Now matter how you celebrate the holidays, the Advent season is a perfect opportunity to help your family focus on more meaningful aspects of Christmas. Traditionally, Advent begins 4 Sundays before Christmas and symbolizes a season of anticipation waiting for the birth of Jesus (some celebrate beginning December 1st).
One of my favorite Christmas memories from childhood is the Advent calendar my parents would give my brother and I each year. We would open a window on the calendar each day leading up to December 25th and a piece of chocolate was inside (although I’m pretty sure we never ate just one piece per day!). Now that I’m a mom of a kindergartener and a toddler, I look for ways to create Advent traditions within our family. At our house, my boys love the Melissa & Doug Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar. This kid-friendly magnetic tree has 24 ornaments that are fun for little ones to place on the tree each day. To make the countdown impactful, I have a list of corresponding daily activities that we do together. I like to plan a variety of activities, including outings, crafts and service and faith-based projects.
If the thought of adding one more thing to your to-do list makes you cringe, keep it simple! Don’t stress about it if you miss a day. Pinterest is filled with DIY Advent calendar ideas, from simple to complex and everything in between. Something as simple as a paper chain would work!
If you want to reinforce the Biblical meaning behind Christmas, a Jesse Tree is another way to celebrate Advent. A Jesse Tree is a tree decorated with symbols representing the stories of people in Jesus’ family tree. Isaiah 11:1 reads, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of David and it was from David’s lineage that Jesus came. The symbols/ornaments are hung one day at a time, and a Bible passage or a children’s Bible story is read. This would be a great project for a MOPS group; if you had a large enough group, each person would only have to make 25 of one ornament instead of making all the individual ornaments. Then gather to exchange the ornaments!
Here are 24 ideas to get you started with your own Advent calendar:
Set up the nativity together as a family and read the nativity story.
Search for a Christmas tree – go out and cut your own if you’re brave enough!
Sort through outgrown toys and clothes to donate.
Build a gingerbread house or make gingerbread cookies.
Make a family date and go to Illuminations at Botanica.
Drive around looking at Christmas lights while wearing your Christmas jammies (try a Christmas lights scavenger hunt!)
Watch a favorite Christmas movie like The Polar Express.
Make or buy a special ornament for the other members in your family. Plan a special night to exchange them!
Perform random acts of kindness.
Make popcorn balls.
Take canned food to a local food pantry.
Attend a Christmas concert or show
Create an easy Christmas wreath with your kids.
Go caroling around your neighborhood or at a nursing home.
Attend an Advent and Christmas Eve candlelight church service.
Read Twas The Night Before Christmas.
View The Arc’s Lights, a drive-through light display with over a million lights that supports The Arc of Sedgwick County.
Make a footprint snowman craft.
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride at Bradley Fair.
Decorate your Christmas tree together and read The Legend Of The Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne
Attend the Mayor’s Tree Lighting in Old Town Square on December 2nd.
Put together a Christmas puzzle as a family.
If your kids are old enough, volunteer together as bell ringers for the Salvation Army.
Visit a living nativity or drive-through Christmas, like the one at Countryside Christian Church, 1919 S. Rock in Wichita.
What special ways do you celebrate Advent in your family?