This year is our first year really doing Advent as a family. We wanted to last year, but of course time escaped from us, and before we knew it, it was Christmas. I think that’s one of the difficulties of traveling so much, as last year we had just arrived from Nigeria to spend Christmas in the States as we awaited Jovelle’s birth: It’s a little harder to establish your own traditions.
This year, though, we started planning in October. (Okay, fine, it was only 2 days or something, but I still felt pretty on top of things. Until I thought I was on top of things and slowed down a little too much. 😉 ) We wanted to do a countdown Advent calendar, and we wanted the focus to be on Christ, so we decided to do a birthday cake for Jesus countdown calendar. Once the idea came, things just started rolling together. I was originally thinking of doing a posterboard cut out like a cake and putting candles with different activities on them, but Chris suggested an actual box. Brilliant! Must be the elementary school teacher training in him coming out!
I dug out an old cereal box and painted it (using very messy oil paint left over from a play kitchen I’m working on for the kids for Christmas – pics of that coming soon…. Uh, as soon as it’s finished!), then we decorated it like a cake. Of sorts. Yes, a quasi-cake. We started the countdown from the day after Thanksgiving (Amendement: Uh, did I say “started” after Thansgiving? I meant did one day and are resuming again today. Whoops.), and Judah and I painted popsicle sticks (Oh, wonderful missionary sales, supplier of almost all my craft needs!) different colors for candles (and in the process discovered that those bingo dot markers are amazing for painting popsicle sticks! They dry so quickly, were so easy to use and made very little mess. I think I’m in love!). (Afternote: After being back in the States, we have discovered they make PRE-COLORED popsicle sticks! Cuz whaaaat??!)
I glued orange construction paper flames on the candles and wrote different activities on them. A lot of the activities are things we would do anyway – like decorate the house, put up our manger (We put presents under a manger instead of a tree) and tree while listening to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies, go to a Christmas party, make ornaments, etc. – but somehow having them on the candle makes them seem more special. Many of them are very simple activities – coloring a Christmas page, even – but we wanted to make sure there were simple ones so that we would actually do an activity each day. We don’t have the activities assigned to a specific day, as we wanted the flexibility to say, “Wow, today is crazy! Looks like it’s a ‘make a snowman with play-doh’ and not a ‘make handprint ornaments’ sort of day.” I love the flexibility of it.
I really like how it turned out – I’m not going to lie, though: I thought at first it was going to be l-a-m-e. Judah loves it, though, and actually squeals every time we get it out and read a Bible verse and the activity on the candle. The squeals intensify when he puts the candle in the slot on the cake. We like that it focuses the season on Jesus and on activities together rather than on chocolate or candy (although some of that wouldn’t hurt….) – and that it is made out of things we had lying around the house (which is saying a lot for the few things we have lying around our house here!). (I was trying to decide what Bible verses to do when a package from Chris’s parents arrived – with a little Advent calendar with Bible verses. Hurray for perfect timing – and for someone else doing the work!)
Here are some of the things we’ll be doing this holiday season:
- Make nativity (Each year we make a nativity using different materials. This year it will be nice and easy – we’re doing this toilet paper roll nativity.)
- Go to library and get Christmas books
- Put handprints on our Christmas tree skirt (This was an idea I saw in a Family Fun magazine years ago and thought was so cool!)
- Do Christmas puzzle
- Play a game with Daddy and Mommy
- Take a walk at night and look at the stars. Talk about the star leading the wise men to Jesus.
- Make decorations for Christmas table
- Have a shepherd’s meal (A simple meal, maybe with bread, cheese and fruit, by our itty bitty Christmas tree with candles and tree lights)
- Camp out by the (itty bitty) Christmas tree. Luckily our lights are battery operated. 😉
- Make ornaments
- Make glitter play-doh and make a snowman with it. I might get really fancy and do something like this, but that’s probably a dream (or party favor!) for another year. I think either homemade play-doh or even this snowman kit would make a really cute stocking stuffer, too.
- Snowball toss with rolled up socks and laundry basket (See, I told you there are lots of simple ideas!)
- Bake cookies
- Birthday party for Jesus
We have also enjoyed singing Christmas songs. It’s kind of funny, though – every time I sing, “Come to Bethlehem and see…” Judah jumps up and down with excitement and yells, “Me! Me!” He doesn’t want to be left out of any trips to anywhere, I guess.
So there’s a sampling of our Advent season. I wanted to wear Santa hats to dinner one night, but that might have to wait until another year when we actually HAVE some. 😉
Our hope and prayer is that Judah – and all of us – will truly take time to reflect on the meaning of this Christmas season as we “come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing.”
Do you have any Christmas or Advent traditions that you do each year, or even ones that you want to start? Please share them in the comments; I love traditions and hearing what others do!!