Ever since our oldest children were very little, we have been implementing an old monastic custom in our home of providing special treats, representing each of the “O Antiphons,” on the days leading up to Christmas. Each night, after our family rosary, we pray the O Antiphon for the day, sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel (which was inspired by this ancient tradition), and then give the children a special treat. Some years it has been little gifts for the family, some years it is all food related, and some years it is a mix of both. You can see some of my past posts from 2007-2010 by scrolling through the archives and visiting Catholic Cuisine.
This year, being full term and expecting a baby at any time, I decided to avoid any food treats that needed preparation, and have 7 little gifts wrapped and ready for the children, so that they can still open them, whether I end up being home or not. I wrapped each of the gifts in gold paper, attaching one of our new O Antiphon Ornaments to each package, and set out our O Antiphon House.
The Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one – Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia – the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.
The O Antiphon Prayers begin today, December 17th, and end on the 23rd, which is the last Vespers of Advent, since the evening prayer on the 24th is the Vigil of Christmas. Our family just loves this little tradition, and it is such a fun way to teach the children about these beautiful prayers of the church and also increase their excitement as Christmas gets closer! Here are the treats that I choose for this year:
In past years we have given the children the beautiful A Catholic Child’s Picture Dictionar, Novena: The Power of Prayer, new children’s prayer books for Mass, and a craft kit to make Christmas Bookmarks.
We usually emphasize the word “house” in this Antiphon, and have made our Gingerbread Houses or Gingerbread Cookies on this night. Last year I gave the kids a fun new Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter. This year, I was able to find another one of the Wilton Gingerbread Mini Village Kits and purchased it for this night. I’m still hoping that sometime during the Christmas season we will be able to host another night of Gingerbread Fun, but I haven’t chosen a date yet! 😉
In the past we have also roasted marshmallows over a fire on this night, drawing from the reference to “Moses in the burning bush,” which is always lots of fun too. I might just have to talk Hubby into lighting a fire in our outdoor fire pit tomorrow night, since (at this rate) I don’t think I am going to be going anywhere anytime soon!
In the past I have purchased our Poinsettia Plant for Christmas, new books including The Legend of the Poinsettia and The Miracle of the First Poinsettia, baked Poinsettia Cupcakes, made recipes with root vegetables including Hearty Beef Stew and Carrot Cake, or served Root Beer. This year I picked up some Old Fashioned Root Beer Drops on a recent field trip to use for this O Antiphon gift!
Since this is initially a monastic tradition, and on this night, the monk in charge of the wine cellar would provide a special bottle of wine. We usually always serve a special drink with dinner. Sometimes I also serve a Key Lime Pie as well. Yum!
This year I opted to purchase a couple key hook rails from Target to use to hang our Rosaries. (I already have two of these in my pantry for my aprons and they are wonderful!)
For this day, I have ordered the Kurt Adler 10-Light Candle with Gold Dish Light Set (which was a lot less expensive when I ordered ours) to add to our Christmas Tree, inspired by Around the Year with the Trapp Family:
“In our house the large Christmas tree, twelve feet high, always a beautiful, thick balsam fir, requires a lot of time to be decorated “the old way.” During the preceding nights, the older children have wrapped up candies in tinfoil or in tissue paper with fringed edges and have then tied red thread to candies as well as to hundreds of cookies. They are hung on the tree first. On the lower branches we hang also small apples and tangerines. Then come Christmas-tree decorations from our home studios–angels and stars worked in silver or brass, which will glitter later in the light of the candles. Yes, candles–because there will be six dozen small candleholders with real candles fastened to the branches. (On either side of the tree there will be a camouflaged bucket with water and a mop with a long handle “just in case.” So far we have never needed it.) Next, dozens of packages of tinsel are emptied on twigs and branches; and the last touch is silver chains spinning in spider-web fashion, criss-crossed from branch to branch. The final effect is like a fairy tale.”
Other past ideas include a surprise trip to town (complete with mugs of Cocoa) to view Christmas Lights, decorating our own house or tree with Christmas lights, and serving “O Dayspring Ice Cream.”
Originally I really wanted to order a beautiful set of Three Kings Gifts, but since they are all so expensive I settled on a lovely Three Kings Puzzle for the kids to work on during the 12 days of Christmas, leading up to Epiphany. However, since it is only a 550 piece puzzle, I’m thinking it isn’t going to take them that long!
This is the last of the O Antiphons! I actually ended up having two gifts for this day, since I ended up ordering the Holy Family Puzzle – which I may save and give them on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Emmanuel means “God is with us.” Since we receive Christ through the Holy Eucharist at Mass, the original gift I ordered for this night was a beautiful new embroidered Mass bag from Catholic Embroidery. These little totes work so wonderfully for carrying our prayer books and veils into Mass each Sunday.
In the past the children have been given special Holy Cards or Coloring Books, including the beautiful Eucharistic Adoration: With Saints And Symbols Of The Eucharist Coloring book, added various Children’s Nativity Sets to our collection, and made a Chocolate Nativity Scene.
I hope you all have a very blessed final week of Advent!