So, I took my monthly trip to Sam's Club this week. I typically head there once or twice a month to stock up on all the staple items we need each month for our family of six. I buy the same things every month. And, usually everything I pick up will last us about three weeks. It's a pretty standard list and I take only the four month old with me. This week, we found Sam's Club to be in the holiday swing of things. The Christmas music was playing and all of the toys and Christmas trees were prominently displayed. It got me thinking about how much time we spend preparing for Christmas. It is over a month away, which should make us all feel like we have plenty of time to prepare, but often it gives us a sense of anxiety.
I'd like focus my "Holiday Survival Tips" on preparing for Christmas through the Advent season.
First of all, what is Advent? According to wikipedia, Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming") is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.
Growing up, I was raised in a Christian home and we attended a large Baptist Church. My family did a lot together to prepare for Christmas. And, really, we did a lot of activities during the Advent season. However, I don't remember learning about or focusing on Advent in our church community. In fact, I don't recall ever hearing of Advent until I became an adult.
As an adult, we've found our church home in the Presbyterian denomination. One of the things I have treasured the most and learned from our churches is the importance of Advent. Christmas doesn't just come upon us. We have time and can be very thoughtful about preparing for Christmas. I love being able to make Advent a focus in our home with our children. It is a wonderful gift to give them.
For me, personally, the best way to survive the Holidays is to focus on the true the meaning of Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? How can you make that the focus this Christmas and Advent?
1. Celebrate Advent.
Take the time to prepare for Christmas. Slow down and enjoy the little moments that make the holidays such a special and memorable time for you and your children. Create special memories. It's the little details that will stay with you and your children for a lifetime.
2. Have a nightly activity you do with your children throughout Advent.
Advent begins Sunday, November 28th this year. So, you have nearly a month of preparation time. We have an Advent Calendar made out of felt and shaped like a Christmas tree. Each night we gather at the dinner table and our children take turns taking a gift out of a pocket on the Christmas tree calendar. The children really look forward to their turn and they are filled with anticipation wondering what gift will be in the pocket. We build on this anticipation. And, we also read a scripture or scriptures. We choose verses from the gospels that are leading to the story of Jesus' birth.
3. Set up a nativity scene in your home and use it daily as a teaching tool.
We have several nativity scenes. One is the Little People version from fisher price and one is a fancier one. Let Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wisemen travel throughout your home during Advent. You can coordinate this with the scriptures you are reading together nightly with your family. And have the baby Jesus appear on Christmas morning. Our children LOVED this last Christmas!
4. Bake cookies together as a family for your neighbors and friends.
Last year we bought cute Christmas boxes at Tuesday morning and filled them with homemade chocolate chip cookies. We delivered them to the doorsteps of neighbors on our street and throughout our neighborhood. We included notes wishing them a Merry Christmas. It is a wonderful way to show the Love of Christ to our neighbors and to get to know them a little better.
5. Make a list of the gifts you need to buy for your family and friends and stick to it.
It can be overwhelming to shop at this time of year. And, it is so much easier when we keep it simple and know what we are looking for. Don't get distracted!
6. Decorate early.
Our children find the Christmas tree to be magical. They love it and look forward to it's return every year. I find that having Christmas decorations up soon after Thanksgiving makes for a very relaxing Advent season. I love the way my house feels and smells and looks when it is decorated for Christmas. It is just a really special time. And, the sooner I get to enjoy it with my family, the better!
7. It's okay to say "no."
Our pastor said something this week that really stuck with me. He said that we have true freedom in life when we have the ability to say "no." It's the saying "yes" to too many things, often unhealthy things that can lead to a life of bondage. We can't do everything we are asked to do. During this holiday season, think about what is best for your family. And, say "no." You can't attend every party, bake cookies for every event, or sing in every Christmas production in your city! Seriously, say "no!" It's okay!
8. Take the time to gather precious photos for your Christmas Cards.
We have had a new baby four out of the last six years. So, with a newborn, we've taken newborn pictures and included the whole family. These make for great family photos for our Christmas Cards. Sometimes we've included only one photo and as you'll see below, sometimes we've included multiple photos in our cards.
9. Share your love of the season with your friends and family by sending holiday cards.
This is the easiest and most treasured way we get to share our faith with so many people that we come in contact with throughout the year. We share a little bit of what we've been up to throughout the year and we get to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!
10. Most importantly for us as parents during this Advent season, is to teach our children that the focus shouldn't be inward on ourselves but outward- on what has been done for us- the gift of Jesus. And on what we can do for others. How can we show the love of Christmas this season?
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful Advent season.
tinyprints.com for our family Christmas Card. The card examples from 2008 and 2009 are pictured above.
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