Monday, October 19, 2009

Advent Activities

Since I am starting to gather my Advent activities in one place for my own use, I thought it might be helpful to write about some specific activities my family participates in.

Let me preface my first posting by giving you a little background info. If you are not familiar with the Orthodox Church's fasting periods, our Nativity Fast begins on November 15th and is a 40 day fast that ends on Christmas. The word Advent is the Latin word for "coming". We Orthodox use other Latin terms, such as "Trinity", so I personally have no problem using the word Advent when speaking about this time period. Here's a great article on that topic.

Instead of writing one long (and possibly overwhelming) post about everything my family does in our home, I thought it would be more helpful to post about one at a time. To me, the best way to do this is to first write about the activities that may take longer to get ready, in case anyone would like to incorporate them this year.

Activity #1 40 Books in 40 Days

One fun way to involve my children in our nightly activities is to have a children's book about the Nativity Season for each night. In our house my husband and I wrap each book individually and place them under our tree on November 15th. (More about our tree later). Each night our 3 children take a turn picking a book and unwrapping it. Then we read the book aloud together, and the book is placed in a basket so that the children can read it again during the rest of the season. There are some books that are designated for special nights, like the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos, or St. Nicholas, and I do this by writing on the wrapping paper, so we don't forget!

There are several ways you can do this activity, and I encourage you to make it YOUR tradition. If you don't put your tree up until later in the season, you can put your books in a big basket. If it is overwhelming, you don't have to wrap the books at all.

I will share some of my favorite book selections with you, but don't feel the need to duplicate them in your household. You may be surprised at how many you already have, if you gather all your Christmas books in one place! Some families may want to include secular Christmas books about Santa Claus, reindeer, etc. Because every family has their own beliefs on this topic, I will only share my top choices that are religious in nature, and some that are specifically written from an Orthodox point of view. I have linked as many books as possible to websites where you can take a closer look:

The Nativity of Our Lord by Sister Elayne (This is one of the books from The 12 Great Feasts for Children)

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple by Sister Elayne (we read this book on the feast, which falls on November 21st.)

Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate (there is also a board-book version for toddlers)

Baby in a Manger by Julie Stiegemeyer

On This Special Night By Claire Freedman

The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats (also available as a board book)

What Star Is This? by Joseph Slate

The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi (We read this book on the Feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6th)

The Usborne Advent Nativity Book (This book has pop out characters for each day that make the nativity scene. It starts on Dec. 1st)

North Star: St. Herman of Alaska by Dorrie Papademetrious (read on Dec. 13th)

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell

Please feel free to add any great books from your collection by leaving a comment!


DebD said...

what a great resource and a nice idea to do 40 in 40 days. I have a couple of those titles and I think my parish library may have a few more.

Rebeca said...

This is a great idea... maybe next year I'll get it together in time. We just discovered a book that I think will become a Christmas favorite for us... An Orange for Frankie. Also just discovered Great Joy, love it!
Thanks for the list!

Anonymous said...

I am not Orthodox, and wonder if you could answer a question: How does the Nativity fast affect your Thanksgiving celebration?

Enjoying your blog -- this one and Festal Celebrations. Thanks!

Jane G Meyer said...

What a wonderful idea! I will be passing this idea on to others...

Another book to add to the list is Donkey's Dream (can't remember author right now...) has a truly Orthodox flavor and is more about the theotokos than about the donkey :)

Also, Lucia, Saint of Light has just been released by Conciliar Press and is about St. Lucia whose saint's day is December 13th.


Ashley said...

Some Orthodox Christians choose to continue the fast on Thanksgiving Day, having an "early Thanksgiving" before the fast starts. In my Archdiocese we are given dispensation for this holiday. I can only speak for my family, but we celebrate Thanksgiving with family who is, for the most part, not Orthodox. Imposing the fast, or even bringing it to light around them would be inappropriate and against the spirit of fasting in general.

Wendy Braun said...

What a wonderful idea! I hope you don't mind if I borrow it for my blog about children's books! I was considering posting a different Christmas book each of the 40 Days of Advent, but I love this idea for family activity...not sure yet exactly how I'm going to approach it, but you've inspired me. :)