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Day 5

Thursday, the 5th day of Advent

Advent Verses

Psalm 16:10 tells us He would rise from the dead and both Mark 16:6 and Acts 2:31 tell us it happened just as foretold.

Jesse Tree

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  - Genesis 9:13

Today we continue with our discussion of sin entering the world and go on to the Flood.  This can be a difficult discussion, but I appreciate today's words from RCA's devotional page - "Even in a sinful world, God still loves us and keeps His promises."  This is a simple, beautiful truth that our children can grasp.

A drawing of a rainbow is a nice ornament for today's verse.  If you are creating your own ornaments, you might enjoy painting a window sun-catcher.  These are usually easy to find and rainbows are a popular design for them.

To Explore

Christmas Cards!
The very first Christmas card originated in England and was sent in 1843.  It was the idea of Sir Henry Cole, who wanted to send greetings and well wishes to friends and family that included an encouragement to care for those in need.  Rather than hand-write so many letters, he commissioned designer John Calcott Horsley to have them printed. 

You can see in this image of the first Christmas Card a happy family toasting to the season.  In the side panels, they are reaching out to those less fortunate with food and clothing. 

Christmas cards soon became a popular custom.  Popular artists included Kate Greenaway, Frances Brundage, and Ellen H. Clapsaddle.  An internet image search for these names reveals beautiful, intricate cards.  The custom was not seen in the United States until 1845.  For 30 years, Americans imported their cards from Europe.  In 1875, the first line of Christmas Cards was published in U.S. by Louis Prang, a German immigrant. 

To view a beautiful gallery of Christmas card images, visit

Christmas Around the World


England has a rich Christmas history, including being the birthplace of Christmas cards.  It is also where we derived our custom of singing Christmas Carols to friends and neighbors, originally known as "Wassailing".  Wassailing had a very different beginning than what it is today but we'll get to that another day. 

The mistletoe originated with the Romans as a symbol of peace.  Enemies that met under the mistletoe set aside their weapons for a temporary truce.  This developed into our custom of kissing under the mistletoe and was first seen as part of the Christmas season in England.

Christmas traditions in the UK are very similar to what is celebrated in the US, with a few exceptions. British children enjoy pulling Christmas crackers found on their plates on Christmas Day.  Crackers are bright paper tubes, twisted at the ends. Children help each other pull on the ends which causes a loud pop or "crack" and reveals the contents of the tubes, usually riddles, trinket toys, and confetti.  Many also contain a party hat that must be worn for the meal. 

Pantomimes are a popular Christmas Eve activity.  You can read about their development here:   Another British tradition is listening to the Queen's Christmas Message, broadcast on Christmas afternoon via radio and television.

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day and is considered a public holiday in the UK.  It is customary to give gifts to tradesmen you encounter on this day, often celebrated now through tipping the postman, trash pick-up, etc. It is also a popular day to raise money for charity.

To celebrate old-style, see

To share Christmas greetings in England, you'll blend in better if you say "Happy Christmas" rather than the American "Merry Christmas".

Hands On (cooking, coloring, creating)

In all honesty, my family enjoys taking several days to celebrate today's theme.  There are so many things to do, this unit can easily fill a week!

Christmas Crackers are a fun craft project.

Christmas Pudding is a distinctly English Christmas fare -

My entire family looks forward to our afternoon of making homemade Christmas cards.   Our favorite cards don't contain any drawings but instead use only construction paper, scissors, and glue.   It is challenging to make tiny details without coloring anything, but we all enjoy cutting out those little touches, such as whiskers for kittens and even curling steam for cut-outs of hot cocoa.  Give it a try!

Some other Christmas card ideas -


A traditional English Christmas song is "I Saw Three Ships". One version is found here:




A Christmas Carol is a classic British Christmas movie, though my favorite version is quite American -

Grown-ups might appreciate some British humor, though the following may not be appropriate for children -


Day 4

Wednesday, the 4th day of Advent

Advent Verses

In the Old Testament, Isaiah 7:14 tells us He will be born of a virgin.
In the New Testament, scripture is fulfilled in Matthew 1:21-23, as an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and mirrors these same words.

