Family Advent Traditions (+ DIY Wreath & Calendars)

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I constantly strive to make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable. In an effort to pare down on the holiday craziness, I vowed to give experiences instead of stuff whenever possible. I’ll give only a couple of high-quality gifts instead of lots of cheap ones that break the next day. This lessens the focus on gifts and instead places it on the meaning of Christmas and time together as a family.

Enter Advent…

(Note: If Advent isn’t something your family participates in, this post may not be for you. Instead, you might prefer these stocking stuffer ideas or creative ways to be generous this year.)

What Is Advent?

Advent is the four-week period before Christmas. It’s a time for Christians to reflect on the meaning behind this holiday. Similar to Lent, it’s a time of preparation. The Advent season celebrates the birth of Jesus and anticipates the second coming of Christ.

Different denominations from the Catholic church to Lutheran, to Protestants all celebrate the season of advent. Things like Advent calendars have even become a popular activity with non-religious families.

You wouldn’t know it from the stores, but the Christmas season actually STARTS on Christmas, not ends. In fact, Christmas Day is the end of Advent and the beginning of the actual Christmas season. It also marks the start of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” which ends on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.

Why Celebrate Advent Traditions?

For us, Advent is a key time of reflection, preparation, and family time. The significance of this season is often marked by calendars and lighting candles on the Advent wreath. These Advent customs help us focus on the real meaning of the Christmas feast (more on these below). And a general waiting, waiting, waiting in anticipation for the excitement of Christmas.

Want to learn more about the weeks of Advent or begin celebrating it in your home? Here are some ideas from our own family traditions to get you started!

Advent Wreath

Advent wreaths have been around in some form for hundreds of years. They likely started in pre-Christian Germany but were later modified and adopted by both the Lutheran and Catholic churches.

A typical Advent wreath involves a greenery wreath with four Advent candles (three purple, one rose). On the first Sunday of Advent, the purple candle is lit and each Sunday another candle is lit. The purple candles are reminders of the prayer, penance, preparatory sacrifices, and good works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. This one represents a time of rejoicing because it marks the midpoint of Advent.

Some newer wreath traditions include a fifth candle or white candle at the center. This Christ candle represents the messiah Jesus Christ.

How to Make an Advent Wreath at Home

I decided early on to make our Advent wreath from scratch (anyone surprised?). Not only to save money but also because I’m not a fan of most candles and wanted to use beeswax candles instead. I also didn’t love the idea of a wreath that would sit in the attic the rest of the year and not have a purpose. So I decided to make a non-toxic, reusable Advent wreath.

Side note: Years ago I had an Advent wreath with candles that I’d owned for years. When it got stored in the attic, all the candles melted one summer and caused a HUGE mess!

Turns out, there aren’t really any search results that help with that. So I looked around at the things I already had in the house. I love the final product and you might already have all the supplies lying around your house like I did!

5 from 2 votes

DIY Advent Wreath

This simple Advent wreath takes only a few minutes to make. You can disassemble it after Advent and use it for other purposes until the season rolls around again.
Prep Time10 minutes
Author: Katie Wells



  • Place the mason jars on the plate or tray. Don't worry too much about it being decorative: the evergreen pieces will cover most of it.
  • Put a beeswax candle inside each mason jar
  • Tie a piece of ribbon around each jar to denote which color candle it is.
  • Clip some evergreen pieces and pine cones and place them around the candles on the plate/tray.
  • Violà, you have an advent wreath!


You can also use colored twine instead of the ribbon for a more rustic look.

If your family likes doing crafts together, you may also enjoy putting together a DIY Christmas Garland to Spruce up Your Home.

Advent Calendar

Advent calendars are a fun way to count down the days until Christmas. There are countless variations and styles (including some themed!). Often, there is a little treat that corresponds with each day. There are store-bought options too, like these.

But we prefer a handmade yearly calendar. Our handmade advent calendar encourages a spirit of giving and kindness.

We have a hanging cloth wall calendar with a small envelope pinned to it for each day of Advent. Inside each envelope is a card with a small good deed or act of kindness we can all do that day. This helps all of us keep the focus on giving rather than receiving. I used this DIY tutorial as a template and printed cards with acts of kindness to go in each mini envelope.

