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Advent Customs
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How do I make an Advent wreath?
How do I make a Jesse tree?
What are “posadas”?

Catholics observe special customs during the season of Advent, which include lighting an Advent wreath and making a Jesse tree. Learn more about these customs and the history of the Advent wreath and Jesse tree.

How do I make an Advent wreath?

The Advent wreath is one of our most popular Advent traditions. Its origin is in pre-Christian Germany and Scandinavia where the people gathered to celebrate the return of the sun after the winter solstice. The circular wreath made of evergreens with four candles interspersed represented the circle of the year and the life that endures through the winter. As the days grew longer, people lit candles to offer thanks to the "sun god" for the light. For us, the lighting of the Advent candles represents the promise of the coming of Jesus, the light of the world.

To make an Advent wreath, begin with a Styrofoam circle, available at craft shops, and cut four evenly spaced holes into which you will place the four candles. Traditionally there are three purple candles and one rose candle (for the third Sunday), but blue candles can also be used. Purple reminds us to turn our hearts toward God; rose is a color of joy. Place fresh evergreen branches over the Styrofoam. Replace them when they dry out in order to preserve the symbolism of the vitality of God's love. Encourage children to participate as they are able, by gathering branches, placing the candles and so on.


How do I make a Jesse tree?

This Advent activity is like a family tree, a way to remember Jesus’ ancestors. The tree is named after a man called Jesse, who lived a thousand years before Jesus. He was Jesus’ many-greats-grandfather. This is what the prophet Isaiah had to say about Jesse: ‘A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,/and a branch shall grow out of his roots’ [Isaiah 11:1]. Later Isaiah tells us that the Holy One will come from Jesse and his family. He will be a person of peace and justice. He will be wise and understanding and strong—strong enough to defeat all that is evil.

A Jesse tree includes ornaments that represent Jesus' ancestors: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Noah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Jesse, David, Solomon, Isaiah and Micah, Jonah, Joseph, Mary. Assign everyone a name and, after reading about the person, try to decide on a symbol that could represent them. If possible, try to make the ornament three-dimensional, and include a string on it so that it can be hung. (Adapted from God Is Calling—Leader's Guide.)

What are “posadas”?

The word posada means "shelter" or "lodging." This Advent custom, popular throughout the Spanish-speaking world, reenacts Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and their search for lodging along the way. The ritual lasts for nine days (December 16-24), representing the months of Mary’s pregnancy. A group of people travel from house to house on their route, taking the role of pilgrims seeking lodging. Those inside the homes are innkeepers who refuse them. At the last home all are invited in for prayer and refreshments.


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