Monday, December 15, 2014

Holy-days {Advent 2014}

[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.

Activities: Our days have been so nice, special, and fun. I love having this time to change up our routine for the month. Our days consist of: 
  1. 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.]
  2. Coloring aforementioned ornament
  3. 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 :)
  4. 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.
  5. Our Advent devotional

Here are the activities:
  1. Decorate our home while listening to Christmas music
  2. Make cards with stamps
  3. Make paper snowflakes to hang (used coffee filters)
  4. Invite family friends over to watch Christmas Veggietales movies in jammies
  5. Make and decorate sugar cookies 
  6. Celebrate St. Nicholas Day by reading his biography and doing a secret act of kindness
  7. Watch The Nativity Story movie under blankets
  8. 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!)
  9. Make a paper garland to hang 
  10. Make snowflakes for window art (used liquid watercolors on #3 and taped to pane)
  11. Watch The Star of Bethlehem and make paper crowns
  12. Make apple bread and give to our neighbors
  13. Make a birthday treat for Micaiah (pumpkin cupcakes)
  14. Go to a dinner party
  15. Dance to Christmas music 
  16. Make snowmen crafts (thumbprints and cotton balls)
  17. Wrap Jesus’ birthday gift 
  18. Paint pine cones and make centerpiece
  19. Using the nativity set, act out the nativity story 
  20. Call Nonna and Grandpa in car and sing a Christmas carol
  21. Go on a Christmas light scavenger hunt
  22. Make a pillow bed on living room floor and watch Christmas cartoons
  23. Sing Christmas carols around the tree
  24. Make a birthday cake for Jesus and decorate for party
  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...) and the things we are making on display and hanging around. We have a Christmas book bin and keep the Christmas music playing. 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 usually pray for the person/family that sent each card as we remove it :) [Last year, we kept them up the whole year!]

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.

Presents: As a family, we do not exchange presents amongst ourselves, but we usually get small presents or donations for our extended families. Again, we are not totally 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 donated to Abort73 and Blood:Water Mission. 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 2015.

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