Two years ago I shared ideas on the blog about Advent activities. I go back and read that list now and snort loudly. Maybe it is the fact that I currently have two active boys and easily over-commit myself. But hosting a party? Going to a Handel’s Messiah sing along? Telling childhood Christmas stories around the fire? Going ice skating? I look at that list and think, “NO WAY!” What was I thinking?!?!? Even introducing the LEGO advent calendar last year now seems like a huge mistake. I have two boys. They don’t like to share, and I have now set myself up for $60 worth of LEGO or Playmobil expenses each Christmas, usually torn open as we are running out the door to school, at least one child late and in tears (or sneaking said LEGO creation to school in his pant’s pocket). The need to plan and actually execute activity after activity, day after day amidst school, homework, church commitments and day-to-day life becomes unrealistic. And yet….I buy into it all! I even promote and encourage YOU to do it here in this space.
Last Friday, I shared some of my thoughts on Advent & how I’ve let myself get mixed up a bit. Today, I wanted to share a few resources with you that I am hoping to try this year. I am nervous to scale back cold turkey style. My oldest is six and has a strong memory. I know there are pieces of the holiday season that already seem like “givens” to him (LEGO Advent Calendar, I’m talking about YOU!) and I start sweating just thinking of some of the battles that might lay ahead with making changes. But, here goes…and please, if you ARE up for hosting a party or if your kids will sit around the fire and tell stories, MORE POWER TO YOU! I’m not here to tell you how to approach the season of Advent or anger folks, just to offer some options.
(I can’t resist this picture. Drew’s hair and obvious confusion exemplify what the rigors of the “season” can do, huh?!?)
This year, I am hoping to have two aspects to our Advent season. One will be continuing to explore the Jesse Tree each day. We have used the Jesse Tree for three Christmases now and I love it. If you aren’t familiar with it, a Jesse Tree highlights the genealogy of Jesus, focusing each day on different stories or people that pointed to the coming of Christ. For me, seeing the birth of Christ as the culmination of God’s long range plan of redemption grounds the celebration of Christmas. People, ordinary folks like us, were faithful and brave and fearless (or fear-filled!). So many came before to set the stage for Christ’s birth. Ann Voskamp has a wonderful resource for the Jesse Tree, but for me, the accompanying devotional is too tough for little munchkins to comprehend. (her ornaments are free and so beautiful…go here for the link to print your own) Last year we started following a plan to use the Jesse Tree with stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Rather than re-creating the wheel, I will point you to Adriel Booker’s blog where she has an easily printable PDF plan for reading these stories over Advent.
Here is the Jesus Storybook Bible “reading plan” that we’ll be following for Advent:
Free download: Jesus Storybook Bible printable reading plan for Advent (This one includes daily notes that you can cut up and put in your pockets/calendar.)
In addition to the Jesse Tree each day, the boys will get to take an activity out of the corresponding day’s “mitten”, our Advent calendar. There are countless resources for ideas daily Advent activities—-so many that my mind starts spinning and I can’t decide which to do. This year, I am starting with our family calendar and scheduling in commitments we already have on deck. For example, on the first day of Advent, our church has a little craft festival and families get to make advent wreaths. You’d better believe that’s going to be in the mitten for Day 1! We also have family coming into town for the holidays, so they are added to the “Advent Activities” and we will focus on time with them on Day 23. I also decided that activities we choose this year need to be accomplished using supplies we already have on hand. Elaborate options will be put on the back burner in favor of easier & **FREE**. Finally, I am capitalizing of the creativity and energy of others. When we have friends visiting, I am planning to squeeze in a few activities in one day since I have an extra pair of much more capable & energetic hands.
Here is a taste of what we’ll be doing:
- Drive around and look at Christmas lights
- Eat Trader Joes Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s Ice Cream
- Get Christmas PJs & eat breakfast for dinner
- Celebrate St Nicholas Day on December 6th (please read Micha’s wonderful guest post on this last year)
- Build a fort with Christmas lights (thank GOODNESS, I already sewed this last year…just have to put it up and enjoy this year!)
- Get a new game and have a family game night
- Ride the Christmas trolley downtown
- Shopping for an adopted family in need through church &/or at the grocery store for the local food bank (I love that in Eugene, just south of us, they did a fun project this past weekend called “Stuff the Bus“)
- Make a gingerbread house & people (again thank you, Trader Joes, for premade items and for previously mentioned, brave friends to come and help with this)
- Make a card for their teachers (thumbprint Christmas lights or button cards?)
- Have a candlelight dinner of Christmas pasta (Trader Joes AGAIN, for the win….green, white and red pasta in a bag) or Christmas pizza (basically make sure your pizza has red, white and green—Margherita)
- Celebrate St Lucia Day on December 13th (this was a new one for me last year and I LOVED it…who doesn’t want to eat sweet pastries with candles for breakfast and the intention of the day is so meaningful). Click here to see what we did last year and what St Lucia’s Day is all about.
- Snowman Poop (more about that here and here)
- Watching Christmas movies (Favorites include: Charlie Brown Christmas Special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf & It’s a Wonderful Life)
- Lighting Advent candles on our wreath each Sunday
- Reading a new Christmas book (this year I’m planning on trying Father Christmas Letters by JRR Tolkien)
- Stringing popcorn for the tree (I seriously DETEST this one, but year after year, it’s the activity my eldest remembers and loves the most. Plus, it’s free and keeps my boys sitting and focused for a long time.)
Obviously some of these activities aren’t free (ice cream, buying a new game, new pjs, etc) but I will be trying to keep it as low key and inexpensive as possible. Luckily I keep my eye out for good deals during the year and already have lined up the non-perishable items early on and frankly, Trader Joes provides 75% of what we need! It is also true that many of these activities don’t have a direct correlation to Advent—case in point, Snowman Poop. Some items on the list have become traditions that create normalcy and routine (especially during a year where we will have Christmas in a new home and church). Other activities will help us explore our new town forming new habits and involvement in the community.
With an air of flexibility and desire to create a space for family time & reaching out to others, we will enter into this season of Advent. It is my hope that we create a place of meaning, wonder and tradition for the boys & also a space for ourselves to do the same.