Celebrating Christmas: The Advent Project
Putting meaning and family back into Christmas.
Copyright 2009 - Angel Sweezea - All Rights Reserved.
I love the holidays... I admit it! I love setting aside a day to be thankful for the many blessings in my life, for eating good food prepared by loving hands, and spending time with family and friends, celebrating Christ's birth, reflecting on the year that's finished and welcoming a new year full of possibilities. I love the smell of baking cookies, the sound of Christmas carols (even when sung off-key by my children), and the twinkling lights against a night sky.
It seems like every year the Christmas decorations start hitting the stores earlier and earlier, the hustle and bustle gets busier and busier and people get grumpier and grumpier. People are running around worried about finding the "perfect" gift, making sure their house is perfectly decorated (or at least better than their neighbors) and wearing themselves out without ever stopping to take a breath and enjoy what is around them.
This year I have resolved to really put my focus back on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating Christ's birth, giving to others and spending time with my family building memories and traditions that I hope will be in their hearts for a lifetime. In planning what I wanted to do and sharing with friends, I realized how many of us want to not be drawn into the craziness of the holiday season, and to have a meaningful and purposeful Christmas season, but may be overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to do that. I hope that by sharing my Advent Project, your holidays can become less stressful and more joyful.
God Bless! -- Angel
The Advent Project
The Advent Project is designed to be flexible and appeal to a wide range of families. There are activities for younger kids as well as older kids. Most of the activities can also be done by couples without children (whether newlywed or empty-nesters) to put some fun in your Christmas season.
Every day is assigned a bible verse from the Christmas story, so that by Christmas Eve you have read all about the birth of Jesus. The rest is for you to decide. Depending on the age and how many children you have, the idea is to pick one of the activities* for each day. Some are very simple and require no fore-thought; others may require a little prep work ahead of time. Read through the activity ideas and pick the ones you want for each day. You can switch them around as your time allows. Also, as your children grow, there will be new activities to try.
I printed out all of the activities and verses and mounted them on cardstock. I placed the verses and activities for each day in a wall pouch with the dates (Dec. 1-24) on it and even stuck in a few treats along the way.
*I tried to include a variety of activities, books, movies and projects, to appeal to many families! The idea is to spend time together as a family, to look for ways to bless and serve others, and to build memories. I did not exclude the use of Santa -- I like Santa, I think he is a great fairy tale character. Every family is different; if an activity or project offends you, just skip it!
Day 1: Read Luke 1:5-10
Day 2: Read Luke 1:11-13
Day 3: Read Luke 1:14-17
Day 4: Read Luke 1: 18-20
Day 5: Read Luke 1:21-22
Day 6: Read Luke 1:23-25
Day 7: Read Luke 1: 26-28
Day 8: Read Luke 1:29-33
Day 9: Read Luke 1:34-35
Day 10: Read Luke 1:36-38
Day 11: Read Luke 1:39-43
Day 12: Read Luke 1:44-45
Day 13: Read Luke 1:46-56
Day 14: Read Luke 1:57-58
Day 15: Read Luke 1:59-61
Day 16: Read Luke 1:62-64
Day 17: Read Luke 1:65-66
Day 18: Read Luke 1:67-71
Day 19: Read Luke 1:72-75
Day 20: Read Luke 1:76-80
Day 21: Read Luke 2:1-7
Day 22: Read Luke 2:8-14
Day 23: Read Luke 2:15-20
Day 24: Read Matthew 1:18-2:12 or Read Luke 1:5-2:20
These are some of my family's favorite Christmas books and movies and some activities to go along with them. Remember, customize the book/movie or activity to your family's likes! Add your favorite Christmas stories to the list. Check the library or swap books and movies with friends.
*Read: The Candymaker's Gift by David & Helen Haidle. Sip hot cocoa with mini candy canes and discuss the meaning of the candy cane (in back of book). Write the meaning of the candy cane on cards, tie to some candy canes and share with friends or neighbors (or even the frazzled cashier at the store!)
*Read: The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. Hang your stockings when you are finished!
*Read: The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry
*Read: Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Make paper snowflakes to hang in your windows, talk about how God made us all unique - like snowflakes.
*Watch: Veggie Tales: The Toy That Saved Christmas
*Watch: Annabelle's Wish. Talk about Annabelle's sacrifice for Billy.
*Watch: The Very First Noel
*Watch: The Nativity Story
*Watch: The Lion and the Lamb
These activities are about spending time together, building memories and reaching out to others. Choose activities that fit into your families schedule and are appropriate for your family situation.
*Bake and/or Decorate sugar cookies.(Moms, we do not need to be perfect, if you don't have time to bake from scratch, buy the frozen precut cookies or roll out pre-made dough. Buy the pre-filled tubes of frosting and some sprinkles. Don't let trying to be perfect hold you back from making a memory!)
*Fill a plate or tin with cookies and take to a neighbor who doesn't have family nearby or could use a little blessing. (Be sure to include a note wishing them a Merry Christmas!)
*Attend a live nativity as a family. (Marvel at the gift of Jesus!)
*Pick a name from an "Angel Tree" or other organization and then shop for a special present for a needy child. (Having our kids actively involved in picking a gift for someone else really helps with the "I want" attitude. Have them pick a child close to their age and a gift that they would like to receive).
*Go for a drive and look at Christmas lights. (Talk about how our light should shine to others).
