The Advent Garden is a European tradition that we began in our family many years ago. It is simple and so meaningful. "Legend has it that beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, the natural world--the kingdoms of minerals, plants, and animals--rejoices at the coming of the Christ Child and offers a gift for the Creator's son." (Sarah Ban Breathnach's Mrs. Sharp's Traditions)
So, on the first Sunday of Advent, our children gather stones, crystals, and shells to place near or inside our Advent Wreath to begin our Advent Garden. The second Sunday, they add gifts from the plant kingdom: pinecones, small branches cut from our Christmas tree, holly, and possibly red roses. On the third Sunday, the animal kingdom "joins the celebration" as we add small wooden toy animals to the garden. Finally, on the fourth Sunday, we add Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph figures. Then our Advent Garden is complete.
While we add to our Advent Garden and with the Advent Candles lit, we say these verses:
The first light of Advent is the light of stones,
The light of hope that shines in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of the plants,
The light of love that reaches up to sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of the beasts,
The light of peace that we see in the greatest and in the least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind,
The light of joy that is yours and mine.
After we light our Advent Candles and add each kingdom, we read Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones. This is the most beautiful and moving book to read for Advent. That is why we read it every Sunday of the Advent Season. It is a story that tells of the entire world preparing for and anticipating the birth of Baby Jesus.
"The skies shouted it to the seas that thundered it to the waves that roared it to the great white whales that sang it to the starfish in the deep.
And tiny sandpipers danced it on shining sands... It's time! It's time!"
(Song of the Stars)
If you read only one book for the Advent Season, this book should be the one!