Bring the story of Mary’s Little Donkey into your home – some inspiration!


Tiffany LovegroveNovember 3, 2022

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The time before Christmas is a window to bring wholesome pictures about the Nativity story to children, pictures which resonate and live within them.

There are many ways to do this! Reading stories, free drawing, singing songs, creating your own focal point at home with figurines and other props to tell this story of Mary bringing the Christ child to the world, with a message of love and hope, are such examples.

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There are a variety of ways of using the spiral and we will offer some examples here.

In the northern hemisphere, Mary is often placed in a spiral moving progressively toward the centre, where the light shines as an inner picture of the soul she is carrying. This aligns with the picture of midwinter on 21st December, the shortest day of the year if you are in northern hemisphere, as we turn inward (like the movement of the spiral) before the earth turns toward the sun as an outward gesture as the days begin to lengthen.

Even though we are in the southern hemisphere, the turning toward the light is a potent symbol embodied in Mary on her donkey as she travels on the dusty road, facing many challenges before finding a humble stable in which to bear her child.

Using the Grimm’s spiral during Advent provides a foundation for honouring the four kingdoms, building up a scene and lighting a candle each week: the Mineral Kingdom in Week 1 (add shells, rocks, bones, crystals); the Plant Kingdom in Week 2 (add foliage, nuts, flowers); the Animal Kingdom in Week 3 (add animals) and the Human Kingdom in the final week leading to Christmas Day (bring in the human form).

Here’s how we built up this spiral week by week:

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In week 1, gifts from the Mineral World are placed on the spiral. Little shells, crystals, stones or bones are examples.


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Mary moves along the spiral – gifts from the Plant Kingdom such as pine cones, flowers and leaves are added, and another candle is lit.


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In Week 3 of Advent we honour the Animal Kingdom – Mary and her Donkey continue along the path.


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And finally in Week 4 the Human Kingdom, with the little crib in the centre waiting for the birth of the Christ child (see also next photo).


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Put Baby Jesus in the crib on Christmas Day and light the fourth candle, to complete the Advent story.

Alternatively you may wish to light a candle every day as Mary takes one more step along the spiral on her journey inward.

It is with the lighting of each candle that we feel the increasing fullness of light with the approach of Christmas. 

We offer you these resources to bring this picture to your family as you move toward Christmas.

Setting the scene: bring in some silks, a spiral, candles, flowers (if you are really interested you might like to read about the red rose in relation to the Christmas story) and some figurines to build the picture.

If you look at images of Mary in art history, you will see that she is almost always depicted in clothes of red and blue. Her cloak is blue, the symbol of royalty and purity. Underneath she wears a red or rose robe, the colour of love, passion, and devotion – all qualities connected with motherhood.

These special Ostheimer figurines of Mary also bring in this colour palette.

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Expressions of  Mary in blue and rose/red.
From left: Ostheimer Mary IIOstheimer Mary on donkey (2 pieces), Ostheimer Mary

To help tell this story of Mary and her donkey, we bring in lustrous Sarah’s silks in tones tones of rose, red violet, red, and royal blue or medium blue silk as the base.


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A special offering to share with children is the wonderful  Mary’s Little Donkey and the Flight to Egypt  by Gunhild Sehlin (chapter book or picture book for younger children).

Read one chapter a night and resist the urges for more from enthusiastic children! It’s all part of building an inner picture day by day, culminating on Christmas Day.

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To bring the story to life further, children will delight in opening a daily window of the Mary’s Little Donkey Advent Calendar, a four panelled free standing calendar, which unfolds in tandem with the chapters of the book.

Mary Donkey Calendar horizontal

And tying it all together, there is this beautiful simple song ‘Little Donkey’ by Eric Boswell you can sing together with little children, with the lyrics below and a link to the melody here

Little donkey, little donkey,
On the dusty road.
Got to keep on plodding onwards,
With your precious load.

Been a long time, little donkey,
Through the winter’s night.
Don’t give up now, little donkey,
Bethlehem’s in sight.

Ring out those bells tonight!

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Follow that star tonight!

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Little donkey, little donkey,
Had a heavy day.
Little donkey, carry Mary
safely on her way.

Do not falter, little donkey,
There’s a star ahead.
It will guide you, little donkey,
To a cattle shed.

Ring out those bells tonight

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Follow that star tonight

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Little donkey, Little donkey

Had a heavy day

Little donkey, carry Mary, safely on her way.


We hope you enjoy bringing the story of Mary and her Donkey to your family this Advent!





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