Family & Community Traditions
- A short liturgy of readings for individuals and families here
- Prayers for Advent here
- A pdf Prayer Service here
The Jesse Tree
The earliest examples of artistic representations of the Tree of Jesse come from the 11th century. It was used as a way to tell the story of Jesus’ lineage, and the stories of many of his ancestors, through visual & tactile art. At some point, a tradition arose in which families & communities would prepare themselves for Christmas by creating their own Jesse tree, accompanied with readings and devotions. This rich tradition offers a wonderful way to involve children in Advent.
- Here for a short summary of the Jesse Tree, and suggested readings
- Here for family devotions
- Here for cutouts to make the ornaments
- Here for a book.
This German Lutheran tradition was begun in the 19th century when a pioneering urban missionary, Johann Wichern, to help the children in his mission school anticipate Christmas. Since its creation, the Advent wreath is now ubiquitous among denominations. The most common way of celebrating today begins with a wreath, four candles set on the perimeter of a wreath (three purple, one pink), and a white candle in the middle. One candle on the perimeter is lit for each new week of Advent, and finally, the middle candle is lit at Christmas.
- Here for instructions on how to make an Advent wreath.
- Here for a good summary of the Advent wreath and candles.
Another German Lutheran tradition known as the Advent calendar has spread to all corners of Christianity. Most of these calendars run from December 1 through December 24, and have little windows which you can open, in order to get a new piece of chocolate. Growing up, this was my favorite Advent tradition because it involved getting chocolate each day in December up through Christmas Eve, at which point Christmas day provided an opportunity to (a) gorge and get sick of chocolate temporarily, (b) horde chocolate for the remainder of the month, or (c) both. If I recall, I usually opted for (c). Wikipedia offers a nice summary of the tradition here.
Advent Evening Services
At SDPC, we have a tradition of celebrating Advent with Sunday evening services of Lessons & Carols. They are intimate gatherings, led by a different small group each week, in which traditional carols & hymns are set alongside readings, prayers, and a short meditation. Their times are:
1st Advent - Sun, 11/29 @ 6-7pm
2nd Advent - Sun, 12/6 @ 6-7pm
3rd Advent - Sun, 12/13 @ 6-7pm
4th Advent - Sun, 12/20 @ 6-7pm
Christmas Eve - Thur, 12/24 @ 7-8pm
Other Advent Traditions
The following are fun family traditions which probably will not help your family break any cycles of consumerism or tooth decay, but which are nevertheless a remnant from past ages.
My family celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, where you could leave your boot by the bedroom door for a nice assortment of candy, and the occasional toothbrush.
Christkindlmarkt originated the somewhere in regions of lower Germany, Austria, and Switzerland during the 14th & 15th centuries. Each year, the town square is turned into a great big market full of hearty Teutonic street food and unique shops. There are usually tree-lighting traditions and other fun things for the family.