Annual Advent-ures


Christmas 2012 with our Christmas bun in the oven!

Last year we were awaiting the arrival of Karis Joy, so I shamelessly did close to nothing for Advent (except for my Mary Monologue at a couple of holiday events.  I loved putting myself in her shoes while I was pregnant with my own Christmas baby…)

But it dawned on me a week before Thanksgiving that I was without excuse this year.  Since Advent calendars seem to be narrowing their themes to Santa and chocolate, I dared to go on Pinterest to look for a simple, yet significant way to make an Advent countdown for our family.

And because we used our collection of toilet paper rolls for a marble run and compost, I went with small paper bags.


I get crafty a few times a year and used my home school teacher ID card to get a discount at Michael’s on some pretty green paper and sparkly numbers.  The hubs helped hang the twine over our archway and I put activity cards in the bags with ideas that I found on Pinterest as well.  How many points do you get for actually doing something that you pinned?


Those windows look clean from this distance, don’t they?


I wanted to balance the activities with fun stuff (hot chocolate, popcorn and Christmas movie, ice skating, etc.) and opportunities to think outside ourselves (random act of kindness, bring food to our church food pantry, learn about Christmas traditions in other cultures, etc.)  This year’s fun cultural addition (since we no longer have the creche exhibits in DC *sad face*) is Una Noche de Las Posadas, a “time-honored reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem that is observed throughout Mexico and South America.”  Muy divertido!


Advent Activities

I’m also practical, so I saved the first few days for decorating: ornaments on the tree, putting up the Nativity scene, hanging up the stockings, etc.  Plus, I like to ramp up to Christmas slowly, rather than doing the Christmas blitz an hour after the Thanksgiving meal concludes.  To each his own.

I’m keeping it flexible, so I only filled the first 7 bags, knowing that our schedule might change and I may come up with other ideas that will fit better.  It also gives me space to throwing in a treat or item that goes with the day’s theme.  But as far as the kids are concerned, there are 25 days of miraculous amazingness hanging above their heads.

And I’m super-spiritual (is there a shorthand symbol for sarcasm?), so I wanted to try to connect each activity back to the purpose of the Advent season which is to anticipate the coming or arrival (from the Latin, advenire or adventus) of baby Jesus and His Second Coming which we expectantly await.  We’ll read Luke chapter 2 during the Nativity evening, share this article during the tree decorating, and even find a way to connect a verse about joy to a Late Night Hot Chocolate in Pajamas Run.  Oh yes I will.  Gotta redeem the sugar intake.

I’ll be real – we got some selfishness running rampant up in this place, so anything we can do to get our eyes OFF of ourselves and back to what is True, is a Christmas miracle, folks.

The Shepherd’s Meal

And what is quickly becoming one of our favorite traditions is our Christmas eve (bag #24!) dinner, Shepherd-style.  I got the idea from Sally Clarkson, but ours has grown into its own over the years.  Luke originally suggested we eat outside and it was Leah’s idea to dress up in all the play silks, bandanas, scarfs, and headbands that we could find.

The first Shepherd’s Meal in 2008

And though I couldn’t find much information on what shepherd’s might have eaten, I went with general Biblical chow:  nuts, raisins, sheep’s milk cheese, olives, homemade sourdough bread dipped in olive oil and wine (or grape kombucha if you are us.)

With Poppa Len and Grandy in 2009

We have now expanded the menu with dried figs, goat’s milk cheese, olive tapenade and Luke’s homemade jerky.  We are some gourmet shepherds.

Joined by my parents (and bro and sis-in-law not pictured) in 2011

Lest you think it’s all about the food, Luke reads the Christmas story and asks the kids to imagine what it would have been like to be approached by singing angels in the dark of night.  Last year he got really into it and turned on the outdoor floodlight just as the part about the angels came.  He was proud of the completed home improvement project and I enjoyed the theatrics, so it was a win-win.


Shepherd’s Meal 2012

We also read the lyrics to Come, All Ye Shepherds and/or sing Angels We Have Heard on High.  Overall, it’s been a memorable tradition for all of us.  Even though I’m a proponent of simple, un-busy Christmases that allow for the freedom to let activities come and go from year to year, something tells me this tradition has stuck.

May you and yours enjoy this Advent season!

What are your families favorite holiday traditions?


7 thoughts on “Annual Advent-ures

  1. Love it! The shepherds’ meal is clever, too. 🙂 This year we are starting to do the Jesse Tree (a Catholic tradition that tells the story of Jesus’s lineage / the Old Testament day by day, adding one ornament for each story) and Sunday advent candles with scripture reading. I’m excited for Luca and any future sibling(s) to be old enough to add some of your fun ideas!

  2. Good stuff, love the shepherd’s meal. Some of our traditions… We do a bonfire Christmas Eve, definitely the kids’ favorite. Light of the world! Ann Voskamp has a Jesse Tree devotional with cutout ornaments. Haven’t gotten our branch set out yet, though. Umm…kids make baby tie-blankets for the crisis pregnancy shelter made from fleece (good sales at Joann this time of year). The kids also receive nativity figures for Christmas (they pick). Those are some of our traditions, anyway. Admittedly I still have Christmas boxes and decorations strewn everywhere…unfinished business! :/

  3. We shamelessly “stole” the shepherd’s meal idea from your blog years ago and did it for the first time last year with Dave’s parents. It was so fun, and we are excited to do it again this year! We also do the Advent Book each night and use this Advent Calendar (our kids were 1 & 3 last year and this was perfect for their little hands: I had to look far and wide for a “real” Advent Calendar and couldn’t believe the only one I could find was from FP! Other traditions that seem to be emerging are making cookies for the neighbors and taking a box of goodies from our local bakery to our fire station and library. I would love to hear about more simple acts of service for the 4 and under set. Right now, having them physically drop off stuff to people seems to work best but I hope to one day get my act together to make big batches homemade granola or hot cocoa mix to avoid adding to the Dec sugar craze! But right now cookies are easy for them to make and fun to decorate w/ our playgroup. We also do the shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child via Samaritan’s Purse but that is usually a Nov activity since shoebox drop off tends to be in mid/late Nov. It’s a good way to kick off Advent as the giving season though!

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