The Wandering Wise Men and Other Advent Traditions

Wandering Wise Men - photo provided by Barb Gilman

Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier every year. I am thankful that my school waits to celebrate Christmas, opting for a hearty Advent celebration instead. My classroom gets into the Advent celebration by including many fun traditions and service projects revolving around Advent.

My classroom has an Advent wreath, and we use the Loyola Press Children’s Advent Calendar. Our school also has an all-school Advent wreath prayer service where we sing and pray together.

On December 6 all the classes celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas. Our kindergarten and first-grade classrooms celebrate this day by placing their shoes outside of their classrooms after they arrive in the morning. After their first class, the students check their shoes and find small candies and a candy cane left by St. Nicholas’s helper. In my third-grade classroom, we celebrate St. Nicholas in a more low-key way. Each student receives a candy cane and enjoys it while I read from The Legend of the Candy Cane.

Wandering Wise Men - photo provided by Barb Gilman

The past few years, I’ve noticed many of my students talking about the Elf on the Shelf. I thought of a fun alternate activity that reflects our faith: “The Wandering Wise Men!” Each morning, I secretly place three figurines of the Magi somewhere in my classroom. When the students arrive, they search for the three Wise Men (and sometimes they will find a small gift too). On the last class before our Christmas break, I also hide a figurine of the baby Jesus. After the children have found all the Wise Men and the baby Jesus, I tell them the story of the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1–15) and share with them the popular saying, “Wise men still seek him.” After my students have returned from our Christmas break, I always celebrate Epiphany with them by reading one of my favorite stories, The Fourth Wise Man. We have a lively discussion; every year, at least one student asks if there really was a fourth Wise Man!

The traditions of Advent are fun and add to the excitement that is to come with the birth of Jesus. How do you celebrate Advent in your classroom? What traditions do you share with your students?


Remember to use the Advent lessons in the Special Seasons and Lessons section of Christ Our Life.

About Barb Gilman 37 Articles

Barb Gilman is a wife, mother, and third-grade Catholic school teacher. She is the winner of the 2014 NCEA Distinguished Teacher Award for the Plains States. Active on social media, @BarbinNebraska is the co-organizer of the #CatholicEdChat on Twitter.

6 Comments on The Wandering Wise Men and Other Advent Traditions

  1. This year, as a catechist, I am trying an “Advent Angel” with my classes with the same sort of setup as your “Wandering Wisemen”. I am challenged as to how to (1) introduce this to them, as they all know the Elf but the Angel is unknown (2) how to get them to believe in the ‘magic’ and not think “Oh, Mrs. Coleman you just hid this in the room before we got here.” How did you get the kids onboard? On the first day of the Wise Men’s visit, how did the children know to look for the Wise Men? (I had someone leave the angel, with its introductory note, outside our classroom door after class started. 5 Kids went out/back to the bathroom and stepped around the angel!!! Near the end of class my aide and I feigned that we heard a knock at the door (which was open at the time) and retrieved our poor ignored angel visitor.

    • Thanks Cindy for the question. I just decided to tell the students that I hide it every morning. With 3rd graders getting to the age of questioning Santa, I was afraid some students would spill the beans about Santa if I used ‘magic’. It still is fun for them!

  2. I found a cool Elf on the Shelf game called Star From Afar. You set up a Nativity set, and each each night you hide the star (start out as far away from the Nativity as possible, and get closer each night). When the kids find it, you put the Three Wise Men there for the rest of the day and you read a scripture verse from a book that comes with the set. You repeat this every night until Christmas Eve, and then the star goes right above the Nativity. I just started it this Advent, but so far my kids really enjoy it!

  3. It’s hard to do daily Advent activities when you met with your CCD class only once a week. My first grade class meets on Saturday mornings, and classes are held in the church’s Catholic school. We made small felt Advent wreaths with kits I got from a company. We are “lighting” small LED purple and rose candles every Saturday, but I’m bummed that the kids won’t get to see the whole wreath lit up. (Our last class for 2017 is Dec. 16th)

    • Veronica, what a beautiful craft! If you have your students’ parents’ email addresses, you could take a shot of your lit up Advent Wreath and email the picture of the Advent Wreath to your students. It would be a fun way to connect with them over Christmas.

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