fields. Shepherds. Jerusalem — King Herod? Bethlehem, “house of bread”. Inns with closed doors. The cave or stable. The Star. Angels. Straw. The ox.
Work it all out as well as you are able, and number your pictures on the back to correspond with the way your story is to be told. Keep the pictures in a large envelope.
Older children enjoy helping to prepare the pictures, drawing the ones not readily available, while the little ones enjoy the surprise element each day.
One four year old granddaughter of mine began in July to ask her mother “When will it be time to start our sticking-in for Jesus again?”
The empty crib is for the 24th, and the Babe for Christmas Day, and on 26th you can show the Holy Family together.
You can choose when best to introduce the shepherds, and their lambs which remind us of the Lamb of God.
Although Advent is over, you may like to complete the squares with scenes which tell of the Joys of Christmas — Mass, crowds going to church, carol music, choirs, and the Wise Men, camels and presents.
You’re in charge, and can plan it all as you think best. Each year you will improve through experience, and may each year see you and your family grow in love for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as you seek their help in recounting the Great Adventure of Advent and Christmas.
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Coloring pages for your children….
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What a sweet Advent calendar idea!
In Corde Jesu,
Julia Mary said:
What amazing creativity!
Also, grateful to have two of the old fashioned calendars with Bible verses! I remember attending a diocesan kindergarten and seeing an advent calendar with chocolate! It looked delicious, but I was so confused because I knew we gave up sweet for Advent.
Here is another felt advent calendar, it is not nearly as extensive as the one in the story but might be useful. 🙂
That’s lovely, thank you Mary Ann.
I had the idea to put a piece of a nativity set in a box with a slip of paper with a scriptural reading on it and the nativity scene can be the Advent calendar, slowly being built day by day as the little boxes are opened. (I haven’t done it yet.)
We received Advent calendars from a friend of our grandmother . Every year beautiful meaning ones would arrive in the mail. When we no longer received them we purchased them for ourselves. Through the years we kept every one. In the last few years the quality has gone down. We now choose old ones and re use them. Every year we pick out ones that we haven’t used in recently.
Joan,Marilyn and Marion