One of the most popular activities in religious education classrooms during the season of Advent is updating and using Advent calendars to prepare for Christmas.
Advent calendars come in many different variations.
Like the Jesse Tree, Advent calendars can become daily opportunities to focus each day on the preparation for Advent. The Advent calendars are most remembered, however, for the opportunity to eat candy each day leading up to Christmas. These calendars have little pockets that hold candy for kids (or adults!) to eat each day.
Oddly enough, one of the most popular Advent calendars in the United States right now has little to do with the season of Advent at all. The LEGO Start Wars advent calendar is a hot seller on Amazon and Target.
But in the Church (and especially in religious education classrooms), Advent calendars should provide suggestions for spiritual preparation for the coming of our Lord at Christmas.
You can find some Advent calendar resources at the Advent Activities page here at The Religion Teacher.
Creating a Personalized Advent Calendar (Activity)
Advent can be a great season for children to take ownership over their faith. Rather than giving out Advent calendars that script daily prayers and activities, give students the opportunity to choose their own path for spiritual development during Advent.
Here is how to do it:
- Provide resources to suggest activities and prayers to do during Advent.
- Brainstorm additional things the young people could do each day.
- Give the students a printable Advent calendar to fill out for themselves.
Advent Calendar Suggestions
There are many, many Advent calendars to use as inspiration to create personal Advent calendars. This year, I used the printable Advent Calendar offered by Loyola Press. The activities are written for children and offer some great suggestions for prayers and activities each day. There are also a number of resources for sale that you could add to your classroom.
Next, use the resources as inspiration to brainstorm a list of activities and prayers that the students could do each day during Advent. Remind the students that Advent is a time of prayerful preparation for the coming of the Lord into the world. We should take up a spirit of penitence while at the same time joyful hope for Christ’s coming into the world. (The joyful aspect is symbolized by the pink (rose) candle.)
Distribute the printable Advent Calendar for students to plan their Advent season. In each calendar day have them write a prayer or action that they will do in the spirit of the Advent season.
Before they start, have them think about what they will be doing in the days ahead so they can plan accordingly. If they have a trip to grandma’s house one day, suggest that they do something nice for her. If they have a Christmas pageant, ask them to consider some things they could do in preparation for the event.
Also note the feast days and holy day of obligation that occur during Advent. Suggest some websites with prayers for each saint (Francis Xavier, Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe) and the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
Have a blessed Advent! Maranatha!