Keeping Advent: Our Family’s Traditions

by | Dec 5, 2013 | Advent, Catholic Living, December, December, Photography | 16 comments

Here’s a little glimpse at what the first few days of Advent have looked like at our house . . .
Journey to Bethlehem
(the board game)
It’s pretty much the best advent-themed board game ever. But it’s a very limited edition, since Jack made it when he was in the first grade. 
It’s basically Candyland, but the goal is to follow Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The board is decorated with clipart and handwritten phrases like: “Those wisemen know the way” and “WATCH OUT! It’s King Herod” 
Good times.
Nativity Sets
We’ve got our Willow Tree Nativity Set
on the mantle (thanks to Christmas presents to me from Gramma!). The Holy Family is on one side, the Wise Men are on the other. 
I’ve heard a lot about some people’s Wise Men having adventures during Advent, but our Wise Men wait to start their journey until Christmas, then they travel through the house and arrive back on the other side of the mantle in time for Epiphany.
The kids’ Little People Nativity
is all set up in front of the fire place. I was looking around, and most of the sets we have don’t seem to be in production anymore, which is really too bad. 
We’ve got the Nativity Set, The Inn at Bethlehem, the Three Wise Men with Tents, the Lil’ Shepherds with Hill and Well, the Lil’ Drummer Boy with Barn, and the Castle (which isn’t part of the nativity collection, but we needed it for King Herod). Most of the sets seem to be available on ebay, for much cheaper than they are on Amazon.
We’ve also got a stuffed nativity set, excellent for taking on stroller rides. I’ve looked around a bit, but it doesn’t look like it’s available anywhere either. But here’s a different plush nativity, that I like even more.
Advent Calendars
Our family Advent Calendar is called The Puffy Tree. It’s the Advent Calendar the husband had growing up. Not the exact one, but the exact same kind, because when my mother-in-law bought the kit at a church bazaar in the late 70’s she bought one for herself and one for each of the kids to have when they were grown. That’s planning ahead folks!
The kids also each have a Lego Calendar this year. Gus and Bobby both have late fall birthdays and for the past few years have requested Lego Advent Calendars as their birthday presents. Then, at Christmas, Jack has carefully repacked each little window with a baggie of legos so it could be used again, and now we have enough for each kid to have his own. They take up our entire front hallway.
Advent Wreaths
On our dining room table, we have a wreath with (last year’s) Beeswax Advent Candles, that the kids got to roll themselves. It’s such a fun craft, and really easy enough for even toddlers to do with supervision. We do have another set for this year, but I figured we’d better use these up first. 
On the kitchen table, we have a wreath made with juniper branches from our backyard, and glass jar votive candles, widely available at grocery stores around here. They come with a sticker of a saint or Our Lady on them, but the stickers come off and they make nice non-drippy Advent Candles.
Christmas and Advent Books
I’ve written already about our favorite chapter books and our favorite picture books for Advent and Christmas. And I’m looking forward to some new ones that we’ll be adding to the collection soon! But this is what the seasonal book chair looks like right now.
Currently, we are halfway through The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas and have read Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer about seventeen times. Blerg.
Straw for Baby Jesus
There’s still plenty of room for straw to make Baby Jesus’ bed nice and soft for him come Christmas Eve, but the kids are in the super-motivated for a new thing stage. So, it’s adding up fast!
Winter Dishes
Does a person NEED another complete set of dishes for wintertime? No, she does not. But, boy do I ever really, really like them. I received them as Christmas gifts from my mom and mother-in-law over the two Christmases that we lived in Chicago. Just look at the little Nativity scene on that little platter. So cute! 
The Christmas Novena
In the comments of this post, Julie asked if I would make available the booklet we use for our Christmas Novena, so I created a pdf that you can download. And . . . here it is! If you are able to print double sided, it should print out as a booklet that you can fold in half and staple along the edge. If you don’t have that capability, just print it out, cut all the pages in half, put them in the right order, and staple them together.
Update: Sorry you guys, this booklet is kinda kicking my butt. Anyway, I put the whole thing into a word document, and made THAT a pdf, and when I print it out on my printer I can select the “booklet” option, and it works. Here’s the new one. Please let me know if it’s still not working for you and I’ll try again.
This Baby
So cute. So sweet. So happy to sit in my lap while I blog. She’s practically perfect in every way. So far.
If you’d like to keep track of ALL the feasts of the Catholic liturgical year, I’ve created a wall calendar to help you do it!
It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It’s an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.
January:The Holy Name of Jesus 
February: The Holy Family 
March: St. Joseph 
April: The Blessed Sacrament 
May: Mary 
June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus 
July: The Precious Blood 
August Immaculate Heart of Mary 
September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary 
October: The Holy Rosary 
November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory 
December: The Immaculate Conception 

As the Church year begins with December, so does this calendar. You get December 2018 through December 2019, thirteen months. Available for purchase here. Thanks!

