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?
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?