Advent Calendar

Nativity Set (or Creche)

In our family, the nativity scene (also called a creche) is a special reminder of the reason we celebrate Christmas. It’s a visual representation of the birth of Christ and the Christmas story. The nativities feature Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in the manger, with some shepherds and animals. Some sets have angels, wise men, and other Bethlehem visitors. We have several that we put out at the beginning of Advent each year including:

  • The Kid Set: We’ve pretty much always had babies and toddlers in the house. The grandparents got them an unbreakable nativity set one year. It’s great for little ones who want to be hands-on.
  • Fontanini: We have an ever-growing set of Fontanini nativity set figures. We add one piece per year. I love these because they’re indestructible and look pretty realistic too.
  • Willow Tree: This is another set we have in our home. I love the simple look and it goes in the middle of our dining room table during this part of the year.

Advent Traditions: Christmas Angel

Some people do Elf on the Shelf, and we do the Christmas Angel! You can find any stuffed angel and it acts as a prop to get kids (and parents!) thinking about what acts of kindness to do for others. Ours leaves notes for the kids and encourages them to do something kind for someone. It also gives them ideas on how to be kind. Sometimes, the angel leaves some kindness along the way with chocolates or little gifts for the kids.

Advent Books for Kids

These are fantastic children’s read-aloud books for Advent the whole family will enjoy!

A Not-So-Merry Tradition: The Krampus!

Family traditions happen in funny ways. This Advent post wouldn’t tell the whole story of our Advent traditions unless it included: The Krampus!

Never heard of it?

Me neither until I heard the stories of this well-known German Advent tradition.

The Krampus is a rather frightening half-man, half-goat figure. He’s well known throughout Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. The story goes that Krampus travels with Saint Nicholas, leaving coal for naughty children or scaring them into behaving. The Eve of Saint Nicholas’ Day is even called Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, in Austria and some other parts of Europe.

While the Krampus is no Christmas angel, it’s a story that stuck with my kids. They have fun hearing it each Advent to heighten the suspense before we celebrate St. Nicholas’s Feast Day on December 6th. Hear a fun, light-hearted version of the Krampus story here.

Other Advent and Christmas Traditions

  • Feast of the 7 Fishes – Every Christmas Eve our family celebrates the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The kids and I prepare seven different types of seafood (lots of small courses). You don’t have to start with all seven, but we always enjoy this tradition!
  • Christmas Tree – Most families (including ours!) set up a Christmas tree every year. This tradition likely started in Germany and it’s been going on for hundreds of years.
  • Devotional – Your family can do a daily devotional if that’s your thing. The Old Testament book of Isaiah tells of the coming of Jesus, and of course, there are plenty of readings in the New Testament on the Christmas story.
  • St. Nicholas Day – Our family celebrates St. Nicholas Day every December 6th. St. Nick was the inspiration for the modern-day Santa Claus. The kids set out a shoe for “St. Nicholas” to fill with some healthy treats in honor of the day, and we focus on acts of kindness.
  • Caroling – Go around your neighborhood, care homes, or hospitals (with permission) and spread cheer with Christmas carols.

Does your family celebrate Advent? What are some of your traditions?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


24 responses to “Family Advent Traditions (+ DIY Wreath & Calendars)”

  1. krishna Avatar

    Love the festive ideas! Creating traditions with DIY wreaths and calendars adds warmth and joy to the holiday season.

  2. KATHY Avatar

    5 stars
    I have always wanted to do some kind of advent wreath in my home, but am not at all crafty and was daunted by the materials lists, instructions, and cost of making my own.
    Thanks to you, I have found something very doable! I have all the materials at hand, it won’t cost me anything, and will be easy to assemble.
    I’m really excited to put this together this week to be ready for the beautiful Advent season!
    Thank you so much!

  3. Jeanne Beebe Avatar
    Jeanne Beebe

    5 stars
    I have followed you for years, and I’ve never been so pleased to read any of your posts as THIS ONE! Of course, you have many awesome recipes that I use almost daily, but I always wondered about your spiritual side. I’m thankful for this post and for your courage in telling your own story in this way. LOVE IT!

  4. Crystal Avatar

    I like having a wreath I can use year after year and not have to buy a new one every time. I think I would use an artificial wreath and LED taper candles. I don’t know how to take care of real candles, so this measure is more for safety. I like the idea of the Fontanini 7.5″ nativity scene. However, I cannot afford the expense right now. $50 here, $144 there; they are very expensive once you add up the costs of all the pieces you need. Christians also celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8th, something you probably did not think of. It’s a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church, meaning Catholics are required to attend Mass that day.

