Advent Made Simple


Okay, reality check. We are now less than 2 weeks away from Advent. (Say whaaaat?!) I know, 12 more days. That’s all we’ve got. Don’t worry, though – I’ve got you covered. Today, we are going to make Advent simple.

I’ve included a bunch of links for my favorite resources to help make things easy. From feast day recipes to holiday movies to the best in online Christmas shopping, it’s all here. Best of all, I’ve included a handy printable that will help make this Advent extra magical for your kids – without driving Mom crazy!

So hang on tight to your sleigh bells – because here. we. go!


The Basics

Advent begins on Sunday, November 27th.

Contrary to contemporary custom, Advent is actually a time of fasting and reflection leading up to the big celebration of Christmas. If you want some ideas for how to celebrate the Advent season without feeling like a grinch, check out last year’s post on that topic.

There are a number of Catholic feast days that fall during Advent, the most important being the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is a holy day of obligation. It always falls on December 8th, which is a Thursday this year.

The Advent Wreath

In many Catholic homes, Advent worship revolves around the lighting of the Advent wreath. There are a number of ways to incorporate this tradition into your family. In our home, we light the wreath before dinner and leave the candles burning until the conclusion of our meal.

We have used a number of different devotionals for this time, but haven’t yet hit something that I think is just right. This year, we’ll be trying this one.

Singing a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” each night of the O Antiphons (the final eight days before Christmas Eve, from December 17 – December 23) is another cherished tradition.

To start your own Advent wreath devotional, all you truly need is four candles: three purple, and one pink. (I once arranged four pillar candles on a tray when we didn’t yet have a wreath, and it looked beautiful.) The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday and it represents a lightening of our fasting in anticipation of Christmas drawing near.

The Advent Calendar

Every year, I base our family’s Advent activities around our Advent calendar. This isn’t the grocery store variety calendar. Instead of hiding bits of chocolate behind each door, I tuck a folded piece of paper into each day’s box. On each paper is a craft, an activity, or an outing that the kids can look forward to enjoying as we count down the days to Christmas.

Now, I know this can sound like busy work for Mom – at a time when we’re already busier than we want to be! Hear me out. The neat thing about designing the calendar yourself is that you can choose to fill it with fun things you wanted to do anyway! The day’s activity can be as simple as sharing a candy cane, as meaningful as serving the needy, or as basic as attending Mass on a holy day of obligation (you were going to do that anyway, right?).

With this free printableyou will get 24 activity ideas, plus activities for 8 Catholic feast days celebrated during Advent!

You will not need to use all of these activities! Pick and choose your favorites. There are also blank squares for you to write-in your favorite Christmas read aloud, holiday classic, or family tradition. Use the things you’ll be doing anyway, such as a parish Christmas caroling party. Then use these ideas to fill in the blanks.

Below, you’ll see a version of the printable with links to recipes and resources that will help you make the execution super easy.

Get a Christmas tree.

Watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

Make a popcorn garland.

Make fudge.

Make paper snowflakes.

Light a fire + roast marshmallows.

Make a Christmas play list.

Drive around to look at the lights.

Go sledding.

Visit a living nativity.

Write letters to St. Nicholas.

Go Christmas caroling.

Have a cookie decorating party.

Mail Christmas cards.

Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.


Drink hot chocolate.

Deck the Halls!

Hang Christmas lights.

Go ice skating.

Take a horse drawn carriage ride.

Build a snowman.

Donate gifts to someone in need.

Make a wreath.

Serve a meal at a homeless shelter.

Have tea + scones for St. Andrew’s Day (November 3rd)

Make fish tacos for the Feast of St. Juan Diego (Dec. 9th)


Make bread purses for St. Nicholas Day (December 6th)

Put out shoes for St. Nicholas (December 5th)

Make sea salt + honey gelato for the Feast of St. Ambrose (Dec. 7th)

Attend Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8th)

Place roses by an image of the Virgin Mary + pray a rosary on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12th)

Bake lussekatter and pepparkakor for St. Lucia’s Day (Dec. 13th)

As I mentioned above, Advent begins on Sunday, November 27, 2016.

However, because most Advent calendars have only 24 days, you will want to start you Advent calendar on Thursday, December 1st.

More Resources for Your Advent

21 Favorite Family Read-Alouds for Advent and Christmas

I’m a big fan of religious Advent calendars. This is ours. Since it is currently out of stock, here’s another one I liked the look of – you can decorate it yourself!

In our family, we have a tradition of giving each person 3 gifts, representing the gifts of the magi: something for the head, something for the hands, and something for the heart. We also have small gifts (from St. Nicholas) in stockings on Christmas morning, and pajamas waiting on beds when we return from Christmas Eve Mass (from Jul Tomten, the Swedish santa).

I do a good bit of my holiday shopping at Amazon, especially for books, but I have a few other stores that I love to tap for Christmas presents.

If you’re looking for classic, ethically and sturdily made gifts for children, please check out Nova Natural, Bella Luna Toys, Palumba, and The Wooden Wagon.

For clothes, Boden is one of my favorite companies for all family members – but I always check ThredUp first! For Christmas pajamas, these are my favorites for boys and these nightdresses and these for girls.

This is our nativity set, for those who have asked.

And because I’ve had a lot of readers ask about our Advent wreath: here it is!


  1. Amanda says:

    Hi, Apple Cider Mama!

    I am wondering…if you just do stockings and a small gift from St. Nicholas, what do your kids include in their letters when you write them? My kids are still really young, and we have the same traditions as you basically (although, I am totally stealing the pajama idea!) so I was just curious as we are not in the letter writing stage yet.

    Thanks so much!

    • Bethany says:

      Haha! I never really wanted to do the letter thing, but their friends did it, so they started doing it. They actually write out their whole wish list – often totally ridiculous things that they would never really ask for (three TVs, for example!) even though St. Nick doesn’t bring them big gifts. I think it’s just for fun, and they don’t really expect anything; it’s sort of like they just need to express all those wants, no matter how silly. They stick the letters in their stockings on December 5th, and on December 6th, they are magically gone! Personally, I would skip this “tradition” if I could, but every year, they just do it, so I roll with it.

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