“My mom used to do stuff for advent with me, but this year, she’s just so busy with shopping, wrapping presents, and getting ready for our family to come visit for Christmas, she doesn’t have time. Maybe next year.”
Years before I’d ever celebrate advent with my kids, a sweet little boy I babysat told me this. He belonged to a family that clearly loved Jesus and delighted in celebrating His birthday. I know without a doubt that he and his siblings knew what the celebration of Christmas is all about. But my little friend’s frank statement helped me realize that, when I became a mom, every December would be a struggle for me.
I love to buy Christmas presents, fill boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and make batches and batches of Christmas cookies. As far as a time to be “too busy” for reading my Bible or talking to my children about Jesus, December is the peak time of year for distractions and busyness.
But for what? What do I want my children to think Christmas and its season are all about? Obviously, I don’t want them to think most about getting gifts, but even giving, sharing, and loving are not enough. I want my children to know Christmas and all its festivities are ultimately about Jesus.
I want my children to see that I prioritize celebrating and anticipating Jesus’ birthday above preparing for it.
For the past couple weeks, I’ve been planning out our celebration of advent. This year’s calendar worked out pretty nicely for moms like me who love to plan but are constantly behind. I feel like I got a bonus week between Thanksgiving and the start of December to figure out what we’ll do as we celebrate Advent.
[Before I jump into my ideas, though, I want to say something... Seriously, don't feel like you need to do all of these. When I look at lists like this one, I often feel overwhelmed or like I'm so far behind, I should just give up. Analysis paralysis is not my friend! Last year, we did about 7 days worth of advent activities, haphazardly spread out over the course of the month, and it was still really special. This year, I ended up over-planning because I was on the ball for once and then my MOPS group's meeting was all about advent this week.
If we end up actually doing even half of this, we'll be doing extraordinarily well. So, please, if you're like me and look at all the options and feel overwhelmed, just choose one and jump in. Your kids won't know anything about what you're not doing. They'll just be thrilled to do what you are doing!]
With all that said, if you’re still looking for ideas, I’m excited to share with you these 5 easy, fun, (mostly cheap), and meaningful ideas for how to celebrate the advent season.
1. Truth in the Tinsel – This ebook is by one of my recent favorite bloggers, Amanda White from ohamanda.com. The story focuses on the Christmas story so each day, you’ll read the Christmas story and make an ornament with your child. The short discussion ideas she includes are awesome – I’ve been encouraged just reading through them in preparation! – and the crafts are such that a preschooler (or elementary-age student) can do them. I think Beach Baby (who is 15 months old) may even be able to do some of them. One of my favorite things about this is I don’t have to make the ornaments ahead of time… I just have to show up and the fun happens with my kids. (There’s also an option to use printable ornaments that your children simply color if you’re short on time, are traveling, or have younger kids.)
2. Advent Boxes – I made these using little boxes from the Dollar Tree and a couple Sharpies. The boxes came in packs of 10 for $1, so I spent a grand total of $3 on these and will be able to reuse them next year. (The boxes are sold as party-favor boxes in the party supply aisle.) I printed the “prompts” for Truth in the Tinsel on red and green paper and put one in each box. I’m going to put them all in a basket and think it’ll be a fun way for Beach Girl to practice her numbers as she finds the right box for each day. I’m also going to stick some stickers or candies in a few of the boxes as an extra-special surprise.
3. Family Activity Advent Calendar – I made this garland at MOPS this week and each day’s paper has an idea for a special activity ranging from “listen to Christmas music” to “go see a Christmas parade.” I wrote mine on sticky notes and stuck them to the back of the garland so I can reuse it next year and swap them out as needed. (I don’t want to commit to the “stay up late for a pajama dance party” weeks in advance, just in case we all need to go to sleep early that night!) Making this garland took under 2 hours and was really easy, even if you’re not crafty. Just use festive paper, baker’s twine, and tiny clothespins. I think it turned out so cute! Even though I already made the boxes, it’ll be a fun way to present the activities and I decided to hang it over my couch in the spot that’s empty because we got better at budgeting. Next week, I’ll share a list of all my ideas for December fun that are filling this calendar.
4. Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Readings – If you’re not familiar with the The Jesus Storybook Bible, it’s a children’s Bible that focuses on the Bible as One Big Story rather than a bunch of little stories. After telling a story like David and Goliath, it points to Jesus, who later came to defeat real giants for us. Both my girls love it and it’s seriously an amazing devotional for adults. I’ve grown so much in my faith and understanding of God from reading it. At MOPS this week, a friend pointed out that the Jesus Storybook Bible has 21 Old Testament stories and 3 New Testament stories leading up to Jesus’ birth – perfect for advent readings!
5. Playmobil Nativity Manager with Stable - I love the idea of my kids being able to play with their nativity scene and act out the story, so was thrilled when my brother gave my kids this fun nativity as an early Christmas present. I’m sure we’ll be having fun telling and re-telling the story all month!
So, there it is… my can’t-believe-I’m-so-far-ahead list of advent ideas. What are y’all doing for advent? Or, are you like I usually am and just starting to think about planning? I’d love to hear from you!
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[Update: You can read my list of the fun Christmasy activities we'll be doing throughout advent here!]