Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent Calendar & other Christmas Traditions

* For those of you that read both of my blogs, this is a duplicate post, posted on both blogs.

I posted on my facebook that I had set up my advent calendar and I got a couple of emails from my friends asking more about it. Those emails inspired me to put a little post together on our Advent Calendar tradition. 

Starting last year, our family started the tradition of using an advent calendar. To be completely honest, I don't know how an advent calendar is normally used or what it's real purpose is. I kind of just "winged" it last year and I liked how it turned out so we're continuing on with that  tradition this year.

I picked up our advent calendar at Hobby Lobby for under $10 (it was on sale), but you can find them almost anywhere. Ours is a cloth/felt type calendar with with pockets. However, there are all different kinds, my sister picked up a wooden box one that I absolutely love and hope to one day upgrade to. I believe she got it at Target for around $30.00 - super cute!

For us, our calendar starts at 1 (the first of December) and goes to 24th (Christmas Eve).
In each pocket I have cut white card stock paper into the appropriate sizes, and folded them in half to fit into the pockets. I have written a verse on each piece of paper for each day.

Last year, our first day started with a larger reading from Luke on the Jesus' birth, this year I started with a Christmas book that we have and have the Luke story as the second day. However, most days are smaller readings of scripture (including old and new testament) regarding the birth of Christ, why Jesus came as a man to earth, and related prophesy's.

A few of our scripture readings include:

John 1:1-4
Matthew 2:1-12
John 3:16
Isaiah 7:14
Isaiah 40:11
Luke 2
Titus 3:4-7
John 14:6

I literally just went through a picked out a few of our cards at random, there are a total of 25 verses (I believe we read Luke 2 twice) but in general the only "rule" I followed was to try to keep them short, due to the ages of our children.

For us, we give our children 3 gifts on Christmas morning to represent the three gifts from the wiseman, they are from us (not Santa). We try to do one "larger" gift and 2 smaller gifts, but even this varies year to year. We are not a real "fair" family, year to year the amount of money we spend on individual children fluctuates, last year we spent more on Treyton, this year we are spending more on Lexie.... just by chance... we do not play favorites, we do not try to make it equal, we only try to get them gifts that they enjoy and we approve of.
In addition to those gifts, for our advent calendar I pick up several "smaller" gifts - I try to keep them under $10 to randomly place on the advent calendar to open throughout the Christmas season. These gifts include family games, DVDs, books and small trinket toys (this year I have a little lamby purse on there for Lexie and a nerf gun for Treyton) . The kids do not know if there will be a gift on any given day.Traditionally, on Christmas Eve I have given the kids PJs so this has become their final advent gift that they open on the 24th.

Last year this system worked very well for us - we had almost all "family" gifts (games and DVDs), Lexie as you can imagine was uninterested and mostly unaware of what we were doing so it was primarily Treyton participating. This year I have included a few more personal gifts for the kids, on those days both kids will open a gift. We will see how it goes this year with both of the kids wanting to be more involved.

Overall, I believe if done right, an advent calendar is an excellent way to incorporate Jesus and the real reason for Christmas throughout the holiday season.

I found some other Advent Calendar ideas made from moms of young children at ABC and 123, if you're interested check them out here.

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