Christmas...what other holiday evokes more anticipation in children and nostalgia in adults?!
For many of us, this is the most exciting and cherished time of the year. For kids, it's that one time a year where they're showered with presents, eagerly anticipate the arrival of a chubby beared man dressed in red, and have an enormous number of days off of school.
But after all those things come to an end, what are we left with? Bags of garbage filled with boxes and wrapping paper that was ripped off of presents at lightning speed, toys that may or may not have been neglected after a few uses, and bills piled upon bills from all those presents we thought our kids absolutely needed to have.
As a mother of three young children, I get it-- we want this time of year to be memorable, fun, and exciting for our kids because the joy we see in their eyes creates such a fond feeling of nostalgia of the times when we were younger and felt that same eager innocence.
One of the greatest gifts of being a mother is seeing my children light up with happiness over traditions I hold dearly. Teaching our children the real reason behind Christmas is something my husband and I place highly, which is why we celebrate Advent each year.
Why Celebrate Advent?
So what is Advent Season and an Advent Calendar? Advent comes from the Latin word that means "coming". In the Christian church, this is a time of preparation and waiting for the birth of Jesus.
There are many different ways to celebrate Advent, but one common way for children to recognize and celebrate this season is to do an Advent Calendar. Of course the Advent calendars where children open a piece of chocolate each day are a lot of fun, but the calendar that we started doing goes beyond that and incorporates bible verses of the nativity story along with a special activity or experience each day, starting with December 1 and ending on Christmas.
Each of these 25 bags are filled with a bible verse card that is simple and easy for young children to understand and learn. We use these verse cards and they're great for toddlers and young kids to comprehend and memorize.
Making an Advent Calendar
To make an advent calendar, you'll just need 25 bags, boxes, or something else small that you place that day's item in. I used small brown bags and glued number cards on the front. Then I hung the bags on twine with little clothes pins and strung them on an old window frame. There are so many neat ideas of how to set up an Advent Calendar, just take a look on Pinterest!
In addition to learning a verse each day, we've also included a fun item, activity, or experience that adds to the excitement of celebrating the season. I should note that we are not against Santa, but feel as if the main focus should be on celebrating Christ, so none of these activities include Santa.
I came up with each day's special item by thinking about what I remembered doing at Christmas time when I was young, searching around for local activities and events going on in the community, and LOTS of Pinterest searching!
Some days involve a little prep work with getting a craft or activity ready, and others are more simple. Do what works best for your family and schedule, where each day is not burdensome but rather a chance to build excitement and engagement with the nativity story and anticipate the coming of Christ.
Here's a list of what we are planning for our 2020 Advent Calendar with a one, three, and five year old. Almost all of our favorite Christmas activities were canceled this year due to COVID, so this Advent we're doing a lot of crafts, baking, and fun things around the house!
Throughout December I'll share some highlights of how we do our Advent Calendar on my Instagram stories. You can follow along with me @molliedonghiaphoto.
December 1- Make a "Countdown to Christmas" paper chain
December 2- Make confetti ornaments
December 3- Make a fruit garland using popcorn, oranges, and cranberries to decorate our own Night
Tree (great book by Eve Bunting)
December 4- Christmas movie night and sleep under the Christmas tree in sleeping bags
December 5- Tree Lighting Ceremony in town
December 6- Talk about the angel Gabriel and make an angel ornament
December 7- Donate food to our local food pantry
December 8- Drive around to look at Christmas lights
December 9- Make Hershey Kiss cookies
December 10- Decorate gingerbread houses with cousins
December 11- Christmas movie night with a hot cocoa bar
December 12- Holiday Storywalk in Downtown Lititz
December 13- Open a new Christmas book. This year the kids are opening The Story Orchestra: The
Nutcracker- it's a beautiful book that plays music on each page!
December 14- Make cinnamon raisin bread
December 15- Decorate cutout cookies with cousins
December 16- Deliver Christmas cards and cookies to our neighbors
December 17- Go to the drive-through light display at Refreshing Mountain Camp
December 18- Make s'mores in the fireplace and read Christmas books
December 19- Take each child to the store to pick out a small gift for their siblings
December 21- Make birdseed ornaments to hang outside to feed the birds
December 22- Open a new Christmas book
December 23- Visit Chocolate World and the Hershey Museum to see the train display
December 24- Candlelight service with family
December 25- Sing happy birthday to Jesus!- We always do a special breakfast on Christmas morning and make sure to sing happy birthday to Jesus.