Jesse Tree

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.    -Genesis 3:4

And so sin entered the world.  Our verse for today recalls the lie told in the garden.  Though we don't know what kind of fruit it was, a simple drawing of an apple would make a nice ornament for today.  If you are using symbols rather than pictures, you could hang a small fake snake to help remember this part of the story.

To Explore

The Nutracker is a famous Russian ballet that began as a storybook entitled The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T. Hoffmann.  This version was never actually intended for children, though the ballet has become a classic children's Christmas tale.  It evolved from story to play to ballet, set to the music of Tchaikovsky. 

A history of the handy, yet beautiful tool known as the nutcracker -

Lesson plans on The Nutcracker

Nutcracker Coloring Pages

Nutcracker Coloring Page

Christmas Around the World

Russian Christmas contains an interesting history including the banning of celebrations, a different celebration date, and a 40 day advent season!

To read about Russia's rich history and traditions, visit:

Historically, St. Nicholas is dear to Russia, but not as a Santa Claus figure.  Russians instead look forward to a figure known as Father Frost.  St. Nicholas was brought to Russia in the days of Vladimir the Great and even now, Nikolai is one of the most popular boy names in Russia.  For more on St. Nicholas in Russia, see

The Tale of Babushka is perhaps more popular in the western world than in Russia, but nonetheless, it is a great Russian Christmas Folktale -

To wish a Merry Christmas in Russian, say "'S Rozhdestvom khristovym!"  or simply "S Rozhdestvom!", emphasizing the last syllable.

Hands On (cooking, coloring, creating)

Make a nutcracker from a potato chip can -
Make a nutcracker from clay pots -
Want to make one like the pros? -

Color a Nutcracker online -
Print Nutrcracker puppets -
Print Nutrcracker coloring pages -


Be sure to visit to listen to The Nutcracker Suite.




The Nutcracker ballet, with Baryshnikov


An animated version

Efficient Google Search

 I thought I was pretty handy with Google, but I found this great chart for performing google searches and I can't believe all the features available to make hunting down info even easier!

It contains some other great tips, such as keyboard shortcuts. I discovered these a couple years ago and they make work on the computer MUCH easier. Take a peek! It has inspired me to add computer science to our lesson plans. I'll be including this chart in our new class!

Day 3

Advent Verses

Also known as the Hope candle, we continue throughout the week to read prophecies from the Old Testament and revel in their fulfillment.  We are not only celebrating the birth of a baby.  We are celebrating that this baby grew to be a man who laid down His life as a sacrifice for our sins and that through His death and resurrection, we have access to eternal life with Him.  Without this gift, we would have no hope. We also look with hope to the fulfillment of His promise of a second-coming and rejoice that He always keeps His promises!

Isaiah 61:1 tells us He would preach good news and Luke 4:14-21 confirms this fulfillment.

Jesse Tree 

Today, we go back to the beginning.  Our verse is Genesis 1:1

 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Today's ornament can represent this verse with a drawing of the earth.  If you are hanging symbols rather than drawings, you could decorate a bouncy-ball with paint, marker, or painted paper mache to look like a miniature earth.  Tack a string into the rubber ball with a push-pin to hang from your Jesse Tree.

Verses to Know

I encourage the kids to memorize a verse each day with the Jesse Tree readings.  We’ve never successfully memorized them all, but they are surprised each year how quickly the verses come back to them.  The very purpose of the Jesse Tree is to tell the story of the gospel from beginning to end and what better way than with scripture our hearts?  Today’s verse is a promise of things to come.  A promise of Christ to come:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.    - Isaiah 11:1

Jesse was father to David, who was in the lineage of Christ.  Today’s verse is not chronological.  Today we learn that God is sovereign and has always known what His plans would be.  Tomorrow, we begin with creation and work our way forward.