*Collect coats, hats and mittens to donate to the homeless shelter. Have the kids get their friends involved; if possible. Take the kids with you to donate (if appropriate) so they can see who they are helping.
*Watch a local production of the "Christmas Carol" (talk about Scrooge's attitude about giving and what our attitude should be).
*Sing along with your favorite Christmas CD. (Sing loud, dance around, have fun with it!)
*Attend Christmas Eve service as a family.
*Invite a family you would like to get to know over for spiced cider and cookies. (Reach out to a new family, have your kids help with the serving, you never know what a blessing something so simple can be!)
*Make cookie mixes to hand out to guests as they leave your house. (It is fun to have a little something you can hand out to others if they visit your house during the Christmas season, it says "you are special, thank you visiting!")
*Pray for a needy family (whether it is a family you know, or a family in another country, praying together for a needy family draws you closer as a family and makes you more aware of those around you.)
*Serve a holiday meal at a local shelter or group home. (There are many groups out there that could use an extra hand in serving a meal and volunteering as a family is a great way to help!)
*Sing Christmas Carols at a local nursing home or hospital. (Gather a group of friends if you can and be sure to check ahead of time to let them know you are coming).
*Find one person or a family without relatives nearby and invite them for dinner or a movie. (It is hard to be away from family, especially at the holidays, so invite someone to join your family for the evening.)
*Make a gingerbread house. (Again, don't let perfection stand in your way. Use a box kit, pre-made dough or even graham crackers. This is about having fun, not trying to be Martha Stewart!)
*Pop popcorn and make garlands while listening to Christmas music. Hang the garland indoors or out (the birds love them). Make sure to pop extra for munching.
*Make a pinecone bird feeder. (Even the birdies can be blessed by our giving). Spread peanut butter on a pinecone and roll in birdseed. Hang on a tree branch.
*Call distant family members or friends and sing them a Christmas carol or recite a poem (even if you have to leave it on their answering machine). (What a fun way to let our loved ones who are not nearby know that we are thinking of them!) (We did this for the grandparents and it is still on their answering machine).
*Collect canned and boxed goods to donate to a shelter of food program. (Even if it means shopping in your own cupboards, or getting the whole neighborhood involved). You could also drop the groceries on the doorstep of a family that is struggling this Christmas!
*Make some small bags of goodies and leave on the neighbors' doors with a tag wishing them a Merry Christmas.
*Make a Blessing poster. Take a piece of cardstock and write all of the blessings, gifts and kind words you receive during the month, add to it every day. Christmas day read it aloud and rejoice at all the blessings you have!
*Take some 3x5 cards or fancy paper and write notes to your friends and family letting them know a favorite memory, something that they did that is special to you or even a silly joke. Seal them in envelopes and hand them out. It is amazing how a few words of kindness can mean so much. (Haul out the stickers, stamps and crayons and let the kids decorate the envelopes!) (Let the kids add their memories, stories to the note) (You can keep this simple with just a few words, or write a heartfelt letter, just express your heart).
*See a production of the Nutcracker. (Use this as an excuse to get dressed up -even if it is just your best blue jeans.)
*Encourage daily random acts of kindness. Challenge your kids to find one nice thing that they can do for someone else in the family and to do it without recognition, every day. (things like: making a bed, putting away someone else's laundry, doing a chore, sharing a treat, etc….)(I find when I challenge my kids with this it cuts way down on the senseless bickering; instead they are looking out for ways to help each other!)
*Place a basket of cinnamon scented pinecones under the tree. The smell can remind you of the gifts the Wisemen brought to baby Jesus.
*Arrange a nativity set, set the wisemen far away from the stable and move them closer as Christmas approaches. Hide baby Jesus until Christmas Eve. Use the Nativity set to help your children understand what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph.
*Play in the snow (as a family). Build a snowman, make snow angels, have a snowball fight. Then come inside and sip hot cocoa (with lots of marshmallows, of course) and talk about the blessing of a warm home.
*Invite a neighbor to Christmas Eve service.
*Make it a point to smile and say "Merry Christmas" to everyone you meet! (There are too many grumpy people out there, be a small ray of light to everyone you meet!)
*Attend a community tree lighting service.
-The dollar store is a great resource for cute Christmas bags, tins and tags. Stock up so that you are prepared throughout the season to bless others.
-Don't worry about being perfect! Do what you can, don't be afraid to use pre-made products to help you out. We should not feel the need to compete with others for the "perfect mother" award. If you have time or love to bake, then go ahead, but don't look down on someone else if they don't! And don't let someone make you feel inferior because you took a shortcut, we all have different time, talents and abilities!
-You can include small gifts or treats on certain days, along with or in place of and activity.
-If time is tight and you have younger children, just have them color a page from a coloring book. You could write the verse of the day on it and hang it on the fridge, or send it to a grandparent or other relative.
-Feel free to add your favorite books, movies and traditions. This is about your family!
Angel Sweezea is the author of Short Cut Cooking - an ebook guide for learning how to save time and money in the kitchen.
She is a mom to three hungry teenagers -- and she deals with food allergies and a very tight budget. She has found a way to feed her family for around $300 a month without sacrificing taste, quality or nutrition. Shortcut Cooking is the result of 18 years of experience as a part-time caterer and being mom. You can visit her blog or purchase her ebook at: http://shortcutcooking.wordpress.com/.
Christmas and Winter Activities and Lessons Index