Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holy-days {Advent 2013}

[edited version of last year's Advent post]

Simple. Focused. Intentional.

That is our motto for this time of year.

If you want bunches of ideas for celebrating Christmas, you should probably go to Pinterest. We are more about cutting out a lot of the hoopla -- going for special and memorable (yes) but simple. It is Jesus' birthday; so, we focus on Advent ("waiting with hope") and then throwing a birthday party for Jesus. Simple as that. However, we will be going to stay with extended family over the Christmas week this year, so we will not be hosting our own Christmas at our home. Yet, here is what we have been doing so far this month:

Devotions: Advent is where I put most of our emphasis, because what is this holy-day about if we do not prepare our hearts waiting for the Christ-child to come? You can see our Advent wreath (carved out of wood, with 24 candle holes, and there's a movable donkey carrying Mary). We light the candle after moving it forward. This year, we are using the same book we did two years ago -- Christmas Carols for a Kid's Heart. We read some verses, sing a hymn, say a little prayer, and let our kids blow out the candle.

Activities: This is our first year of doing an Advent Calendar. I came up with 25 things to do, one for each day leading up to Jesus' birthday. Each square (decorative cardstock paper) has a number on the front and an activity on the back. [I hung them on ribbons using clothespins.] I adjusted the calendar so that the daily activities suited our monthly plans (i.e., we listened to a new music album the day we had a long car ride home). I am taking the month off from schooling Aolani so we have more time for this and Advent in general. We are also adding in a few spontaneous activities :)
Here are the activities:
  1. Buy a new Christmas album and listen to it 
  2. Decorate our home 
  3. Open and read a new Christmas book 
  4. Color a Christmas picture 
  5. Make a paper plate wreath 
  6. Watch a new Christmas movie and snack 
  7. Make apple bread and give to the neighbors 
  8. Go to a Christmas party (this is today)
  9. Open and read a new Christmas book 
  10. Make handprint wrapping paper 
  11. Make paper snowflakes 
  12. Wrap Christmas gifts for family 
  13. Open and read a new Christmas book 
  14. Make a birthday cake for Micaiah 
  15. Dance to Christmas music 
  16. Watch The Nativity Story movie under blankets 
  17. Make play-dough candy canes 
  18. Make a paper plate angel 
  19. Wrap Jesus’ birthday gift 
  20. Call Grandma and Papa and sing a Christmas carol 
  21. Using the nativity set, act out the nativity story 
  22. Drive around and look at Christmas lights 
  23. Sing Christmas carols around the tree 
  24. Make a birthday cake for Jesus 
  25. Throw Jesus a birthday party!

Decorations: Most noticeably, we do not have a Christmas tree. We are not fully against them; we just choose (for several reasons) not to erect one. We have other items (ornaments, stockings, nativity sets...) hanging around. We have our Christmas books propped up on the bookshelf beside the kids' nativity set (they love playing with this Little People one) and keep the Christmas music playing. I usually make a winter spice aroma spray but am currently avoiding all scents. Also, we simply hang the Christmas cards we receive on ribbon with clothespins! Then, when the season is over and it comes time to take them down, we will pray for the person/family that sent each card as we remove it :)

Treats: Our treats are more sporadic this year and less planned -- our own Chex mix, mini cookies, apple pie, gingerbread cake, specialty breads, coffee cake, etc.

Presents: As a family, we are not going to exchange presents amongst ourselves, but we did get small presents for our extended families. We are not against gift-giving amongst friends and family, but we choose to give a gift as a family to Jesus (see Matthew 25:45) for His birthday -- just keeping it simple. This year, we bought some Christmas care packs for children in Nepal, through Voice of the Martyrs. We do buy a few New Year's gifts for ourselves as a family and some friends that are to encourage faith and witness (such as Voice of the Martyrs' prayer calendars) in 2014.

CHRISTmas joy to you in your celebrations and preparation for the coming of the King,