Every year I look forward to celebrating Advent with my boys. Since Matthew was born, we have had some sort of Advent calendar. The first year I picked up an organic, fair-trade chocolate advent calendar at the natural food co-op while shopping for our Thanksgiving meal. Allan and Matthew tore open the doors each day and Allan enjoyed the candy. Matthew was too young to realize what he was missing.
The next year, inspired by this post on the blog, Passionate Homemaking, I came up with a combination of 25 gifts + activities + outings + books. The activities were things that we were already planning to make Christmas Traditions in our home, so this wasn’t extra work, it simply gave us a date reserved on our calendar for the outing .
I then created little sheets of paper that included the day’s adventure and a photo representation to place in a small wood Advent calendar from Target. Some days included a present, so I placed the wrapped gifts (mostly books and a few matchbox cars) in a special place, all wrapped in the same paper and labeled with a matching piece of paper to the one in the Advent calendar. That way Matthew could search through the gifts and match that day’s activity sheet from the advent calendar with the one labeling the present.
Last year, we did not do a full-blown advent calendar, because we were living in temporary housing (with my inlaws) and most of our Christmas items were in storage at my parent’s house. We did a small advent calendar activity with some matchbox planes that I picked up on Black Friday and lots of our regular activities, just without the official advent calendar.
So, this year, when we unpacked our Christmas decorations and found the advent calendar that my mother-in-law found at a thrift store, the boys were very excited. I stayed up late wrapping presents (Christmas books and Veggie tales DVDs that I picked up on Black Friday) and finalizing our daily activities, lining them up to appropriate days based on what we already have planned this month.
Sunday was the official start of the Advent season, however, if you haven’t put anything together yet, you still have LOTS of time. Here are a few ideas of simple activities for you and your children.
Children/Family Advent Ideas
- Read Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp. This is a beautiful book that we are reading as a family every day. As our advent calendar activity yesterday we made a Jesse Tree for the ornaments that we bought at the Christian bookstore. I also plan to have the boys each decorate a set of the free printable ornaments to give away to a loved one with the story of the Jesse Tree.
- Have each family member choose 3 Christmas Traditions that they would like do this year (ex: visit Santa, bake cookies, make a gingerbread house, go ice skating, go sledding, drink hot cocoa, watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, watch Charlie Brown Christmas, buy a gift for Toys for Tots, go caroling, etc.). Schedule the Christmas Traditions – place them on your calendar and make plans. Buy a few Christmas books used on Amazon or at Half Price books and you will be set.
- Make or buy an advent wreath and have a weekly candle lighting ceremony. Tell the story of Jesus birth and read scripture with the lighting of each candle. You can find the significance of each candle here.
- Cultivate a Grateful Christmas with this list from Ann Voskamp. We hung an 8.5 foot long piece of paper in our kitchen (from a roll of paper we bought at ikea) and have begun writing down all of the things that we already have for which we are thankful. Here is Matthew’s first addition to the list:
Adult Advent Ideas
- Read the #SheReadsTruth Advent devotional: O Come Let Us Adore Him. This is a free devotional, available on the #SheReadsTruth website. I, personally, love using the #SheReadsTruth app, because it forces me to be focused during my morning devotion time, instead of being tempted by the internet and the other tabs I have open in Safari. I feel that the $1.99 price tag per devotional is well worth it. They also have journals and prints available in the #SheReadsTruth shop, but they are not necessary to complete the study.
- The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp. Short devotions and thought provoking questions that parallel the children’s book. The Greatest Gift uses the same scripture and theme as the children’s book, but is written for an adult audience and includes ways to apply the advent message to your day today and change your life with thankfulness and joy.
- Watch Ann Voskamp’s Lighting the Candle Advent Devotional videos. One will be released each Sunday. You could watch this at your candle lighting ceremony with your family.
What are your favorite Christmas Traditions? How do you cultivate a gratitude during the Holiday season?