Sunday, December 20, 2015

Holy-days {Advent 2015}

[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. 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 same book we did two years ago -- Christmas Carols for a Kid's Heart (this is our third time using this devotional!). We sing a hymn, read a verse, say a little prayer, and let our kids blow out the candle. Occasionally, we read an accompanying story from The Jesus Storybook Bible (not pictured) after the singing.

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 from us and three more from family. I ordered the books according to our schedule. Each day, they alternate opening the book. After we are done reading, we put it in a "Christmas book basket". [Maybe I'll be on top of my game next year and can list all of the books we have collected thus far.]
  2. Our biggest activity every day has been following Truth in the Tinsel Advent (made for toddlers but Aolani and I so enjoy it!). We flip a clue (printed on paper which I numbered and hung on string), read a Scripture passage, talk about it and maybe do an activity about it, and then we make a simple/fun/easy ornament to hang (they focus on the story about Jesus' birth versus Jesse Tree ornaments that encompass the story of God's redemption plan for the world beginning with Creation.)
  3. We also added in a few other activities that we all enjoy -- like making snowflakes, baking treats for neighbors, snow and ice trays, candlelight baths, hide-n-seek in the tree lot, watching Christmas movies, picking out presents for Jesus...
  4. Schooling: I'm taking six weeks off from schooling the kids (Thanksgiving week until after the new year), so we have more time for Advent stuff and traveling.  The kids are loving this winter break! [And, Aolani is reading like crazy ;)]
  5. However, I am taking advantage of time alone with the kids (most days) by focusing on obedience training -- stories, games, crafts, reading... We are seeing fruit in Aolani as she is already applying it (not all the time of course); and then, I cry for joy for her.
  6. Our Advent devotional in the evening with Daddy
  7. Reading Christmas Around the World at bedtime
Decorations: Most noticeably, we do not have a Christmas tree. We are not against them; we just choose (for several reasons) not to erect one at this time. We have other items (ornaments, stockings, nativity sets...) and the things we are making on display and hanging around. We have a Christmas book basket and keep the Christmas music playing. Also, we simply hang the Christmas cards we receive on ribbon with clothespins. For the past two years, we have kept them up the whole year!

Treats: Our treats are sporadic this year again -- apple cobbler, ginger cookies, pumpkin pie, apple cake, ice cream, vanilla drinks, coffee cake, etc.

Presents: This year we have begun to do it a bit differently. Whereas we use to not exchange presents amongst just ourselves, we asked our extended families to work in "Christmas presents" with other events -- like new year's or increase birthday or summer or a new school year or a visit or other holidays. We want to teach our kids that just as they get presents on their birthday, Jesus gets the gifts on His birthday (see Matthew 25:45) -- just keeping it simple (and imitating St. Nicholas!). This year, we started my new favorite family tradition! I had collected like a dozen gift catalogs over the past month or so. One evening, we spread them out on the floor, allotted each person an equal amount of money, and had a Picking Party! So fun and wonderful! Yet, 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) for 2016. [Yes, our kids get gifts from us throughout the year as does Jesus, but we all know that birthdays are special for the birthday person ;)]

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