Tomorrow marks just 4 more weeks until Christmas! Crazy.
If you’re like me, at the beginning of December you have all these great intentions of spending cozy evenings cuddled in front of the Christmas tree, making Christmas cookies with your kiddos, reading stories by the light of the fireplace and enjoying hot chocolate (or my personal favorite: homemade apple cranberry cider.)
Although it is such a special time of the year (especially with little ones!), for some reason Christmas so easily turns into stress…scrambling to check off gift-lists, fit in last-minute baking, and preparing the house for hosting.
In an effort to make the most out of the Christmas season (and help it last a little bit longer!), our family chooses to celebrate Advent. For those unfamiliar with this season leading up to Christmas, here is an overview from a historical Christian perspective: What is Advent?
Having an Advent Calendar is one fun way to prepare for Christmas and bask in the season, and both children and adults love the surprises that await them each day.
Today I’m sharing 4 “Do It Yourself” (actually doable!) Advent Calendar ideas that your whole family will love:
(Note: I have included some links in this post to free resources available. Some websites may require you to enter your email address and subscribe in order to download, but you may unsubscribe at any time.)
Start by buying or making your own calendar with pockets or something similar that can be filled. (There are 4 weeks of Advent, but the number of days of Advent differs each year depending what day of the week Christmas falls on. Most Advent calendars have 25 “days”, meant to begin on December 1.) A simple Google search of Advent calendars will give you dozens of ideas – everything from Mason jars to envelopes, from tree shapes to boxes. The idea is simple: each day there is a small surprise inside (for example a chocolate, sticker, Lego figure, animal, etc.) Be as creative as you want, but small, simple toys and sweets are the most budget-friendly (especially if you are making one calendar for each family member).
If you don’t want to give your son or daughter more stuff, fill the calendar with pieces of paper that list activities instead! This one requires a bit more planning since you have to check in advance what time frame you will have available each day, but you could also fill the pockets just a couple days at a time instead of creating it all at once. Some ideas may include making hot chocolate, walking around the neighborhood to see Christmas lights, baking Christmas cookies, going sledding, donating items or volunteering at a food bank/shelter/nursing home, etc. This type of calendar is one the whole family can have fun participating in together!
3) Readings / Devotionals.
The word “Advent” means coming, and the season of Advent is a time of building anticipation for Christmas, which celebrates the first coming of Jesus as a baby (and looking forward to His promised coming again as King!) While I love fun and gifts, I also appreciate reminders of the real reason for the season. This will take a number of different forms at our house this year:
- For our mini-stockings I printed out these 25 Bible verses (originally from this website) which tell the Christmas story day-by-day (using a simple picture, which makes it more understandable for our toddler!) Each evening we light the candles on our Advent wreath and open a verse from the calendar.
- My husband and I also read through an Advent devotional together. There are lots of free resources online, such as this “Dawning of Indestructible Joy” by John Piper, “Where the Light Shines Brightest“ from the Billy Graham Association, and “Knowing Him By Name” from ThrivingFamily.com. (The last one is very deep and very creative; I can’t wait until our kids are old enough to try this with!)
- And for YOU, dear Mama, there are free printables available from one of my favorite bloggers, Ann Voskamp: How to Have the Greatest Christmas. Simply cut out these beautiful prayerful reminders and read one each day of Advent for a breath of fresh air during a busy season.
I am super excited about this last idea since I am doing it for the first time this year with our 2 1/2 year old. I am individually wrapping 25 different winter/Christmas books and each night of Advent he will get to open one, which will be his goodnight story. Investing in two dozen books is not necessarily the cheapest thing to do, but I found good deals online for bundles or used books that were in good shape, and figured this was also a nice way to get extended family members involved (ask grandparents or aunts and uncles to consider buying a book to contribute to the calendar). I also realized that we will be able to re-use these books for the next few years, considering my toddler doesn’t actually read them at this point and will likely have forgotten them by next Christmas. And as he grows out of these simple books, I can use them for our little girl.