We have several Advent traditions and I don't realize how much the children enjoy them, or even notice them, until I leave one out! Of course there's the Advent Wreath. We put it on our dinner table and Dad reads a special prayer and lights the candle(s) each night. I think that is the main tradition that we have had for as long as I can remember. But there are other things we do as well.
First there is the creche. We don't set up the whole thing, just the stable and the animals. We also have some shepherds that are watching the sheep off in the fields this year. Thanks to the traveling Mary and Joseph that Wes got for me last year, we now have Mary "with child" riding on a donkey and Joseph leading the way. They will travel through the house and arrive at the stable on Christmas Eve.
I also have a very large collection of Christmas picture books. Each day of Advent I randomly pull one out of the pile and read it to the kids. Some of these are fairly new, but most of them have been around for quite some time. Since we only read them around Christmas time, they are always well received. Some of our favorites are by author, Tomie DePaola. We also like The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey, but I wish I could read it without crying!
There's also the Jesse tree. Each day there is a story from scripture that traces the history of the family of Jesus. Of course it starts with Adam and Eve, then it goes through the old testament, highlighting the stories of people like Noah, Abraham, Ruth, and David, all the way to the birth of Christ. The kids will hear the story and make an ornament each day. This year, instead of a Jesse tree, we have a "Jesse Garland" that stretches across the top of the entry to our sunroom. This is not traditional, and the kids weren't sure about it at first, but now that I've hung the garland they like the way it looks so I guess the idea passes. We will hang the ornaments from that instead of putting them on a tree.
Finally, we have the Advent Calendar. Every year we have arguments over who gets to open the door. This year, I found some that were very inexpensive so they each get their own. Surprisingly, I think they preferred the arguing! Having their own takes the joy out of it and they don't act too thrilled. I can't win.
Of course, there is the Christmas tree too! With the little ones, we've gotten into the habit of waiting until we were only about a week from Christmas to get the tree. This was hard for me at first, but it's so hard to keep little hands off the ornaments that it's worth it. This way, the tree still looks decent on Christmas and there aren't ornaments broken, or being used elsewhere in the house for things like army guys!
Along with all these traditions we are also offering special prayers this year. My nephew is in boot camp for the Marine Reserves and by his letters it sounds like life is a little tough for him right now. We are praying for him and his family, especially during Christmas when he will be unable to come home. We are also praying for Morgan, a little girl at church who has cancer. She's so little to suffer so much. Please offer a prayer for her.