  5. Marla Avatar

    I immediately noticed the same thing and am glad you said something. It’s too bad people live so deeply in the fear of man that they cannot utter the name of Jesus Christ even in a simple blog post.

  6. Emily Avatar

    Love this post!!! My sisters studied abroad in Austria in college, too!
    Thanks so much!! 🙂

  7. Jody Avatar

    I enjoyed reading about your Christmas traditions. In our home we always set up a nativity scene and we observed Advent by reading scripture or special Advent devotions, singing Christmas songs, and lighting candles almost every night up until Christmas day. We also celebrated St. Nick’s Day on Dec. 6th. I found the chocolate letters, a Dutch custom, an initial for each of the children’s names and St. Nick brought them.

    I’m now giving special ornaments to each of our 9 grandkids for the Xmas trees.

  8. Lindsay LaRowe Avatar
    Lindsay LaRowe

    Thank you! I love the Christmas angel! I was struggling with the idea of the elf on the shelf since it’s geared so much toward behavior and feels negative to me. I think we will use the elf we were gifted and put some wings on it and a halo!
    Thank you!

  9. Korie Avatar

    This year we are starting the Star from Afar as my older kids no longer believe in the magic of the Elf on the Shelf (thank goodness).
    It starts with a nativity scene. The parent starts by placing the star in the far end of the house. The kids each select a character, usually the wise men. Each night the parent moves it. It is not a secret the parent moves it so don’t fret if you forget. The kids move there characters to the star each day. Each day the star gets closer to the nativity and so do their characters. There is a great little story book too.

    1. Jody Avatar

      I love this idea. I’m going to share it with my kids and their families. Thank you.

  10. Teresa Avatar

    Katie; wonderful post. Really like that You go against the grain and not fall into the mass media commercialism of Christmas. I was looking to get some decorations for our new home. So glad I came across Your post and decided to make the Advent wreath. Me and my children had so much fun making it; coloring twine, gathering evergreens and pine cones in the forest. At the same time it was/is a great learning experience about the Advent season. Now we just need to get matches. 🙂

  11. Mary Avatar

    Thanks so much for sharing how your family celebrates this holy season! We celebrate in many if not all of the same ways, using Advent as a season of preparation! My husband and I both come from families of 11 and now have 4 of our own children. As they grow I follow your blog and am always finding new, healthy ways to celebrate our long time family traditions! Thanks so much for all you do; we absolutely love your podcast and I await your new episodes with much anticipation each week! I know how much work it is, but your passion is so encouraging and we are constantly looking for ways to make our kids lives mess toxic so THANK YOU!!! Have a blessed advent and a Merry Christmas!

  12. Vince Avatar

    I love your information here. It’s fascinating how much traditions differ. Advent is not something that I’d ever focused on in my family before, although I’ve heard the term countless times over the year.

  13. Susan Avatar

    According to the veracity & authority of Scripture (the Bible), where the foundations of the authentic Christian faith are found. Jesus Christ, the son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and not by “Insemination”.

    I’m sorry you felt you had to criticize those who were sharing their family traditions, which is what this blog was about.
    Katie asked…Your turn! I’d love to hear if your family does anything during Advent and what traditions you have … share below!

    I think it’s wonderful for families and parents to make the experience of the birth of Christ as full and rich as it can be. It is a Holy Season, and the more we can share of God’s love with our children, the more equipped they will be to live in this world that tries so hard to exterminate Christ. The world could use more love and kindness, and the children more Truth and understanding of those who followed the Lord Jesus who came to earth to teach us how to live.

  14. Annmarie Avatar

    Great article, Katie! We also make an Advent Wreath & light it each week. I also love to take the kids to see A Christmas Carol every year! It is a tradition started by my friend’s mom when I was younger. She took all the kids in the neighborhood plus her own (12!). So many find memories of that! We also celebrate St. Nick’s Day & yes the story is true! St. Nick secretly left gold so the poor girls could have dowries to find husbands!!

  15. Geretta Ball Avatar
    Geretta Ball

    It’s really nice hearing your Christmas traditions. I grew up with the center of Christmas on the Creche also. It’s such a great memory and it always felt larger than life! When your older you look back and see that it wasn’t that beautiful but at the time we were in awe. With the light behind the angel at the top of the manger. It’s a very special memory and one I hope I’ve passed to my kids and their kids! Thanks for sharing, love your blog and Merry Christmas to you and yours! A Blessed Net Year too!

