Most years at Christmastime, I enjoy putting together an Advent calendar for my family.
The calendar varies from year to year – sometimes I focus on quiet reflection and sometimes on lively activity; sometimes I hang the activities in a long paper chain, or make a poster with flaps that open. I try to create a mix of inward-focused and outward focused ideas (bringing our family joy and bringing joy to others), and I customize it to include the holiday activities already in our plans – like a whole heap of music, as you will see.
Sometimes I try too hard and it stresses me out. But the kiddos and I love having something special to do each day, to build our joy in the coming of Christmas.
Here’s our family’s Advent list for 2017:
- Go ice skating as a family.
- Cut paper snowflakes.
- Attend a candlelit hymn sing.
- Prepare a baked item to give to a pastor or teacher.
- Create a Nativity scene from an unusual material (marshmallows, snow, metal, paper mache).
- Invite guests into our home to sing carols and share a snack.
- Make a handprint wreath.*
- Make music on stage.
- Spend the day with people we love.
- Listen to live Christmas music.
- Prepare a hot cocoa bar (chocolate spoons, various toppings and dippers).
- Make Christmas cards for people who will never give back to us.
- Write letters to Jesus.
- Play Handel’s Messiah on CD, in its entirety.
- Celebrate the birth of a human child.
- Drive to look at Christmas lights, with snacks, in our PJ’s.**
- Go Christmas caroling.
- Spend time praying for needs around the world.
- Invite one guest to dinner.
- Plan a family cozy night: popcorn, spiced cider, books.
- Eat a snowman / gingerbread man lunch.
- Watch a Christmas movie.
- Read holiday books from the library aloud.
- Draw names and give a “certificate of service” to one member of our family.
- Give what we have: Gather a basket of household items to share with a neighbor or friend.***
Additional ideas that might still fit into Christmas vacation after the 25th:
- Care for someone else’s baby.
- Send mail to cousins and friends.
- Sing in the streets.
- Draw names; give each family member $1.06 and take a jaunt to the dollar store for an impromptu mini-gift exchange. (This is my mom’s idea and I think it’s wonderful.)
Do you use an Advent calendar for your family? What simple activities bring you joy in December?
* Trace a handprint from each person in our family, cut out multiples on pretty paper, glue into a wreath with the fingertips facing out.
** The Christmas lights will not be eating our snacks, and our snacks will not be inside our PJ’s. I hope a few well-placed commas made that clear. Also I hope we are not in an accident that night.
*** We plan to gather items we’d like to give away: new soaps, some tea or hot drink mixes, homemade goodies, any household items that come to hand, maybe the piano – I don’t know – and show up at someone’s door with it all in a basket. This will be nicer than it sounds, I promise. If any of you mock me I may show up with it at YOUR door, so there.