Advent wreaths are a way of counting the weeks before Christmas. Lighting a candle for each Sunday before the great feast is a way to shorten the time of expectation for children and adults alike. The candles also symbolize Christ, the Light of the World. If you are an Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Christian, you get to light six candles starting on the Sunday following November 14, the feast day of Saint Philip, the Apostle. The candles are set on the six-pointed Star of David. As you can see, we are already in the second week of the six-week Nativity fast in preparation for the great feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. The white candle in the center will be lit on Christmas Eve. The Nativity fast consists of the two-week St. Philip's fast and the four weeks of advent. After all the fasting, we also get to celebrate twelve days of Christmas.
Advent is the time for story telling. As most of us are not skilled in the art, here are two of our favorite Advent/Christmas story collections:
Joy To The World: Christmas Legends is a collection by Ruth Sawyer, lavishly illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. The six legends in this book are from different countries, beautifully presented by a master storyteller. Each story is preceded by a Christmas carol from the country of the legend. The carols too, are exquisitely beautiful. This book was published in 1966. I bought it at our library book sale and it has a big discarded stamp on the inside cover. How anybody could discard one of the most beautiful books I ever read to my children is a mystery to me. We have been reading these stories over and over again for many years and never get tired of them. I don't know if the author is Catholic but the stories certainly are. Hurry and grab one of the few used copies left.
The World's Christmas: Stories From Many Lands selected by Olive Wyon , published in 1964, is another discarded treasure from our library. It contains stories by famous authors like Selma Lagerlof and Pearl S. Buck along with stories from India and Africa unknown in our country. Again, there are only a few used copies available on amazon. Good luck!
I am adding one brand new picture book: Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing by Amy Wellborn illustrated by Ann Kissane Engelhart. This is a lovely story about the beautiful Italian tradition of having figurines of Baby Jesus blessed by the Holy Father himself.
Here is a book representing the Eastern Christian tradition: Uncle Vova's Tree by Patricia Polacco. I'm sure I don't need to describe the beautifully told and illustrated tales of this famous author. Just one little anecdote from our family: I was fascinated with the paper stars in the book. We made stars just like them for many years mostly from Christmas wrapping paper saved from the year before. We pasted them all over the wall and it looked beautiful.
The book below is not a Christmas book per se but still makes great reading for advent.
Have a blessed Advent!