Synopsis: If you observe Advent in a certain way, you will not only establish a family altar for the whole year, you will also establish the daily family Rosary. Here's how:
For the Marshall family, the daily family Rosary began one year in Advent. Joy and I knew that should be praying the Rosary as a family every day. After all, Our Lady of Fatima has asked for families to pray the Rosary every single day. Moreover, the Popes have also repeatedly asked for the family Rosary, even granting a plenary indulgence for it. So we should have been doing it, but we didn't know how to start.
Unbeknown to us, Advent would become the way for the daily Rosary to become enshrined in our daily domestic life. It happened like this...
Every year, our family lights a very beautiful advent wreath with large pillar candles - not just on Advent Sundays but every day in Advent (i.e. light the one purple candle every night for the first week - two candles the second week, etc.). Usually, I would read a Scripture verse and we talk about it and then pray as a family. We had done this even since our Episcopalian days. When our babies began to grow up, they would do anything to light these candles, because, as I have said before, children love fire.
If you say to a little boy, "You can light the Advent Candles tonight, if you eat all your peas," then the child will eat his peas. This also works in Mass. I've calmed down my three year old by whispering: "If you want to light a votive candle in the back of the church, you'd better stop moving around!"
So Advent had been the only consistent time in which we came together as a family for evening for prayer. We would pray the children before bed, but it was a group assembly. The children enjoyed our nightly Advent assembly because they were allowed to light the candles and then snuff the candles when it was over. Naturally, Advent was the ideal time to insert the family Rosary and that is what happened.
Children, ages 3-7 will try to pray and follow the beads if they can "play with fire." The Advent Candles are the means to achieve this.
So when Advent was over, we kept praying the Rosary for the 12 days of Christmas and kept lighting those candles. Then Epiphany came and we had to put the candles away. Uh oh. The children wanted to light candles! But we could keep an Advent Wreath out all year...
So we made a permanent family altar...added a crucifix...and of course: candles. And the family Rosary just continued and it has continued unbroken to this day. Even with baby sitters, the children will pray the Rosary. It's like brushing your teeth or putting on deodorant. Praying the Rosary is just something you do.
It's only the first week of Advent. If you're not praying the family Rosary, it's not too late. Let the kids light the candles and get a pretty statue of Our Lady or a crucifix to have near by. When Advent is is over, remove the wreath, and repeat. Whola. It's simpler than you might expect.
Have a happy and holy Advent and make it a time to grow closer to Mary and Jesus - through the Holy Rosary.