  16. Bradford Speck Avatar
    Bradford Speck

    It’s odd that you wrote about”the meaning of Christmas” in your article, yet other than an out of focus glimpse of some figurines depicting (I assume) Joseph, Mary & the baby Jesus, the rest of the article missed the REAL meaning of Christmas altogether.
    “Christmas” is based on the miraculous Insemination of Mary & the following birth of the Christ (Saviour) child, as recorded in the Word of God (the Bible), where all factual information about the one true living God, & God the Son originated.
    All the stories & traditions about Saint this one & Saint that one, warm & fuzzy as they may make us feel, are just that, stories & traditions, with questionable origins, and none have the veracity & authority of Scripture (the Bible), where the foundations of the authentic Christian faith are found..
    The REAL meaning of Christmas, as recorded in Scripture, is that God (The Father) so loved the World (people) that He gave His only begotten Son ( who had lived & reigned with the Father since long before the World was ever created (John 17:5), that whosoever believes (trusts) in Him shall have everlasting life (John 3:16 & elsewhere).
    THIS was & is, the greatest gift ever given to mankind, & it was HIS example (of giving) that I believe started the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas.

  17. Leslie Hanson Avatar
    Leslie Hanson

    We have an Advent wreath every year and only sing Advent songs at church until Midnight Mass Christmas morning which is grand and glorious. We wait until the last week to set up our tree and leave it up until at l;east January 12th. Our Nativity set is up with baby Jesus absent until Christmas and the three wise men traveling around the room until Jan. 6th. We have shoes out for St. Nicholas’ feast day which have fruit, nuts and healthy snacks in them the morning of Dec. 6th and we do the same for Epiphany on Jan. 6th. Once, I had little gifts for each of the 12 days of Christmas! We have also had a Jesse tree where we add ornaments symbolizing old testament moments along the journey to the revealing of our Savior, David’s harp, angel Gabriel,

    1. Leslie Hanson Avatar
      Leslie Hanson

      Oops, posted without editing possibility! So other Jesse Tree symbols are the apple in the Garden of Eden, Jacob’s staff, burning bush, Jonah’s big fish, the 10 Commandments, sheep, dove, etc., etc.,… you get the picture! We all sing and act in many of the Christmas plays at church as well. One of our sons and one of our daughters (we have 7 kids in all with 20 grandchildren so far), played Joseph and Mary in 2016. The same daughter was baby Jesus 25 years ago! Our family has never lost the true focus of the Christmas holidays because of our observances and traditions!

  18. Susan Smalley Avatar
    Susan Smalley

    My 11 children are all grown now, but many many years ago, I began the tradition of St Nicholas.
    The children would each leave one shoe, and they were all lined up under the Christmas tree in our kitchen, and while they were asleep, St. Nicholas would arrive. The children would leave carrots and hay for St Nicholas’ horse, which of course would disappear in the night. In the morning St Nicholas would have left each child a special Christmas ornament in their shoe, along with a few Pepperidge Farm holiday cookies, and several gold foil wrapped chocolate coins, to commemorate the bag of gold coins the real St Nicholas left for young girl many years ago.
    Oh what joy in the morning, as each child found their own special ornament! I spent hours finding and picking just the right one for each child based on their loves and interests.
    Over a childhood they each received 18-20+ ornaments that they now hang on their own Christmas trees in their homes with their families. When they get them out they remember their own childhood and the special times they had at home with Mom and Dad and their brothers and sisters growing up. Several of my daughters have passed on the tradition with their own children, and now a Family tradition has begun. Santa didn’t come to our house, but St. Nicholas came every year, and my children have their ornaments to prove he really was here. God’s blessings and Merry Christmas to you and your family, and especially to children everywhere.

  19. Clare Templeton Avatar
    Clare Templeton

    Thanks for all the neat DIY stuff Although am now in the ancient great-grammaw category, Christmas always a time for cherishing good friends along the way. My kids’ godmother had an Advent custom, since our church always had a big crafts and Christmas paraphernalia sale late November or first thing December. Although godmother had five of her own, for the church sale she always piled a couple of elderly ladies into her car, went to the sale, and got an Advent Calendar for my brood. Which left me free to do some treats like homemade caramel corn (which now would be organic popcorn and grassfed butter! but such a fresher taste than the tinned). Yay traditions, some of ’em “crowd sourced”. Best of the whole Blessed Season to all. Clare Templeton

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