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Walk with Mary this Advent as a sweet alternative to “Elf on the Shelf”


Courtesy of Be A Heart

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 11/30/20

The #MaryOnTheMantel way of preparing for Christmas might become your family's new favorite tradition.

There’s a reason the recent “Elf on the Shelf” custom has become incredibly popular: Although it takes some effort from parents, it’s a memorable way to build excitement for Christmas. Yet the tradition doesn’t work for many families, perhaps because they don’t do Santa Claus, or because they’d prefer a more spiritual way of anticipating Christmas. For those families, a sweet new custom called “Mary on the Mantel”might be just what they’re looking for.

Erica Tighe Campbell, creator and designer of the Be A Heart Catholic lifestyle brand, recently released a Mary doll that inspired the “Mary on the Mantel” idea. In a blog post, she explains the story behind it:

Brendon, our web developer, had the best idea that I’ve heard all year: replace the Elf from Elf on the Shelf with our new Mary dolls. Brilliant, right? With some brainstorming, Mary on the Mantel was born! A Christian alternative to a family favorite.

Similarly to the Elf, Mary moves around your house throughout Advent, perhaps drawing closer to the Christmas manger. But instead of spying on your kids for Santa, she’s preparing for the birth of her baby. Instead of heading to the North Pole, she’s journeying to Bethlehem, where her Son will be born.

Courtesy of Be A Heart


Read more:
The 2020 Catholic Christmas Gift Guide for Kids

Like the Elf, she encourages good behavior, but through loving and creative suggestions instead of threatening to send bad reports back to Santa. Campbell writes,

Each day Mary is moved around your house as she prepares for her new baby. Mary is busy “nesting” and doing simple, ordinary tasks. When the children find her in the morning, Mary delivers a small act of kindness that they can perform that day. The note can be tucked into the tiny tote bag that comes with our Mary dolls.

Parents can encourage their children to befriend Our Lady, to see her as a beloved member of the household and a mama (like their own!) with a precious new baby on the way. “Mary on the Mantel” reminds children that Mary really is present with us at all times, like her Son, and she’s always ready to intercede for them and encourage them along life’s journey:

The idea is that we prepare our hearts to receive Jesus in the manger by loving others. With the Elf on the Shelf, it is said that he tells Santa if little boys and girls are good or bad. We really encourage you to stay away from this concept of Mary telling Jesus if children are good or bad and rather teach them that Mary is a friend, a companion, a confidant who helps them be more compassionate.
Courtesy of Be A Heart

Campbell includes a long list of 47 ideas for parents to stage the Mary doll doing acts of preparation for Jesus’ birth, as well as 45 practical acts of kindness that she can suggest for them to do. She offers parents this inspiring message:

There are so many cute ways you can immerse your children in the Advent and Christmas story. As it gets closer to Christmas, Mary can receive a piece of mail that tells them they need to travel for the census. She can then begin the journey to Bethlehem. The day before there might even be a sign that says No Room in the Inn! You can also make Mary’s belly “grow.” Add paper towels, fabric, or a little pillow underneath her dress!

Ideas for Mary’s preparation include receiving a letter with the census announcement, reading the Bible, going to visit her cousin Elizabeth, packing a suitcase, singing the Magnificat, riding a donkey, and researching the best route to Bethlehem on a map. Acts of kindness for children to perform include sending a hand written letter to a quarantined family member, writing a thank you note, sharing a favorite toy with a sibling, and playing a game a sibling wants, and there are many more wonderful suggestions on the Be A Heart site.

Families can share their stories and photos of doing Mary on the Mantel at home. Campbell writes,

Share your Mary on the Mantel journey on social media with the hashtag #maryonthemantel and be sure to tag us @beaheartdesign!! We will be sharing your photos throughout the month.

This is a meaningful way for families to enter into the spirit of Christmas, build anticipation for the holy day, and teach children about their faith. Many families will love integrating this sweet new tradition into their Advent preparations, and we look forward to following along with the fun on social media!


Read more:
Looking for unique baby dolls that reflect your faith?

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