Today marks the first day of Advent, the Christian season of preparation for Christmas.
Growing up, I remember our family Advent wreath and calendar on a short coffee table in the living room. Each night, we would light the appropriate purple and pink candles, open a door of the Advent calendar to read the day’s Bible verse and fight over the small piece of chocolate inside, then say a prayer and take turns blowing out the candle.
It was a pretty classic tradition and one that has stuck in my memory. Now that Sweet Boy is 4, I wanted to create our own version that he, too, could remember.
The first step was to make an Advent wreath. Space in our current home is at a premium, so I decided against the traditional. Instead, I took a cue from this idea found on Pinterest, repurposing peanut butter jars, dollar store pebbles, twine and candles. I chose red for the Christ candle and white for the others — not necessarily traditional, but easier to find and also, I think, attractive.
For the Advent calendar, I wanted to avoid the chocolate-filled doors. One, because Sweet Boy is pretty susceptible to sugar highs, and nightly chocolate would not make for a peaceful Advent in our home. And two, because I didn’t want him anticipating the nightly candy reward but the deeper magic of the Christmas season. (I think it might be pregnancy and the sentimental desire to give him extra attention this year before he loses his Only Child status, but I really, really have wanted to play up all the magic of the holiday this year.)
I decided the Christmas countdown could come in simple envelopes to open each evening. Inside each one is a piece of the Christmas story, along with a preview of the next day’s special activity. The latter took a lot of planning — I sat down in mid-Thanksgiving to figure out what activities would make sense each day, and I’ve already had to rearrange a couple — but the benefit is that we won’t be rushing to cram things in; we have a plan.
We started a little early, because there are so many great activities taking place over the Thanksgiving weekend (which I would much rather use for Christmas fun than Christmas shopping!). Some are simple, like watching traditional Christmas movies, while others are bigger, like taking a ride on a local Christmas train. Some are simple fun, like making cookies, while others are about finding the true meaning of the season, by going to church or putting together gift boxes for local children in foster care. But every one is about building the anticipation and magic as we recognize the true meaning of the season.
Here’s a peek at our Advent activities, some of which I’ll blog more about this month:
Wednesday, Nov. 27 — ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo
Thursday, Nov. 28 — Thanksgiving with the family
Friday, Nov. 29 — City Christmas Tree Lighting
Saturday, Nov. 30 — Decorate the Christmas tree
Sunday, Dec. 1 — Make presents and cards for teachers
Monday, Dec. 2 — Write a letter to Santa Claus
Tuesday, Dec. 3 — Spray snow on the windows
Wednesday, Dec. 4 — Christmas pancakes for dinner
Thursday, Dec. 5 — Make a paper garland countdown to Christmas travel
Friday, Dec. 6 — Watch “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”
Saturday, Dec. 7 — Visit Santa and the local Christmas light parade
Sunday, Dec. 8 — Sort toys to identify giveaways
Monday, Dec. 9 — Read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
Tuesday, Dec. 10 — Make Welcome Boxes for foster children
Wednesday, Dec. 11 — Make Christmas cookies
Thursday, Dec. 12 — Pre-make thank you cards
Friday, Dec. 13 — Watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
Saturday, Dec. 14 — Ride a Christmas train
Sunday, Dec. 15 — Listen to Christmas music during bathtime
Monday, Dec. 16 — Make thumbprint snowmen
Tuesday, Dec. 17 — Watch the Christmas ships
Wednesday, Dec. 18 — Make reindeer bait
Thursday, Dec. 19 — Make paper snowflakes
Friday, Dec. 20 — Watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Saturday, Dec. 21 — Have a living room campout by the Christmas tree
Sunday, Dec. 22 — Go to local church
Monday, Dec. 23 — Read the story of Jesus’ birth
Tuesday, Dec. 24 — Red “Twas the Night Before Christmas”
Wednesday, Dec. 25 — Christmas