Thanksgiving is over, the leaves have fallen, and the hearts and minds at my house have turned toward the Christmas season. This week marks the first official week of Advent – the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Several years ago, in an effort to help our kids think about the true meaning of Christmas, my husband and I started celebrating the Advent season in a more deliberate way with them. Advent means “coming,” and Advent traditions help us keep our focus on the coming of the Savior in the midst of the glitter and hustle of the Christmas season.
Here are some of our favorite Advent traditions and activities:
Read-Alouds -There are some great Advent read-alouds on the market, but our favorite is the series that starts with Jotham’s Journey. Each evening, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent and ending on Christmas Day, we gather for that day’s reading about Jotham, a 10-year old boy who is traveling through Palestine in Bible times. The story is an exciting page-turner, guaranteed to keep your kids interested, engaged, and thinking about the Christmas story in a new way. After Jotham’s Journey, the series continues with three more books. Trust me, your kids will beg you to read these each year!
Jesse Tree – This is a really fun, meaningful tradition for all ages of kids. The Jesse Tree uses ornaments and a short devotional to tell the genealogy of Jesus and God’s plan for salvation. When our kids were little, we had them make the ornaments out of clay, but you can also print paper ornaments or buy them. Ann Voskamp’s book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas, can guide your family through the Jesse Tree tradition with its gorgeous illustrations, short readings, and thoughtful questions.
Calendar Activities – Many families like to celebrate Advent by focusing on others in a very deliberate way. One fun way to do this is to come up with 30 simple ideas for blessing others and put them on a calendar or on slips of paper in a jar. Each day, try to complete one small act of love while teaching your kids about the extraordinary act of love that God accomplished through the birth of Jesus Christ. Your kids will love buying a coffee for a stranger, writing a thank-you note for the mailman, or sending a few dollars to a college student. This tradition inspires the entire family to be creative and intentional about showing the world the love of God.
The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas definitely has the potential to be chaotic and frenzied. Advent traditions, though, help our families to slow down and focus on the real, lasting meaning of Christmas. Whether you read a book, memorize the Christmas story, or show love to the people in your neighborhood, take time this year to consider the true meaning of the season with your family.