Advent wreath

Travelling Mary and St. Joseph: A Catholic Alternative to Elf on the Shelf

Posted : Dec-07-2022

Kasia Ryba is a Catholic wife and mother who belongs to her local Catholic Moms Group. She has been a speaker at ‘Calling All Girls: An Evening for Mothers and Daughters’ and has spoken on Midday Moms, a virtual meet-up for moms.  

It seems as though as soon as November 1 comes around, the whole world is suddenly in “Christmas mode.” And though I am a big fan of all things Christmas and do enjoy a good Christmas song any time of year, I can’t help but wonder, where is the waiting?

Advent is a precious season of waiting in anticipation for the birth of Jesus, the Saviour of the world. This time in our Church is one in which we are invited to grow closer to Christ by cultivating virtue in ourselves, in our children, in our homes.

As Catholics, we want to be able to share this beautiful message of ‘waiting’ and ‘preparing’ for baby Jesus to be born. This can be a challenge though, as the world around us is already in full blown Christmas mode. How can we practically and simply communicate this message to our little ones?

Instead of the well-known “Elf on the Shelf” activity, I wanted to invite parents reading this post to try something different this Advent by introducing “Travelling Mary and St. Joseph” to their home. This is an activity that is appropriate for children ages 3 and up and really helps communicate the important message of Advent in a simple way. 

All you need to do is:

  • Buy a small nativity scene that is designed for children. (I will link a few that I found online at the bottom of this article, but make sure to check your local Winners/Homesense in the kids section… that’s where I found mine! It is from the brand "Love Light").

  • Using just the figure of Mother Mary and St. Joseph (and a donkey, if it is included), have them “travel” each day towards your Christmas tree until Christmas Eve at which point they will reach the Stable. This is when the remaining Nativity Scene is to be displayed, complete with baby Jesus in His manger.

…And that’s it! It’s that simple.

This activity is wonderful for several reasons: for one, it stresses the ‘waiting’ aspect of Advent and visually shows the holy spouses travelling closer to the Stable each day, building on the sense of anticipation and preparation for the birth of baby Jesus, and secondly, it becomes a fun activity for children to look forward to each morning as they look for Mother Mary and St. Joseph on their journey in the home.

And so, this Advent, I invite you to join me in teaching our children about what the season of Advent is all about through this fun, simple activity that can help form their spiritual life while also creating wonderful memories for years to come.

May God bless you and your families this Advent season. May it be a truly fruitful one!

Links to Nativity Scenes for children (not sponsored):

Interested in finding or starting a mom’s group? Visit Too busy to attend an in-person event? Discover their virtual meetups, for Catholic moms at Midday Moms! You will find Kasia there too!