[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. This was the second year we were home on Christmas Day! Here is what we did this month:
Devotions: Advent is where we 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? We had our Advent wreath (carved out of wood, with 24 candle holes, and there's a movable donkey carrying Mary) out but did not use it regularly. This year, we used a new book -- All is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas (we alternated coloring a page one day and reading a page the next night).
- Aolani hung an ornament we made two years ago on our Jesse Tree
- Read a Christmas book. I arranged and stacked all of the Christmas books we own according to our schedule (I usually get two new ones every year). Then, I hid the stack and each night Ricky would put one out for the next day.
- This year we did an Advent Activities Calendar. I came up with 24 things to do, one for each day leading up to Jesus' birthday. I adjusted the calendar so that the daily activities suited our monthly plans (i.e., we made the dessert for Micaiah the day before his birthday). We missed some days, but ended up working them in and just doubling up on other days. The list of this year's activities are below. Ricky would put the next day's activity in the bag at night.
- Schooling: I took eleven weeks off from schooling the kids (mid-October until after the new year), so we have time for a new baby, visitors, and Advent stuff.
- Our Advent devotional in the evening with Daddy (depending)
- Play hide & seek in a tree lot
- Make play-dough candy canes (didn't happen)
- Make paper snowflakes
- Make pipe-cleaner poinsettias
- Put together Christmas care package for missionaries
- Invite family friends over to celebrate St. Nicholas Day by reading his biography and watching the Veggie Tales about him
- Make snowflake window art
- Act out the nativity story with friends
- Make white chocolate-covered pretzels
- Pick out Jesus’ birthday gifts (moved to Christmas day)
- Make glitter globes
- Watch Home Alone movie with friends
- Make a birthday treat for Micaiah
- Watch Christmas movie marathon
- Make and decorate gingerbread cookies
- Watch The Nativity Story movie under blankets
- Deliver cookies to a halfway house
- Make and give apple bread to our neighbors (moved)
- Watch The Star movie in theater
- Go on a Christmas light scavenger hunt (in pajamas w/ a hot drink)
- Dance to Christmas music
- Have a "Fancy Dress" dinner and tea (we paid a friend to come over and cook an elaborate meal and dessert for eight people)
- Make a pillow bed on living room floor and watch Christmas cartoons
- Make a birthday cake for Jesus
- Throw Jesus a birthday party!
Decorations: Most noticeably, we do not have a Christmas tree. We are not totally against them; we just choose (for several reasons) not to erect one at this time. We have other items (ornaments, stockings, nativity sets...) on display and hanging around. We keep the Christmas music playing. Also, we simply hang the Christmas cards we receive on ribbon with clothespins. This year we decorated our house on the last day of November instead of the first day of December.
Treats: Our treats were almost daily this year -- banana pudding, cupcakes, gingerbread cookies, white-chocolate-covered pretzels, apple bread, gingerbread cake, ice cream, vanilla drinks, rosemary cornmeal cookies, gingersnaps, etc.
Christmas day activities and traditions: This has quickly become my favorite day of the year! First, we do all of our cooking for today the night before, so we can all sleep in some. Then, Ricky leaves to pick up our guests for our big meal and party (we pray much beforehand who to invite -- poor, needy, lonely...). After we eat and play, we sing Happy Birthday and have the cake before taking our guests home. Then, we went outside to talk about five gifts from God to give him thanksgiving. Afterwards, we did our annual scavenger hunt. This was so much fun again! This year we had seven clues, and the theme was Gifts we can give to God -- hearts/feelings, minds/thoughts, bodies/strength/clothes, dreams/hopes/plans/prayers, thanks, time, and money. There are more, those are just the ones we did. We finished the evening off playing games and eating leftovers:) And then we transitioned into picking out gifts to give Jesus. It was a great second Christmas-at-home doing what we wanted and look forward to next year!
Hope you had CHRISTmas joy in your celebrations and preparation for the coming of the King!