I love Advent. The build up of anticipation until Christmas finally comes. Remembering the darkness, so that we can fully appreciate when the light bursts through. Patiently preparing our hearts and homes for the Christ child.
Yep. I love Advent.
Here are some of our family’s favorite ways to lean into the Advent season rather than getting caught up in the world’s rush to Christmas Day.
Decorate Slowly and Thoughtfully
We decorate for Christmas over the entire month of December. The nativities go out sometime the week after Thanksgiving, our tree and lights a week later, then our ornaments Christmas Eve. It’s a beautiful build up to the “big day” with less stress along the way.
Advent Calendars and Wreaths
A simple Advent calendar and accompanying devotions are a must for us. If my ideas get too big and involved (not that that ever happens 😉 ), we’re less likely to stick with them. Last year we discovered Jamie’s coloring Advent calendar at Pure Joy Creative. It was the perfect mix of simplicity and depth that we needed at this point in our family’s journey!
Advent wreaths are also important in our house. The ritual of lighting a candle each night, discussing it’s meaning, and fighting over whos turn it is to blow it out, is a meaningful one. You don’t need a fancy wreath, either. For the first several years of our marriage, I simply stuck candles in mugs! We also put up a paper Advent wreath in our windows, adding a flame each week. It’s a constant reminder to us and a glimpse to passersby of the Advent season.
Listen to Music and Read Books of the Season
One way we keep the season present in our minds is by playing Advent music in the background of our days. Lutheran Public Radio is a great resource for this! Being dulcimer owners, we also enjoy “Hark, the Glad Sound,” by Owl Mountain Music.
Reading about Christmas the whole month before the day, is a sweet way to connect as a family and stay present during what can be a hectic time. Read Aloud Revival has great resources to help you find the best Christmas books for all ages in your home! As an aside, I step back from social media each December, giving me even more time for snuggling and reading :).
Create Traditions that Work for You
No family is the same as another. Instead of trying out each tradition and wondering if you should be doing each thing you see another family doing, find what works for you. Perhaps create a list of all of the events and things you usually do during the Advent season, then pare back to just the most meaningful ones.
For example, we don’t do Elf on the Shelf here or Shepherd on the Hill (or whatever other ones there are), because I know the added stress on me of remembering to creatively reposition the figure each night and isn’t worth it for our family. Other moms thrive on it, and that’s great too! You get to decide what works for you.
We also opt to send Epiphany or New Year’s cards each year instead of Christmas cards. I love sending and receiving holiday cards, but found that the stress of getting them our before Christmas really ate away at being able to fully prepare my heart during the Advent season. Once I realized I could send the cards a different time, a burden was lifted!
Cultivate an Awareness of Others
An important part of Advent in our house is trying to create an awareness of others in our children. Jesus was born to save the world, and we try to walk in that love for our brothers and sisters. Outside of the home, we do this by the kids carefully choosing and creating gifts/cards for the special people in their lives. We also choose a charity to donate to as a family. I’m open to more suggestions here!
Within the home, we choose “Secret Santas” the day after Thanksgiving. There are 7 of us, so there are enough people to go around! Secret Santas do special things for the person whos name they drew throughout December. Someone might sneakily clean her room or complete his chore or leave a sweet note on her bed. The week of Christmas, each kid gets a mini shopping trip with Mom or Dad to fill their person’s stocking. It’s a definite highlight of both Advent and Christmas for our family!
Another idea was shared by a friend of mine. His mom put a dark piece of construction paper on the fridge each Advent. Every time she caught one of her kids doing something kind to another, she put a gold star on the paper. By Christmas Day, the paper had transformed from a blank night sky to one filled with stars (and hope)!
The Most Important Part
Most importantly, though, you don’t need much of anything to celebrate Advent. You don’t need to host an open house, use a fancy Christmas countdown, send elaborate presents to everyone in your life, make sure your kids look perfect for pictures, bake beautiful cookies, or even send Christmas cards. You don’t need to do any of this if you don’t want to or it feels overwhelming, because Jesus. Simply turn your heart to Jesus. He’ll take care of the rest.