We have started to prepare for Christmas at our house, and things can get a little crazy for our family this time of year. There are events to attend, presents to buy, cards to send, and cookies to bake. With all the noise that this time of year brings to our family, I want to share with you how we try to keep everything in perspective and celebrate the Advent season as a family.
Growing up, I was taught the phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It’s a catchy phrase, and the truth, but if I am being honest, I was more worried about getting presents than anything else. As a father of two, I still need a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas. There is nothing wrong with the parties, presents, cards, and cookies, but I want to keep in the forefront of my mind why we are celebrating this time of year and pass these values down to my kids.
The Advent wreath
A couple of years ago, Anna’s parents bought us an Advent wreath that we had our eye on. With Advent being a time of preparation, waiting for Jesus, we wanted an Advent wreath to help us mark the weeks leading up to Christmas.
We see the Advent wreath at church every weekend, but we wanted the same reminder sitting in the middle of our dinner table, too.
The Advent season is celebrated the last four Sundays leading up to Christmas, and one candle is lit each Sunday. The first, second, and fourth Sundays are represented by purple candles. The purple candles represent a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice. The rose colored candle, also known as the third Sunday, represents the joy of Jesus’ birth.
Wrapped Christmas books
Advent is a season of waiting for Jesus’ birth. Part of what makes the waiting exciting for kids is to have small markers along the way. Anna heard of a tradition to wrap up books each year and have the kids unwrap one book per day during Advent. We’re preparing to start the tradition with our kids this year. The books that we’re wrapping are books that the kids have seen and read before, but the anticipation of not knowing which book they’re going to unwrap each day is exciting and fun. Jude is already eagerly awaiting the start of Advent on Sunday so that he can open his first book.
Many of the books that we have are about Jesus and celebrating his birthday, so the activity doubles as fun and as teaching our children about our faith. Some books are longer or more involved than others, and some are simple board books more geared toward younger kids. We are looking forward to setting out the box of wrapped books for our kids to see as they countdown the days until Christmas and as we make memories together as a family.
Last year, Anna’s parents bought a Melissa & Doug Countdown to Christmas Wooden Advent Calendar for the kids. Even though the calendar countdown begins on December 1st and not the actual first day of Advent (since it changes from year-to-year), it is still something that Jude loves to play with.
The tree has 24 magnetic spots to place ornaments on. Each day, the kids place one ornament on the tree. On the 25th day (Christmas Day), they can place a star atop the tree.
Like most 4 year-old boys, Jude tries to add extra bulbs to the tree to make Christmas come faster. This is one opportunity to teach him patience and that we can’t rush time. Also, it gets him asking questions about Christmas and why we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
Anna and I have a beautiful nativity set. Unfortunately, we have only used it once. When Jude was just a baby, we displayed our nativity set since he was not crawling yet. Every year since then, we have kept it safe from tiny little curious fingers.
Instead of using our nativity, we now use a kid friendly nativity set (Fisher-Price Little People Nativity). The set includes a stable, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, an angel, and 6 animal figures. The figures are kid friendly and fun for the kids to play with.
The angel isn’t the only figure that flies in the nativity set. Depending on the mood of the kids, it is not unusual to see a cow or wiseman flying through the air. Some families I know set up the nativity in one part of the house and place Mary and Joseph in another part. Each day, they are moved closer and closer to the nativity. This is something that Anna and I have talked about doing with Jude and Adelaide.
As you can see from my photo, Mary and Joseph are not in the photo. This is not due to the fact that they are on their journey but rather because they are resting comfortably in the crevices of the couch or the toy bin. #RealLife
How does your family prepare for Christmas? I’ve love to hear your ideas and experiences in the comments below.