Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Family Advent Project

Before Christmas gets too far behind us, I want to share an idea with you that I am so excited about!  Really, it is a very simple concept, but for some reason I am enamored with it... A Family Advent Project.  I am putting together an advent calendar, personalized for our family, that includes ALL of our Christmas traditions and favorites- big and small- in one place.

I already told you about starting our Jesse Tree this year.  While I love the concept, the devotions are way above Reed's head and will be for some time.  Combine trying to do the Jesse Tree daily with all of the other meaningful traditions and fun we try to cram into the Christmas season, and I feel like it is so easy to either become frazzled instead of joyful and/or to miss opportunities to be purposeful in teaching our kids about (and reflecting on for ourselves) the Christ of Christmas.

When I say the calendar will include everything, I mean all of it!  Even traditions we obviously wouldn't forget, like putting up a Christmas tree, are included for the sake of not only simplification but also to ensure we don't just throw up the tree and miss the opportunity to talk as a family about how it points heavenward and that its evergreen nature represents eternal hope and the star on top reminds us of the star that shone that holy night of Jesus' birth.  Along with favorite Christmas traditions big and small, a family advent calendar would also include any traditions that are unique to your family.  For example, maybe you have a Christmas party you attend every year or out of town family you visit; part of your family calendar can celebrate those events and preparations too.  A couple of the unique traditions on our family's calendar are our Cultural Christmas celebration and gathering with family on Matt's Dad's birthday, which is December 19, to remember him in a special way.

Okay, so let me tell you what I did really quick, add a couple of notes, and then show you where I landed with our first go at a calendar list.

Here's How
First, I made a big list of every Christmas tradition I could think of, from little things like candy canes and obvious things like decorating our home to traditions specific to our family as I mentioned above.

Next, I crossed off things that I didn't really care to include (like caroling) and arranged the rest toward an order.  For example, things like decorating and putting up the tree moved to the front of the lineup and Christmas Eve worship landed on... Christmas Eve. :)

Other Points
The calendar can be as flexible as you want it to be, change with the year (or day!), and can grow with your family.  I would recommend presenting it in a way that is easy to switch up.  Say you plan to get your Christmas tree on December 2 but end up being able to go on Dec 1, just switch the papers around quickly!  You could even have back up filler activities, like a Christmas movie or an evening of hot chocolate, in case of a last minute switch up.  I think I will put ours in a hanging burlap tree that has numbered pockets (It was a countdown decoration we already had).  Here are a couple of other ideas for presentation:
Remember the purpose is two-fold... to simplify and organize all the ways you want to celebrate the Christmas season into ONE place, and to help be purposeful around the talking points for each tradition.  I feel like as kids get older it could be corny to talk around each little thing we do in December, but when the customs are anticipated as advent activities for a specific day it automatically creates excitement and a platform to talk a little bit about meaning.

Okay, I am sure I will add and change more in the future and I am just jotting a few words for most of the talking points, but here is a "sort of in order" list I will start from next year when I arrange our Family Advent Calendar:

Set up Jesse Tree, Talking point: "Advent" (*continue Jesse Tree ornaments daily)
Christmas Tree, TP: symbol of eternal hope
Decorate Tree, TP: ornaments, memories
Nativity (and Mexico tradition: wait for baby Jesus- flashback "advent"), TP: Christmas Story
Wreath, TP: everlasting life
Movie Night: Veggietales Saint Nicholas/ add Santa ornament to tree, TP: Saint Nicholas
Hang stockings, TP: Saint Nicholas/ other countries
Stamp/ Send Christmas Cards, TP: friends and family
Christmas cookies
TP: Star on tree significance
Christmas craft with friends
World Vision Shopping, TP: giving
Candy canes, TP: "story" of the candy cane
Wrapping presents, TP: John 3:16/ giving in celebration of God's greatest gift
Christmas Movie Night
Pops' Special Birthday, TP: Christmas and our hope of heaven
Look at Christmas lights, TP: Jesus the light of the world/being a light in darkness
Research/prep for Christmas by Country, TP: specific to research
Add France ornament to tree (for candy or clues), TP: France (also discuss Nativity scene and tomorrow's love letter delivery day)
23rd Love Letter Day, TP: Italy tradition (either read them that night or just deliver)
24th Donuts... Christmas Eve worship, TP: talk about service/read Christmas story
25th Sing Happy Birthday Jesus, celebrate, TP: Christmas!
NYE: Buttons, TP: year in review
Others/ Extras: Christmas book, carol lyrics, hot chocolate night

Do you think you'll make a Family Advent Calendar?  What are some other ideas to add?!?

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