Celebrating the O Antiphons :: The Golden Nights

by | Dec 12, 2014 | Advent and Christmas, Christmas 2014, O Antiphons | 7 comments

Photo from Christmas 2011 – Details about our O Antiphon House

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.  The O Antiphon Prayers begin on 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.

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.

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/activities 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 2007-2013 by scrolling through the archives and visiting Catholic Cuisine.

Our family just loves this little tradition. 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 is the list of this year’s treats for each O Antiphon:

.: December 17th :.
O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

Since the symbol for wisdom is a book, I usually choose a new Catholic Book for our family. In the past those books have included this illustrated book of saintsAround the Year: Once Upon a Time Saints, the beautiful A Catholic Child’s Picture Dictionary, Novena: The Power of Prayer, new children’s prayer books for Mass, and a craft kit to make Christmas Bookmarks.  

This year I choose this new Catholic Trivia game. I’m looking forward to playing it after dinner on December 17th! 

.: December 18th :.
O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

We usually emphasize the word “house” in this Antiphon, and have made our Gingerbread Houses or Gingerbread Cookies on this night.  Now that we have two birthdays this week (and two birthday cakes to bake and decorate!) we usually wait until Christmas Eve, or sometime during the 12 Days of Christmas. We have given the kids this Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter, and one year I totally stretched it and choose the Little House on the Prairie DVD. We have also roasted marshmallows over a fire, drawing from the reference to “Moses in the burning bush.”

This year I purchased this cute 3-D Mini Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter made by Sweet Creations! I’m planning to wrap it up with some Christmas sprinkles. (I still need to pick them up at the craft store this weekend, but hopefully they will have this Gingerbread Boy Mix, Candy Canes, and Snowmen.) I’m also planning to buy a package of pre-made dough, to keep it as simple as possible, and let the children bake and decorate the cookies, while I bake and decorate a birthday cake! (I just hope the cookie cutter arrives on time, since I still haven’t gotten a notification that it has shipped… If it doesn’t arrive I might shop by the local kitchen store to pick up this pan instead. I came close to buying it the other day when the girls and I discovered an amazing kitchen store in a nearby town!)

.: December 19th :.
O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.
Carrot Cake and Root Beer Floats
Speaking of that birthday cake, this year we are celebrating Bud’s birthday with a Farm/Barnyard theme. I think Carrot Cake and Root Beer Floats will make a yummy addition to the party and tie in the O Antiphon nicely! If I run out of time (or energy) I will pick up a Costco Carrot Cake, but I’m really hoping to decorate one for him myself as I usually do for the children’s birthdays… We’ll see! 🙂 
We also always purchase our Christmas Poinsettia Plants on this day. Other past treats and recipes have included: 12 Red Glitter Poinsettia OrnamentsMiracle of the PoinsettiaThe Miracle of the First Poinsettia, baked Poinsettia Cupcakes, Hearty Beef Stew, and Old Fashioned Root Beer Drops.
.: December 20th :.

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Tickets (the Key) to A Christmas Carol at the Theatre!

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! One year I purchased a couple key hook rails from Target to use to hang our Rosaries, and another year we gave the children this Key Puzzle/Brainteaser!

This year, in addition to a special drink with dinner, the four oldest children will be given tickets (the key/admission) to see A Christmas Carol at the theatre!

.: December 21st :.
O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

O Dayspring Christmas Candle

Our favorite tradition for this O Antiphon is to pile in the car after dinner with hot cocoa and drive around to look at all the Christmas lights. In the past we have also given the children this set of sun blocks, decorated our own house or tree with Christmas lights, enjoyed “O Dayspring Ice Cream,” and addd the Kurt Adler 10-Light Candle with Gold Dish Light Set to our Christmas Tree!

This year, in addition to driving to town to look at Christmas lights, since we didn’t have the chance to make it on the feast of St. Ambrose or the Immaculate Conception, we are going to decorate this year’s Christmas Candle using a tiny wax baby Jesus I purchased years ago along with Stockmar Gold Decorating Beeswax.

.: December 22nd :.
O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

O King of the Gentiles Stained Glass Nativity Puzzle

One year I ordered one of the beautiful sets of Three Kings Gifts! Every Christmas the kids put together a Christmas Play for their Daddy & I, and these have been such an awesome addition original props! Other years we have made Crowns, added a “King” puppet to our puppet collection, baked a Crown Cake and/or Cookies, added the King of the Golden City CD to our collection, and assembled the Three Kings Puzzle.

