One of my favorite childhood Advent traditions was the “traveling crèche.” My parents wanted us to understand the waiting and the anticipation and the long journey of Advent, so instead of decorating for Christmas early, and setting up the whole manger scene right away, they only let us set up the empty stable. Then we would put Mary and Joseph and their donkey in another room of our house, and each day one of us would get to move them just a little bit closer to the stable. We used all the window sills, bookshelves, and every other flat surface we could find, to help them make their way to the stable.
The wise men were placed even further away, and they, too, were moved closer each day, not to reach the scene until the Feast of the Epiphany. What a simple, yet wonderful way to get across the meaning of the season. We all loved it, and would vie with each other to be the one to move the little statues each day.
When Christmas Eve came, Mary and Joseph were set up in the stable, and then when we awoke Christmas morning, there was the long-awaited baby Jesus, along with a few angels hovering over the scene. Just writing about it now brings the memory back so vividly.
This is a tradition we have continued with our own kids, and they get into it as much as my siblings and I did all those years ago. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have as many flat surfaces on which Mary and Joseph can travel, so we don’t move them every day, but it still works. And the kids get so excited to see the Baby Jesus in there on Christmas morning, along with the shepherds and an angel. Have I mentioned how much I love Advent?!