Downloadable Ornaments

Homeschool In The Woods has an amazing unit study called History of Holidays, which includes beautiful Jesse Tree ornaments to print and color.  If you have ever used anything from Homeschool In The Woods, you know that the quality here is amazing.  This set is not free, but very affordable, especially when you consider that it covers holidays year round, not just for Christmas.

To Explore

The Advent Calendar
Advent calendars have been around for over a hundred years as a fun way to count down to Christmas Day.  The modern Advent Calendar comes in many shapes and sizes ranging from beautifully ornate to amazingly simple.  Styles range from gold guild to toilet paper rolls wrapped in paper.  Chocolate Advent Calendars are a fun twist!   A brief history can be found here:

Christmas Around the World


We owe many of our modern Christmas celebrations to the Germans, who have celebrated Christmas with it’s Christian purpose and family focus probably longer than anyone in the world.  Christmas celebrations were actually banned for a long time in Christian communities because of their wild, pagan celebrations.  Even up to the time of our American Revolution, Christmas was not commonly celebrated by the devout.  When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Germany, customs began to change.  England began to adopt the family-friendly Christmas customs of Germany and the trend spread.

An interesting German Epiphany tradition is to mark three letters with chalk over doorways for protection: C, M, and B; standing for the “Three Kings” Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.  However, even many Germans might be surprised to discover that these three letters originated with the Latin phrase for “Christ bless this house” — “Christus mansionem benedicat”.

Some German children believe it is the Christ child and not Santa who “brings gifts”.  Our name for Kris Kringle likely originated with the German term “Christkindl”, meaning ‘Christ Child’.

German Traditions
German Christmas Words -
German Spritzgeback Cookies -
German Liebesgruebchen (Love Dimple Cookies)
German roots to our modern Christmas -
German Culture Site (discussing Advent) -

Hands On (cooking, coloring, creating)

Today would be a great time to create your own Advent Calendar!  There are so many different versions out there – it is amazing!  Here are just a few:

Envelopes and paper clips -
Advent Book -
Jan Brett downloadable -
List of many more ideas -
Advent Jar -
Toilet Paper Cups -
Felt Pockets -
Fabric Envelopes -
An amazing collection of homemade ideas
Small, adorable Advent houses to print and fold

Online Advent Countdown Calendars –

This year, my family is just going to use a sticker-calendar (the first link shown.)  Here are samples of other calendars that may be purchased.  Perhaps they will spark your imagination and you will be able to design your own. Be sure to share a link with us here; we'd love to see what you come up with.


A well known German Christmas song is Ave Maria, composed by Franz Schubert in 1826.  Schubert originally intended the lyrics to be an excerpt from The Lady of the Lake, but over time the words were substituted with the Latin text of the traditional Ave Maria prayer.

The German lyrics:



Frost Bite


Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby is a great display of holiday countdown!

Day 2

Monday, the 2nd day of advent:

Jesse Tree

Isaiah 11:1 "A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots."

A Jesse Tree is a marvelous way to learn and to remember the Old Testament and God's faithfulness as we look at how it all directs us to the glorious revelation of Christ.

The first day of Jesse Tree celebrations begins with choosing the tree.  There are many ways to make a Jesse Tree, the simplest being to tack a large green triangle to the back of a door and add ornaments daily.  This could be done with velcro, hooks, or buttons and does not need to be complicated to be treasured.

My family prefers to add Jesse Tree ornaments and verses on weekdays only, during our regular school hours.  Our Jesse Tree decor isn't traditional, but it works fine; we use a tree branch and suspend it horizontally on the wall, hanging ornaments with string, but many Jesse Trees are vertical and are "planted" in a bucket, pot, or vase. 

Our first day for the Jesse Tree begins with hunting down the perfect branch.  We like one with a nice curve to it and lots of tiny branches for hanging our ribbons.  I use the removable 3M or Scotch hooks.  These are flexible, so they hold all shapes of tree branches and allow them to stick out from the wall a bit.  Also, they leave zero residue when it comes time to take down our “tree”. 

