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)
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
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
Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift by Jeannine Q. Norris
Please feel free to add any great books from your collection by leaving a comment!