Ever since our oldest children were very little, we have been implementing an old monastic custom in our home by 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, following 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.
The “treats” have varied from year to year. Some years it has been little gifts or activities for the family, some years it is all food related, and some years it is a mix of both, depending on our schedule and budget. It doesn’t need to cost much or even anything at all! Be creative!
Sometimes the treats are a bit of a stretch, but my goal is try and find gifts that will either help increase our faith (Catechism books, holy family, saints, prayer, etc) or encourage family time (games, puzzles, going to look at Christmas lights, etc). You can find some of our past O Antiphon treats by scrolling through the archives and visiting Catholic Cuisine.
Our family loves this 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.
In case you are looking for some inspiration, I’ve listed some of the treats I’ve given my family over the years (along with my picks for this year)… Special food ideas, activities and gifts (or you can simply decorate chocolate coins!) for each of the O Antiphons can be found below.
Once again I am hosting an O ANTIPHON GIVEAWAY! One lucky visitor here at Shower of Roses will receive a gift package including seven Cookie Stamps, one to represent each of the seven O Antiphons! I also have a sweet hand-painted nativity set to give away as well. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for the details and to enter.
- Bible Cookies or Bible Candies
- Brain Food (Dark Chocolate, Deviled Eggs, etc – I’m hoping to tuck some of the Theo Christmas Bars into stockings this Christmas.)
- Play a Trivia Game (Christmas Trivia, Catholic Trivia, Cranium)
- Play SaintCards, Saint Memory, or Catholic Quiz games
- Bookmarks or Holy Cards
- Family Prayer Book, Catechism, or other Book (The Christmas Book, The Catechism in Pictures with review here, Jesus Make Me Worthy, My Catholic Faith, A Catholic Child’s Picture Dictionary, Around the Year: Once Upon a Time Saints, etc… The possibilities are endless.)
- Books including An Alphabet of the Altar, The Wonder Story and The Wonder Days from St. Augustine Academy Press.
A Few Ideas:
- Ten Commandment Cookies
- Cookies made with this Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter or these cute 3-D Mini Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter made by Sweet Creations, emphasizing the word “house”
- Pull out the Smore’s Maker or light a bonfire and Roast Marshmallows, in reference to “Moses in the burning bush”
- Decorate Gingerbread Houses (my girls surprised me with this pan one year)
- Notre Dame 3-D Church Puzzle or Midnight Mass Puzzle
- Father Leopold Lego Set or Architecture Blocks would also tie in nicely
- Discuss the various names for Our Lady, including House of Gold! The Virgin Mary Around the World or any of the Marian dolls (Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Czestochowa, Our Lady of China, Our Lady of Vailankanni, etc) would be perfect.
- Root Beer Floats or Carrot Cake
- Roasted Root Vegetable, Hearty Healing Beef Stew or Hamburger Stew… Yum!
- Purchase a Christmas Poinsettia (In the past we have also incorporated other Poinsettias: 12 Red Glitter Poinsettia Ornaments, Miracle of the Poinsettia, or Poinsettia Cupcakes)
- Play some sort of Gardening or Nature Game as a Family (perhaps Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, Gathering a Garden, or The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game!)
- A new “Family” Ornament
- Old Fashioned Root Beer Drops
- Bonus: You could even have a Jesse Tea! From Jesse, the shepherd, to Jesus, the Good Shepherd… Shepherds tie in nicely!
- Shepherd and Angel playlet from Shining Light Dolls
- Shepherd Puzzle Set made by Naturally Catholic
- Key Lime Pie
- Special drink (Sparkling cider!) with dinner or for a family game night. 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.
- Surprise the family with tickets (“key”) to something local – Christmas play, the Nutcracker, etc. One year I took our older children to see A Christmas Carol at the theatre.
- Key Puzzle/Brainteaser
- Tiny Saints Key Hooks (One year I purchased a couple key hook rails to use to hang our Rosaries. You can see them in our old home in this post.)
- Advent At Ephesus or Caroling at Ephesus
- Incorporate Music “keys” with Catholic Songs for Children CD, Sheet Music Book and St. Cecilia Doll
- O Dayspring Ice Cream
- Non-Alcoholic Mimosas or Texas Sunrise with Breakfast
- Decorate a Christmas Candle (We use a tiny wax baby Jesus I purchased years ago along with Gold Decorating Beeswax from Stockmar.)
- 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.
- Candles from The Cloister Shoppe
- Our Lady of Fatima: The Graphic Novel (miracle of the sun)
- Grimm’s CASA SOLE Stacking Blocks (The set we have isn’t currently available. Other options can be found online and over at Etsy including: Sun Stacker and Mountain with Sun Stacker)
- New Christmas Pajamas
- Crown Cake, Cupcakes or Cookies
- Bake Cookies using the Wise Men Cookie Stamp from Rycraft, Inc
- Assemble a Three Kings Puzzle or Nativity Snow Globes Puzzle
- Listen to King of the Golden City CD
- One year I picked out one of the beautiful sets of Three Komgs Gifts – we pull it out every Christmas!
- Rex Gentium Nail Polish
- Twas the Evening of Christmas Picture Book – Our daughter received this one year on the feast of St. Nicholas. It’s such a lovely book!
- Three Kings Playset from Shining Light Dolls
- Make a Chocolate Nativity Scene for Christmas
- Decorate Nativity Cookies to give as gifts or Cookie Cutters Tell the Christmas Story
- Holy Family Puzzle
- Decorate Chocolate Christmas Coins using this FREE Printable
- Children’s Nativity Set – you can find some of our favorites in this post and more of our collection here (scroll down a bit)
- Christmas picture books, coloring books including the beautiful Eucharistic Adoration: With Saints And Symbols Of The Eucharist coloring book, or the Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring: Christmas with The Dominican Sisters of Mary.
- A Child’s Christmas ABC Book (review here)
- The Holy Family Nativity Playset from Shining Light Dolls
Here are the cookie stamps I picked out to go along with each of the O Antiphons.
The winner will receive one of each!
Wisdom: #460 – Triune God
House: #214 – Home Sweet Home
Root of Jesse: #520 – Willow Tree
Key of David: #543 – Key to My Heart
Dayspring: #291 – Moravian Star
King: #448 – Norwegian Wedding Crown
Emmanuel: #368 – Nativity