Celebrating Advent with my second graders is a combination of traditional elements—such as praying around an Advent wreath—along with visits from Fidelis, our Advent Angel, and performing Advent acts of kindness.
We start sessions with a short prayer service around the Advent wreath on our prayer table. The prayer service includes a Scripture reading, intercessions, and singing, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Since we can’t use lit candles, we tape a paper cutout of a flame to the candles.
Fidelis, our Advent Angel, is a Catholic version of the Elf on the Shelf. Instead of a naughty trickster who spies on children to report back to Santa, our Advent Angel brings positive messages about the meaning of Advent. I use a rustic angel statue that is about 10 inches tall that I bought at a thrift store. The angel brings a note for us rolled up like a scroll and tied with a gold ribbon. For the first week of Advent, I have someone hide our angel outside our classroom door after class has started. When I send a child down to the office on an errand, he or she discovers the angel. (Children might not notice it, so make sure it’s placed somewhere children can’t miss it.) In the following weeks, I hide the angel in the room, and the children look for it at the start of the session.
The first letter the angel delivers is an introduction to Advent, angels’ roles as God’s messengers, and guardian angels. I print the notes in a fancy font on special paper (Last year the paper looked like blue sky with clouds.) and sign them, “Fidelis, Advent Angel First Class.” Without prompting, one of the children usually says, “Oh, this is like the elf,” and that sets the stage for how they interact with the angel and the angel’s messages. There is quite a bit of excitement each week to see what the angel’s note tells us.
During the second week of Advent, Fidelis brings a small gift: a holy card for each child and a copy of the Guardian Angel Prayer. A note with the gift reminds the children that their guardian angels are always with them to protect and guide them. It also asks the children to pray the Guardian Angel Prayer every day and get to know their guardian angels. During the third week of Advent, Fidelis delivers a message reminding the children about the role of angels in the Annunciation and the Nativity. This is usually the last class before Christmas break, and since we covered the Annunciation in October, the message is mostly about the Nativity.
At the beginning of Advent, I pass out a sheet of paper with a grid, and within each square is an act of kindness, such as: be nice to someone you do not like a lot; hug everyone in your family today; say a prayer for all the hungry people in the world. Some of the ideas come from Loyola Press’ Children’s Advent Calendar. I ask the children to complete as many as they can during Advent. When they complete an activity, they color that square purple. Throughout Advent, Fidelis, our Advent Angel, delivers messages that praise these Advent acts of kindness and encourages the children to continue doing them.
How do you celebrate Advent in your class?
For more Advent ideas, including the e-mail series Sacred Advent, visit Advent Resources from Loyola Press.