Coupon codes are available from the publisher here.


  1. Amelia@One Catholic Mama

    Thanks so much for making to the Christmas Novena. We pray that every Advent, but usually just read it on the computer. The booklet seems a lot nicer.

    • Kendra

      Thanks Amelia, please let me know if you have any issues printing it out.

  2. Cristina

    I love the Christmas tree Advent calendar! It reminds me of something we had growing up also, I wish my mother had been forward thinking enough to save extras for all of us too–although I'm pretty sure I'd be the only one in my family who would appreciate a treasured family heirloom in the form of a stuffed Christmas tree though 🙂

  3. Kate

    Louise is just beautiful! She looks very content. I thank you too for creating the pdf.

  4. Kate

    Hey just wanted to let you know that I printed out the pdf and printing on both sides using the long edge and the short edge and neither on worked on creating it in booklet form. Could be totally my error, but I thought you might want to know.

    • Kendra

      Thanks Kate, I'll take another look at it this afternoon.

  5. Julia

    Thank you so much for the pdf! I can't fathom how you have it so together with a brand new baby. Lots of practice, I guess? 🙂

  6. Nanacamille

    I was given the puffy tree kit to make and even with lots of sewing experience it was a buggar to complete. I went to the sewing expert at Beverly 's for help finishing it. Worth the effort.

  7. Jenny

    Oh my, the wintertime dishes are so sweet! Your kids are so lucky to be growing up with all of these wonderful memory-making traditions. Also, you must have awesome storage space. Right now our two totes of Advent/Christmas decor are outside on the patio because we haven't made room for them in the house yet!

    • Lore

      Hello Kendra,
      Can you please share what ideas you have for advent calendar for the teens in your house?

      The puffy Christmas tree, is that something the kids open each day? You stayed it was the family advent calendar and I’m on the lookout for new ideas. We have our own advent calendar but as the kids have morphed into young teens, I’m struggling with activity ideas for each day.
      Thought you might help. I’d love if you could post this on Facebook to see what other families put in their advent calendar especially for teens.
      Thank you.

      • Kendra

        The puffy tree gets a different tiny ornament pinned onto it each day of Advent, I like it because it creates something, rather than Advent calendars where you take something out. Our teenagers still happily participate in it, but perhaps their enthusiasm has to do with the fact that we also still have little ones in the house. I don’t know yet what it’s like to have only older kids, but my hope is that we’ll keep up family traditions!

        I wonder if a switch to a Jesse Tree, which is more educational, would be more popular with teens?

  8. SHINE

    wintertime dishes???!!!!!! I always tell my husband that I know I will have made it when I have seasonal china and bedsheets!

    I haven't made it yet.

    In fact, I just took the crusted turkey gravy off of the stove top two days ago, and threw it out.
    We have our Advent wreath and calendars out…and all of our decorations are staring at me from a million boxes in the corner of the dining room.
    pray for me….

  9. Abby S.

    Love the board game! We might try to manufacture one ourselves. Kudos to Jack!

  10. Christy from fountains of home

    Ohhh! Sweet Baby! I just love her. Little babies…they just grow so fast. I'm getting melancholy and my baby is 8 months old for crying out loud! You know you have a lot of kids when this happens right? Or just love babies? But I wanted to say I love your winter plates if only because its so cute to have snow covered scenes while living in California!

  11. Kristin Sanders

    Oh my gosh I'm just seeing this now, after we talked. It's exactly how I imagined it all!!! And that board game cracks me up with the Watch Out!! and clip art!!! So fun!!

  12. Quaerens

    Woah. With the exception of your handmade board game and those Lego calendars, this is exactly our advent routine. Nice seeing it laid out 🙂

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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