[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 candles after moving the traveling one forward. This year, we are using the Ann Voskamp's new family devotional book for Advent -- Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Ann Voskamp offers free printable ornaments to go along with the day's story, and Aolani colors it earlier during the day. After dinner, we read the Scripture passage and story, have a short discussion, hang the ornament on our "Jesse tree", and let our kids blow out the candles.
- Unwrapping a Christmas book and reading it together. I wrapped all of the Christmas books we owned, plus two new ones. I ordered them according to our schedule. Each day, they alternate opening the book. After we are done reading, we put it in a "Christmas book bin" which is normally the "library book bin". [The two new books I bought happen to be my favorite ones -- The Tale of Three Trees (not necessarily Christmas) and The King's Christmas List.]
- Coloring aforementioned ornament
- This is our second year doing an Advent Calendar. I came up with 25 things to do, one for each day leading up to Jesus' birthday. I typed each day's activity on card stock paper to cut out. I then put each one in a small, muslin bag. I found a free printable of numbers online to use by cutting and gluing each number on a clothespin. I hung the bags in order on a piece of twine; the photo below is self-explanatory :) I adjusted the calendar so that the daily activities suited our monthly plans (i.e., we baked cupcakes for Micaiah on the day we were celebrating it). However, when plans change and I need to switch activities with another day, I can and have, several times already, very easily (which is great)! The list of this year's activities are below. We are also adding in a few spontaneous activities :)
- Schooling: I did not take the month off from schooling Aolani like I did last year, but I way decreased the amount we do so we have more time for Advent stuff. While I still do reading and writing as on our normal schedule (as she is presently learning these skills and I do not want to lose any progress), I am stretching one-week of curriculum across the month -- like I said very little.
- Our Advent devotional
Here are the activities:
- Decorate our home while listening to Christmas music
- Make cards with stamps
- Make paper snowflakes to hang (used coffee filters)
- Invite family friends over to watch Christmas Veggietales movies in jammies
- Make and decorate sugar cookies
- Celebrate St. Nicholas Day by reading his biography and doing a secret act of kindness
- Watch The Nativity Story movie under blankets
- Interview each family member on record (We had a hot seat and recorded on video answers to What was your favorite thing you did this past year? and What is one thing you will remember from this past year? The kids LOVED this!)
- Make a paper garland to hang
- Make snowflakes for window art (used liquid watercolors on #3 and taped to pane)
- Watch The Star of Bethlehem and make paper crowns
- Make apple bread and give to our neighbors
- Make a birthday treat for Micaiah (pumpkin cupcakes)
- Go to a dinner party
- Dance to Christmas music
- Make snowmen crafts (thumbprints and cotton balls)
- Wrap Jesus’ birthday gift
- Paint pine cones and make centerpiece
- Using the nativity set, act out the nativity story
- Call Nonna and Grandpa in car and sing a Christmas carol
- Go on a Christmas light scavenger hunt
- Make a pillow bed on living room floor and watch Christmas cartoons
- Sing Christmas carols around the tree
- Make a birthday cake for Jesus and decorate for party
- Throw Jesus a birthday party!
Treats: Our treats are sporadic this year and less planned -- sugar cookies, apple bread, cupcakes, pumpkin pies, pound cake, ice cream, vanilla drinks, coffee cake, etc.
CHRISTmas joy to you in your celebrations and preparation for the coming of the King,