Growing up, we celebrated Christmas, but no one would have called us religious. We weren’t church-goers and chose to spend the days around Christmas with family and friends rather than at church. This doesn’t mean the holiday wasn’t special or that we didn’t have important traditions. We did, they just didn’t really center around the birth of Christ so much as they did around the ties that bind us together as family.
Now that I have my own family and I’m married to someone who grew up in a religious family, Christmas looks a lot different than it used to. It is still a special time to gather with our family and participate in fun family traditions, but it also very much centers around the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Weaving these different backgrounds together is a challenge sometimes. I want to pass on the traditions I enjoyed as a child, but at the same time I want to honor the more religious traditions Tim’s family enjoys and that I have come to embrace as well. I also want the girls to have more of a religious education than I did so they understand the spiritual meaning of the holiday.
This year, with a three year old who for the first time has a real awareness of what is happening, we are celebrating Advent. Much more than a simple countdown, Advent is a season of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. If that explanation sounds like we are super serious and pious about Advent, you can relax. We prepare for Christmas like most families, but this year we are also learning a little about the events leading up to the big day as well as the events of Christmas itself.
In addition to attending church on Sunday, we are lighting Advent candles set in a wreath given to us by Tim’s mom. We usually do this after church and we read from a devotional specifically for Advent. It is a nice time for us as a family to contemplate the season and answer any questions Olivia might have.
We also have an Advent calendar to help us count down the days and keep us busy until the 25th. For a certain little girl who is VERY excited for Christmas day, this is a very helpful distraction. Each compartment holds a tiny scroll with an activity for the day along with a corresponding scripture. Oh, and a single M&M. Here’s a bit more about how I came up with 25 activities….
- I kept it simple. Only a few of the activities are long drawn out projects and many of them are things we would be doing anyway, like putting up a Christmas tree.
- I let go. We are in the midst of Advent now and we have already forgotten one day and had a bit of a disaster on another. Oops. Who knew gingerbread houses were so complex?? The bottom line is this is supposed to be fun. It is time to stop when no one is having fun anymore.
- I beg, borrowed, and stole. Ok, I didn’t steal, but if there is a pin about Advent activities on Pinterest, I’ve pinned it. A girl from my moms’ group also shared her list which was super helpful. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, people.
- I included projects each week that are service oriented. To me, this is the most important part of our Advent calendar because to me giving to others encapsulates what Jesus was all about and that is exactly what I want our daughters to know about Him.
Our other activity is that each night, after Olivia is in her pj’s and has brushed her teeth, she gets to choose one wrapped Christmas book from under the tree for her bedtime story. The books are a mix of stories from the classic Twas the Night Before Christmas to the modern Olive, the Other Reindeer to the spiritual, Stable in Bethlehem. Olivia loves doing this and it might be my favorite part of the day.
Here are some links to my list of Advent activities and some other things we’ve used during this lead up to Christmas:
-my list of Advent Activities
–a letter to Santa, perfect for kiddos who aren’t writing yet.
–a printable Nativity set, Olivia loved moving the people around and telling the story
–this subway art is a super cute addition to our holiday decor
I hope your holiday season is filled with family, food, warmth, and all the joy the world has to offer regardless of how you celebrate.
PS Do you have any special Advent traditions? Please share in the comments!