This year we will begin working on this beautiful Stained Glass Nativity Puzzle which I mentioned in this year’s fun finds for Advent post

.: December 23rd :.

O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!

Oplatki Wafers 

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, this 500-Piece Stained Glass Jigsaw Puzzle, added various Children’s Nativity Sets to our collection, made a Chocolate Nativity Scene, and received the Holy Family Puzzle with a lovely embroidered Mass bag from Catholic Embroidery.

This year we are going to introduce our children to the Polish tradition of Oplatki Wafers! On Christmas Eve the Polish people celebrate a traditional vigil supper called “Wigilia” which means “to await”. The children of the family look for the appearance of the first star at dusk and then to begin the meal members of the family break up pieces of Oplatki and give them to each other with a blessing. Then the actual supper begins. (Read more at Aquinas and More.)

I ended up ordering this set from Aquinas and More and this set (with greeting cards to give to extended family) from the large selection of Oplatki Wafers over at Amazon.

For a simple treat for each day, here is the link to my printable in the archives for O Antiphon Chocolate Coins!


  1. tracybuasmith

    All of this is so beautiful and so fun Jessica! Thanks for sharing! I will be pulling out the O Antiphon lapbooks I created from various resources last year and finishing them up with my kids 🙂 Here's my post about the lapbooks 🙂 http://asliceofsmithlife.blogspot.com/2013/12/o-a

    2014-12-12 21:42:30

  2. Dot

    We've got so many beautiful Christmas traditions here in Poland 🙂 For example we always leave one empty chair and a plate for an unexpected guest. This symbol has a double meaning. The place is meant for an unknown poor person who can come to our house on this special day (though it hardly ever happens;) ). The empty seat is also the sign that we remember about our family members who passed away 🙂

    2014-12-13 12:48:04

  3. Grace

    I'm so excited about that Catholic Trivia Traditional Version game. I've been needing another gift idea for my husband and this is perfect. If you have any other gift ideas (for husbands especially) you'd like to share, that'd be great 🙂

    2014-12-13 15:32:00

  4. skimac

    Love that you included the oplatki tradition. I am half Polish. Though we never did this growing up we started it later.

    2014-12-13 18:40:30

  5. Maria

    I'm so happy that you'll celebrate this beautiful polish traditon in your home! I agree with "Dot" (above) – when we celebrate Wigilia, we always leave one empty place at the table. And wery often oplatki are located on a handful of hay – to remember that Mother of Jesus laid Him on the hay, in the manger. Polish Christmas tradition are beautiful!

    2014-12-14 10:11:41

  6. Sonja

    I love all of your posts, Jessica, but my family can't afford very much. Do you know of any crafts or simple, inexpensive gifts/activities that would help us to incorporate this lovely tradition into our home?

    2014-12-19 03:20:58

  7. Jessica Gordon

    This year I do have some new gifts mixed in for our family, but there are many ways to incorporate little treats for the O Antiphons!

    During the years when our budget was tight I would try to focus on food and/or activities. Here is a post with ideas over at Catholic Cuisine.

    If you look through the posts you'll see some of these mentioned, but I'll re-list some of the most affordable options here:

    O Wisdom – Prayer card for each child (You could even print your own.)

    O Adonai – Roast Marshmallows (emphasizing the burning bush)

    O Root of Jesse – I'm making the carrot cake and root beer floats, since we are having a birthday. Any type of flower or root would work. What about serving french fries? (Potatoes are a root vegetable and my kids would love that!)

    O Key – a special drink with dinner

    O Radiant Dawn – Our family favorite, when the weather cooperates, is to go look at Christmas lights on this night. A candlelit dinner is also perfect. O King – Have the children craft their own crowns or make crown cookies/cupcakes/cake.

    O Emmanuel – Holy Card

    At the bottom of this post from 2010 I shared the link to a printable for O Antiphon Labels to add to Chocolate Coins. You could make one coin for each person for each day to set at their dinner seat very affordably.

    Even if it isn't possible to incorporate a small treat, just praying the O Antiphons as a family is plenty! Last night it was so beautiful hearing my husband chanting "O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ." with the children.❤

    2014-12-19 03:49:16


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Hi! I'm Jessica, a Roman Catholic wife and home educating mother to our nine children. I was home educated myself, along with my eleven younger siblings. I have a special devotion to St. Therese, through whom I have been given much help and many blessings--the beautiful "Shower of Roses" that she has sent my way! Here I will record a few of the blessings I treasure. Please remember that what you see here is just a little glimpse at our lives, so please say a prayer for us, as we continue to strive for holiness.

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