To Explore:  The Advent Wreath
The Advent wreath’s predecessor was rooted in paganism as Scandinavian peoples celebrated Saturnalia by lighting candles in a wheel made from evergreen branches.  During long, dark winters the people looked at the evergreen as a symbol of hope of life and the return of the sun.  

As Vikings converted to Christianity, these fierce people embraced their new faith with exuberance.  The hardy evergreen came to represent eternal life rather than spring.  A single candle was lighted to represent the Christ, the light of the world.  

Christmas Around the World: Let’s learn about Norway!  

Hands On (cooking, coloring, creating)

Peppernuts, also known as Pfefferneusse
1/2 cup molasses 
1/2 cup butter 
1 egg, beaten 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup white sugar 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground ginger 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
1 pinch salt 1 pinch ground black pepper 
1/3 cup powdered sugar 

1. Heat molasses with butter, stirring until melted. Let sit to cool. Stir egg into molasses mixture. 
2. Mix dry ingredients, except powdered sugar. Add to molasses and butter gradually. Blend thoroughly. 
3. Roll into small balls. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar. 

Here is an accompanying craft for Jan Brett's Christmas Trolls book. 




First Sunday of Advent

The Prophecy Candle

The prophecy candle is a call to listen.  Advent is a season of hope and expectancy, made deep and rich with the history of God’s word and His sovereignty.  The prophecy candle urges us to recall the prophecies of old and celebrate their fulfillment.  And just as He was prophesied to enter the world as a baby and then to die, He was also prophesied to come again.  God knew what He was doing then…and He knows what He’s doing now.

Advent Reading

Our family has tried different books through the years, but Jotham's Journey is the undisputed favorite, as well as its two sequels. My family decided this year to stop trying other books and to just take turns rereading the Jotham Series each year.  The story follows young Jotham who is separated from his family and experiences harrowing adventures, ultimately arriving in Bethlehem.  There are a few brief scenes that were intense for my younger children, but I simply reworded a line or two and went on when they were that age.  The story is broken down into sections to last throughout advent.  At the end of each section are verses for Advent and thoughts to ponder.  I cannot recommend it highly enough. This series of books gives us three years of stories to follow and everyone is anxious to start the rotation again the fourth year. We are going through the books for the third time now and no one is even close to being tired of them.

If you are unable to find these books, here are some sources for Advent verses for each night:

Also, some Jesse Tree books provide excellent devotions that can be read during your family’s Advent reading time. My family has enjoyed all three of these: 


Here are some devotions you can view :

Or you can make an entire study from these sources:

A beautiful lesson in Advent from Homeschool in the Woods -

Inductive Advent studies -

Advent Verses

Jesus said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’” Luke 24:44 (NIV)

The Old Testament contains many prophecies foretelling the coming of Christ.  Many interpreters number them in the hundreds.  As we spend this season looking at those prophecies fulfilled, let us look with anticipation to the fulfilling of more to come.

Jesse Tree

My family likes to save Jesse Tree celebrations for weekday mornings, so this section will be empty during weekends.  But for preparation, see the books linked above. Also, for extra Jesse Tree activities, our favorite resource has been Homeschool In The Wood's History of Holidays. It includes much more than Christmas, but the artwork in the Jesse Tree ornaments is truly beautiful and very fun for the kids to create their own ornaments while reading the accompanying verses. The price is worth it just for the December holidays, but it includes an entire year's worth of excellent activities. 


O Come, O Come Emmanuel is a favorite advent hymn.  For a brief history and to hear the tune, visit

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,

Who orderest all things mightily;

To us the path of knowledge show,

And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,

And open wide our heavenly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height

In ancient times once gave the law

In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,

An ensign of Thy people be;

Before Thee rulers silent fall;

All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind;

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,

And be Thyself our King of Peace.

