I've always loved Christmas and Advent and the whole excitement and build up for the holiday. I've been pretty good at doing this for myself. I celebrate in my own rhythm, spiritually physically and just the joy of the holiday.
There is some stress, perhaps not as most. I don't have the big family to prepare for. I have my 2 sisters over sometime around Christmas. Whenever we can get together. Some years we host a friend Christmas party. Not this year with a newborn. And we go up to the in-laws for everything else. We buy presents and bring a dish to pass.
This year has brought a new sense of urgency to celebrating the season with intention. For my faith and my time and energy are no longer my own. This time last year my toddler didn't grasp as much. But this year, I know my almost 3 year old is soaking in the world like a sponge. He is paying such close attention to what I do. And he will understand Christmas and Advent in these formative years only as I outwardly present it to him. It's a big responsibility.
A few days into December I realized I wanted to do an Advent Calendar. Not one of those ones you get for a buck or 2 with the crappy chocolates. We tried that last year. They are no where near as delicious as I thought I remembered as a child. On the contrary they were completely in edible. But I digress.
So I searched the web, and maybe Pinterest, my arch nemesis, for a cheap and easy, "I can make it right now " solution to the actual calendar. I made this.
It progressed into an affair lasting a few days to make because I decided I wanted actual magnetic material instead of a half a pound of tape to keep it all together. But it was still pretty easy. I already had a mini muffin pan at home, construction paper and tape. Which is what it was before the upgrade to magnets and pretty paper.
To keep it both fun and meaningful, in each day I had a Hershey's kiss (I know, not exactly high quality candy) and a slip of paper for someone/ something to pray for each night in our prayer time. We also read this each night:
Bill questioned the same book each night. But I said "yes" repetition is how he will learn the story. Maybe in the future we will mix it up a bit.
I thought it seemed simple enough for a little guy. He gets excited for "Advent calendar" time.
We've also been trying to be intentional about doing some fun holiday stuff withBen and the baby. Things we can have in pictures, but also memories we can make and really make it feel like Christmas.
This last weekend on Saturday we did both a "breakfast with baby Jesus" as well as a live nativity in the evening. One low cost , the other free. I also enjoy looking up such activities to do.
The weekend before we went to a visit Santa with hot Cocoa at a small country store north of the border. It was awesome. Not only was the cocoa awesome, but we literally had Santa all to ourselves. He read us stories and sang Christmas songs to us. I almost don't want to give this gem of an experience away. But I love this store so much. Google "Hill Country Market " in Salem WI. They also have a killer deli lunch menu. Seriously. And local and organic produce and meat.
We went to Our towns Christmas parade and tree lighting ceremony. We have dropped off presents for our Angel Tree kids and involved Ben somewhat in that process. We drive through our hood looking at lights. We made a gingerbread house. I love it all. I hope our kids do too.
Some of my favorite snapshots are:
-Ben calls Santa "ho ho guy" (I have mixed feelings on the whole Santa thing. I don't push it too hard. I really barely mention him. I just allow him to exist)
- while reading the Christmas story he likes to tell me now what's going to happen next
- every present he sees he begs to open. So everything is stashed in my already disaster of a closet.
- the way Ben says Christmas tree sounds more like "Chris Chris tee"
- every night this Advent Ben has added "blah" to our prayer requests when asking if we should include anyone else. "Blah" is what he calls my sister Beth. It's more endearing than it sounds. But he thinks of her often.
How have you made the holidays meaningful for your family, especially in the early years ?