We homeschooled our four children for over 10 years. As a Catholic Christian family, we celebrated Advent in the weeks before Christmas. In our homeschool, the entire month of December was devoted to Advent preparation and Christmas countdown activities. Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and counts down to the feast of Christmas. Christmastide extends through Epiphany. Here are Advent preparation and Christmas countdown activities.
First, let's look at the season of Advent, separate from Christmas. Advent means coming and refers to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, as a baby born for mankind. Advent foreshadows Christ's second coming too. In preparation for that coming, Advent is a penitential season in the Catholic church, though not of the same magnitude as Lent in degree of penance. Advent, is a preparatory, anticipatory time. Advent focuses on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The four weeks of Advent center on themes of Hope, Expectation, Joy and Preparation (these themes may be referred to in different terms). Christmas countdown activities should follow those themes.
Pray the Advent Calendar. Catholic Christian Advent calendars aren't the cutesy ones where children get candy or toys. A Catholic Christian Advent calendar has Bible verses, prophecies from the Old Testament about the Messiah and gospel scripture readings. Make your own Advent calendar and have children search Bible verses that reference Jesus as the Messiah as homeschool history or social studies activities. The prophet Isaiah wrote extensively about the coming of Christ. Have them look up the gospel nativity story in St. Luke. Write verses on the Christmas countdown calendar. You could also pray an Advent novena.
Make a Catholic Christian Advent prayer grotto. Put up your manger scene or nativity set on a table. Place the Advent wreath nearby. Let each child make his own Advent wreath using artificial evergreen wreath and battery-powered candles from Dollar Tree. Or make green clay wreaths and burn birthday candles. Keep Advent candles glowing all week long. Pray your novena, do daily homeschool devotions and read scripture from the Advent calendar by the grotto. Children love bringing the sacred into their homes.
You might even set your grotto outside in the front yard so everyone in your neighborhood can enjoy it. Invite them to pray with you or just stop by and meditate. Keep lights burning at night to send an Advent message of joy, hope, expectation and love to neighbors. This is a great homeschool outreach lesson plan for children. You aren't shoving your beliefs down anyone's throat, just sharing the love of a Bible Christmas.
Make a Jesse Tree and place it in your Advent grotto. This daily devotional activity follows the lineage and birth of Jesus from Adam and Eve to the Nativity. You can create your own Jesse Tree with a simple evergreen tree cut from green construction paper. Have students research the family tree of Jesus using Bible verses. They might color images and hang them on the Jesse tree like ornaments. Add one per day as a Christmas countdown activity.
Perform Advent almsgiving activities. Do a Catholic Christian Christmas countdown with Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Write one good deed on each link of the Christmas countdown paper chain. Make every Christmas countdown activity part of your Advent preparation. Fill Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, write holiday letters, make Christmas greeting cards, create crafts to give as gifts, shop for Giving Tree gifts for church, go caroling, bake cookies and share with neighbors. Feed the birds. It's been since our children were in homeschool. But the happy memories remain; each of our children has carried these traditions into their adult lives.