During weekdays, I will share additional activities and suggestions, but these are omitted during weekends since most families will spend this time in worship.

The Tree

If we have a leisurely Thanksgiving weekend, my family likes to take a few days to decorate the tree. For some reason, my kids love to take turns decorating the tree with their own unique style. My geek-son decorates with computer parts, his brother decorates with his tiny stuffed animals, and my daughters decorate with ribbons and what-nots. Each tree design is photographed and then we do the real decorating.

At first, it was hard for me to sit back and let the kids decorate in their asymmetrical, unbalanced fashion. I used to sit on my hands and try offering up suggestions. Now, I string the lights and let everyone have at it while I offer up only smiles and compliments. How did I get over my perfectionist streak?

I didn’t.

I wait until they’re in bed and then I straighten it. Not so much that they notice it the next morning, but enough to make me feel better. Memories of decorating for Christmas are more pleasant than memories of mom and her OCD.

Usually, the decorating begins on Friday afternoons and culminates with a cold plate of summer sausage, cheeses, olives, etc. Daddy is working overtime this Black Friday, so we're all giddy with anticipation as we prepare for our Decorating Night on Saturday night. The kids were drooling as I tucked them in, far too excited about gherkin pickles than any child should ever be.

Preparing for Advent

We have a strict "No Christmas Before Thanksgiving" rule in our house, but I have to sneak a little thought and planning in beforehand. The first day of Advent in 2011 begins SundayNovember 27, 2011.  In case you're looking to prepare meaningful crafts, traditions, and activities for your family, I thought I'd break our pre-Thanksgiving rule to share our family favorites with you.

You might be asking "What is advent?" Well, the word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means "coming".  During the Christmas season, we celebrate that Christ came to earth as our Saviour and we celebrate that He is coming again.

There are no rules written in stone for how you must celebrate Advent.  It is a precious time that will be made unique by your own family.  My family began celebrating Advent years ago, before our first child was a year old.  We were young parents exploring how we wanted to establish our own traditions.  We knew that we didn't want to raise our children with a typical Santa Claus Consumerism holiday.  We wanted to pause and savor the true meaning of Christmas.  We ran across an article by Focus on the Family that introduced us to the idea of Advent, and we quickly adopted the tradition.

As time went on and our children grew, we realized the season was still rushing by us too quickly.  I discovered The Teaching Mom's Advent Calendar and we began a new tradition that we call Christmas School.  Our regular homeschool studies stop for Advent and we fill our days with a new style of learning.  We've incorporated many different traditions through the years and I'll happily share them with you here in the upcoming weeks. 

These ideas are meant to help savor the season, not to add to the rush.  I'll share more ideas than any one family could do in one season, so feel free to pick and choose your favorites.  Because my family does most of our activities during weekdays, the weekends won't share as many activities as weekdays.  If you are doing activities primarily on weekends, you'll want to borrow from other days.  

As much as we love the activities that we've chosen, I would still love to hear about your holiday celebrations! Please share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions!

Now, let's get started!

Some excellent books you might enjoy while preparing for Advent include:

Great websites include:
Though it isn't necessary, an Advent wreath is a beautiful addition to your advent celebration.  My family uses a cheap, simple wreath with short candle holders inserted from the bottom.  We place taper candles into the holders through the top and then place a white pillar candle in the middle.

The Basics

The Wreath:

Here are some websites for wreath ideas:

Traditionally the candles include 3 purple, 1 pink, and a white center candle, but these aren't always easy to find and variations are perfectly acceptable.  Blue is a nice replacement for purple.  My family often uses burgundy candles. We prefer to save the candle lighting until just before bed so that we can enjoy their beautiful glow in the dark evening.  We have found that it works best to not keep them lit more than 5 minutes per night to avoid them burning down before Christmas gets here. We gather together in the family room for our Advent reading and then light the candles as we read the verse and/or pray.  Some families prefer to only light the candles on Sundays for Advent Readings.

Descriptions of each candle's name and meaning can be found here: