Catholic Home - Advent anticipation

Photo: Janis Olson Photo: Janis Olson

Delve more deeply into the season with a calendar of little drawers

As a child, I remember the days and weeks of Advent dragged on and seemed to last forever, but it was a joyous and wonderful torture — I almost didn’t want it to end! As an adult, I savor the time needed to prepare myself spiritually and emotionally, to prepare a place in my heart and soul for Jesus, whether in celebration of his first coming or in anticipation of his second coming.

This year we will experience the longest possible Advent — four full weeks — starting Nov. 27. For families with younger children, this will be an intense period of waiting!

Over the years, our six children have enjoyed counting down the days with an Advent calendar. We have used a variety of types: store-bought, homemade, calendars with chocolates and those with windows that open to reveal Scripture verses or Nativity scenes.

As our family grew in size, buying or making separate Advent calendars for each child fractured the unity we once felt in opening and discovering the hidden treasures. We also wanted to put more emphasis on Scripture and preparing our children’s hearts, instead of just filling their mouths with chocolate.

boy with Advent drawers
Photo: Janis Olson

So several years ago, my husband and I created an Advent calendar that all our children could share, one that encompasses all of Advent, not just December.

We found sets of plain wooden drawers — a drawer for each day — that we could decorate and were the right size to hold items for all the children. My husband Matthew has wonderful artistic vision and is talented with a paintbrush, so he enjoyed bringing little scenes to life on each drawer. Many of the drawers are also adorned with Scripture verses. (A few drawers get painted each year, so there are still some blank ones — with a large family, taking baby steps is the only way to get things done.)

Each drawer is numbered, starting with 1 for the first day of Advent. In each drawer, we place that day’s first Scripture reading (found at, along with chocolates or other treats. On special feast days, the kids find other treasures. One year, there was a miniature golden-framed picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12), and St. Nicholas (Dec. 6) always leaves Santa-shaped candies in his feast day drawer. Sometimes the drawers on ordinary days include little gifts: candles, pencils, holy cards, prayer booklets, saint medals or ornaments.

Each evening during Advent, our family gathers around the Advent wreath for prayer and song. Afterward, we move to the Advent drawers, where the designated child for that day opens the drawer, reads the Scripture passage aloud and passes out the treats inside. Then we move the figures of Mary, Joseph and the donkey one step closer to the manger.

Our family delights in this daily ritual that brings us ever closer to Dec. 25. It not only makes the waiting bearable, but it also helps us to mindfully make room for Christ in our hearts.

As you and your family experience the coming Advent season, enjoy its preparations and discoveries. Veni, Veni, Emmanuel!

Advent calendar drawers

Advent drawers
Photo: Janis Olson

Set of small wooden drawers, one for each day of Advent
Acrylic paints and brushes
Permanent markers
Religious/Advent stickers


Number the center of each drawer with paint or marker.

Decorate the face of each drawer with hand-painted designs and/or Scripture verses. If you’re less artistic, write verses with markers and decorate the drawers with appropriate stickers.

Tuck Scripture verses, chocolates and other items into each drawer.

Notes: Because Advent can begin as early as Nov. 27 or as late as Dec. 3, feasts like St. Nicholas will occupy a different place on the drawer calendar each year. By numbering and painting the front and back faces of some drawers, you can put St. Nicholas in his proper spot each year — whether that’s the 10th day of Advent (this year) or earlier.

Cardboard or plastic drawers can be substituted for the wooden drawers.

Editor’s note: This month Northwest Catholic introduces columnist Michelle Bruno, who will share this space with Janet Cleaveland. In each edition one of them will offer a hands-on way to connect your faith with your everyday life.

Northwest Catholic - November 2016

Michelle Bruno

Michelle Bruno is a member of Kent’s Holy Spirit Parish. Contact her at