Why I chose to follow this tradition
If you’re here strictly for an Advent Calendar idea you may want to scroll down to the bottom of this post!
I’ve gone back and forth for a little while on what to post this week. We’re into December now- the busy season for most people. Holiday parties, family gatherings, endless activities and events make up this entire season. Just the thought makes me feel anxious! The work involved in making this season “magical” puts so much stress on me as a mom. Honestly, a part of me would rather do away with the majority of the holiday.
What is the reason?
As I began to mentally prepare myself for the job of providing endless holiday cheer for my children, I had a thought. Why?? Why am I doing this? Because I have to? It’s just expected of me? Because it’s Jesus’ birthday for crying out loud?? This is the first year in my life as an adult where I’m actively questioning the things that I do. I am really trying to get to the intent and the purpose. What is the reason? Maybe not surprisingly my answer wasn’t “because it’s Christmas!”
I was raised in a Christian home. My husband was raised in a Christian home. He grew up with Santa Claus- I did not. I struggle with the manipulation aspect of Santa. “Be good or no presents!” “Good girls get gifts, bad girls get coal” “He sees you when you’re sleeping….” ( Does no one else find that creepy??) I believe in being honest with our kids. I also believe it’s important for kids to have a sense of wonder and excitement. So this became a bit of a struggle for me.
My oldest is only 3 1/2, but she’s at the age where she is beginning to understand the reasons behind things. I think it’s so important that we nurture that in her! Instead of telling her just to behave for a reward, I am modeling the behavior that I want to see. Part of that included taking myself out of my comfort zone. Looking at the big picture and making a compromise.
So what does any of this have to do with anything??
Being intentional isn’t always easy. It doesn’t just come flowing out of you. I have needed to take a step back and sometimes take myself and my past experiences out of the situation. Whether or not the holiday season as it’s become causes me stress isn’t as important as I initially thought. What is the big picture? This is a time in the year where many different religions have some overlap. It’s a time for celebration! A time to be kind, to be grateful for the things you have, and to think of others before yourself. But it’s also a time to experience some joy and excitement! I didn’t want to be so focused on putting a message across that I lost sight of what this feels like to a child.
I started by writing out a list of “winter time” activities. Sledding, making gingerbread houses, decorating the house etc… all of the things you look forward to at Christmas time as a child. Then I began sprinkling in some activities or thought provoking questions (age appropriate of course). What does it mean to be kind to someone else? What is one thing you can do today to show someone you care about them? There is a family about an hour from us who lost everything in a house fire. My 3 year old doesn’t know what that kind of loss would feel like… but she’s capable of thinking of things we use everyday that they may need. So we have started making that list.
Making Christmas magical- and intentional
I decided to try my hand at making an Advent Calendar this year. It felt like I could combine the message and the joy best this way. I used regular envelopes I had at home and cut them in half so they were square. On slips of paper I wrote down an activity/ act of kindness for every day leading up to Christmas. A simple green velvet ribbon and some small clothespins keep the envelopes in order. My husband clipped a piece of an evergreen branch and I added a pine cone for the decoration on top. Very simple. Very minimal.
Every morning my daughter happily takes an envelope down and is so excited to see what’s inside, to find out what it is we’ll be doing today. And whether or not it benefits her in anyway doesn’t matter. She’s just as excited about building a snowman as she is making bird feeders so the birds who are crazy enough to stay in Northwest Wisconsin over winter aren’t hungry. There’s a bit of magic about it. And that makes my heart happy.
Here is the list of everything I included:
My kids are very young, so the activities I used are simple and not very described on the papers. I verbally explained what we’d be doing and why.
Build a snowman
Make pine cone bird feeders
Fill a box with items for a family in need
Invite a friend for dinner (the child helps prepare the meal)
Make a Christmas wreath for someone
Dry out oranges and cranberries to make our own decorations
Make beeswax dip candles
Find something kind to do for someone today
Fill a box with unused toys to donate
Visit a nursing home
Make Christmas cards
Bake cookies for someone else
Decorate the Christmas tree
Make snow angels
Drive around to see the lights
Bring gifts to a children’s hospital
Make gifts to give our friends and family
Spend extra time with grandparents
Make a popcorn and cranberry garland for the tree
Play a game as a family
Make Moravian stars
Make paper snowflakes for the windows