I have taken particular joy in planning our advent activities this year. Levi is getting older and able to participate in more aspects of the season and in general, Brian and I have been trying to add more ritual and liturgy into our home throughout the year. Advent is an especially meaningful time in the church year; it has been enlightening to learn about different traditions and choose which ones would work well in our family during this time of life. I'm excited to continue some old traditions and start some new ones!
Advent Plan 2015:
Friday after Thanksgiving: Pick out a tree with my Mom and siblings, take Christmas photos for each other
Thanksgiving weekend: Decorate the house and tree. Set out the Christmas/winter books. Prepare the advent calendar.
Starting December 1st: I made an advent calendar with 24 tiny baskets hanging on twine. Each basket holds a piece of paper with an activity written on it that we will do that day (see ideas below). I have scheduled these out very specifically, so the activity makes sense for what is happening in our schedule on that day. Some days, I might add a little treat to the basket, like a piece of chocolate or lollipop. I'm putting these in at the last minute, for obvious reasons (aka, a smart and mischievous 4 year old sweet tooth!).
Each basket also holds the Jesse Tree ornament for the day. We are using "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift" by Ann Voskamp. Each night, Brian will read the passage/devotion and one of the kids will hang the corresponding ornament on the Jesse Tree (simply some branches in a vase). While we do the devotional reading, we also light the candle on our wooden advent wreath and move the wooden figurine of Mary along the spiral.
Throughout Advent, we are trying a new tradition called "Preparing the Manger". I put out an empty "manger" (another small basket) and I cut pieces of raffia to lay around the manger. When someone in the family does or says some especially kind or loving, that person can put a piece of hay into the manger to make it more soft and to prepare it for baby Jesus. The idea is that one way to prepare our hearts for Jesus is to treat one other with love and kindness. (‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40.) On Christmas Eve, one of the kids will lay baby Jesus in the manger which will hopefully be full of soft hay!
Morning Basket: For our school "morning basket" time, I will add some advent elements. For example, we will be learning a Christmas carol, reading and memorizing parts of Luke 2, and doing other Christmas/Advent readings. Stay tuned for a more detailed post about this.
Some activities from our advent calendar:
Read the Christmas story (Luke 2)
Do a Christmas craft (TBD!)
Go to the library to find books about Christmas
Take a drive to look at the lights
Have a family sleepover in the living room by the tree
Popcorn and "The Polor Express!"
Decorate a gingerbread house
Invite friends over for a Christmas poetry tea
Make Christmas cookies
Christmas music dance party
Read/tell Christmas jokes
Make peanut butter/seed pinecones for the birds
Bake cookies for police men
Choose gifts for people in need (Compassion Catalog)
Make popcorn/cranberry garlands
Go Christmas shopping for your sibling
Watch a Christmas movie
Go to the Christmas Eve service, have a sleepover at Grammy's
Here's to a fun, peaceful, intentional, meaningful and memorable advent season!