Joy Box brings Christmas spirit to families

Items in the Joy Box include a nativity scene, candles, a prayer service, ideas for family sharing, and a gift from the previous family who had the box. - PHOTO COURTESY ANGELA TIERNO-SHERWOOD

Submitted by Angela
Tierno-Sherwood

The “Joy Box” is an Advent tradition that started in 1983 at the former St. Joseph’s School in Endicott.

This tradition is continued today at All Saints School by second-grade teacher Maryanne Balles. Mrs. Balles became acquainted with this special tradition when her children were students at

St. Joseph’s.

   The Joy Box tradition involves passing the box from family to family throughout the season of Advent. At the start of Advent each second-grade family receives a calendar with their child’s name and the date the Joy Box will arrive at their home. The box contains a nativity scene, candles, a prayer service, ideas for family sharing, and a gift from the previous family who had the box. 

   There is a notebook in the box for each family to write and share their experience with the Joy Box. The notebook that passes from family to family today is the exact same

notebook that has been in use since the tradition began in the 1980s. Several parents have been pleasantly surprised to find their entry made back when they were students!

   Mrs. Maria Smith, an All Saints parent, commented: “Year after year, Mrs. Balles introduces her second-grade students and parents to the tradition of the Joy Box. The children eagerly await their turn. Praying together as a family in the hectic days leading up to Christmas allows us to celebrate through prayer and song the coming birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

   As a side note, Mrs. Balles’ son, Noah Balles, now a second-grade teacher at St. James School in Johnson City, has started the tradition of the Joy Box with his students.

   In “The Year of the Family” as designated by Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, the Joy Box tradition holds even greater significance for our families!

   Angela Tierno-Sherwood is the principal of All Saints School in Endicott.