It's technically still Friday, but this counts as my Saturday blog post. I'll be too busy farmer's market shopping, playing with my boys, and having a recipe party tomorrow to write.
My friends Rachel and Farrah have both asked for ideas about doing Advent with little ones. We are just figuring this out for ourselves, so I am not sure how much help I will be. I definitely recommend searching the blogosphere and internet for Catholic and Anglican family ideas. But here is what did last year and what we hope to do this year. Don't get overwhelmed. We aren't doing all of this. It's best to start small and focus on a couple of things.
I definitely recommend having one of these. You could get crafty and have your little ones help you make it, or you could buy one. I made one out of fake garland and red berries and nestled short candle holders in it. Put it in a central place in your home, either the dining room table or coffee table. We tended to do our Advent devotions after dinner in the living room, so ours sat on the coffee table. We may have to change that this year, since Hobbes will not be likely to keep his hands off of it. Wherever you put it, light the candle(s) every night during devotions or dinner. Calvin was so excited to get to Christmas and be able to light the "Jesus candle" in the middle. It is a great, tangible way to anticipate Christmas.
Books and Toys
I have heard that the Jotham's Journey trilogy is great for Advent. Unfortunately, they are out of print and expensive to buy. If you find them cheap, get me a set too! We have really loved this book. It is great for devotional time or for breakfast reading. Each day has a door you can open with a bit of the Christmas story. The illustrations are beautiful.
We also have a plastic nativity that we picked up at a garage sale. We leave that set up under out tree for the kids to play with. There are lots of options out there. I think you can even get a stuffed Advent wreath. I am hoping to find some more good Christmas board books, one to introduce every few days of Advent.
This depends on the age of your children. Last year, we used the Advent book for the boys and then did some readings our church had prepared for us. The boys are used to sitting through a decent amount of reading at night during devotions. We also used Advent hymns. If you really look, you can find quite a few. Focus on a couple that you can teach the kids. We did a different verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel each night. (There are about a gazillion.)
This year, we are doing a Jesse Tree with scripture readings. I ordered these books, and I am planning to eventually make these ornaments. This year we may just do ornaments cut out of paper!
Waiting For Christmas
This is the most difficult part of Advent in our culture. Everything around us is telling us to get up the lights, decorate the tree, start singing carols. A radio station here is already playing Christmas Carols 24 hours a day! Like I said, we sing Advent hymns until Christmas Eve. We put up our tree and stockings before Christmas, but we decorate the tree on Christmas Eve or shortly before, depending on where we will be Christmas day. We put up the stable for our nativity and bring the figures out slowly. I think this year we will have Mary and Joseph travel through the house, set the shepherds up across the room, and let the wise men travel (hide them around the house) from Christmas to Epiphany. Baby Jesus never comes out until Christmas.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
This is probably my favorite part of Advent and Christmas. We don't give our children a big gift bash on Christmas. We try to reserve this day for family. This year we are really looking forward to doing Christmas morning at home with just our stocking gifts. Of course, we can't avoid the gift insanity that happens when visiting grandparents! We do give our children gifts. We do mostly small gifts over the 12 days of Christmas, one opened each morning. We will do a couple of bigger gifts in there, with the biggest on Epiphany. This give the kids time to enjoy each present and makes Christmas Day more about celebrating Jesus' birth and being with family.
Rest and Relax
This is a lot of information. I am overwhelmed just looking at it! Take a few things that will work for you and go with them. There is a lot of information out there that can help. I would love to hear your ideas about what you are doing. Things will change for us every year as we figure out what works for our family. Mostly I love how Advent allows me to prepare for Christmas in a less-frenzied way. I try to get most of my shopping done before Advent begins, and I also try to minimize my Christmas party activities. I'll try to keep you updated on how things are going this year, but I also know that I plan to scale back blogging for Advent. Peace to you!