An Advent Activity: To Teach Children About Giving & Love
Preparing the manger is the practice of preparing a soft bedding in the manger for the Christ Child by using little wisps of straw. Every night the child is allowed to put in the crib one straw for each act of love, good work or sacrifice performed for a specific family member for that week. (As the children grow up it can expand to anyone outside your home) This is originally a French custom that quickly spread to other countries. "Thus the Christ Child, coming on Christmas Day, finds an ample supply of tender straw "made out of love" to keep Him warm and to soften the hardness of the manger's boards"
The crib or manger represents our hearts as we prepare for Christ as He comes in threefold way: 1) coming in the past, at Bethlehem, 2) coming in the present, in Mass and into our souls through grace and through Holy Communion, and 3) coming in the future, at the Last Judgment.
Although preparing the manger is geared toward children, so that they can see an external expression of their good works "piling up", this is a custom the whole family can practice. You can choose to have one large crib, in the main part of the house. This will be the manger that everyone will contribute their straws.
On Christmas Eve, the house is darkened while the family processes with lighted candles and the youngest holding the baby Jesus, singing Silent Night. The baby is placed in the manger, and the Gospel of Luke 2:15-20 is read, various prayers said, including the blessing of the crib, and then O Come All Ye Faithful is sung.