Our Family Advent Calendar Tradition
When my children were younger, I wanted to find some ways to celebrate Christmas with an emphasis on spending quality time together as a family, particularly during their Christmas break. I had grown so tired of the commercialism and entitlement that Christmas had become, and wanted my kids to truly comprehend what Christmas was about.
I came up with the idea to make a homemade Advent calendar that would incorporate family activities and learning opportunities that would help us honor Jesus’ birth while making a lifetime of family memories and starting new traditions.
I took advantage of the great Black Friday deals on fabric and got busy making small pouches in different shapes and sizes in assorted Christmas material. I embellished them with ribbons, assorted buttons, and accent stitching.
While my sewing machine hummed along on the pouches, I formulated the rest of my plan. I came up with 25 different activities we could do as a family each day leading up to Christmas, and I tucked some of my kids’ favorite Christmas candy in each pouch too. (Envelopes would work just as well…just being intentional and making it happen is what matters most!)
When December 1strolled around, I surprised my kids after school with the completed Advent calendar. I used a bulletin board attaching each of the 25 pouches with thumbtacks, with only the pouch for December 1stfilled.
I explained how it would work: “Each of you will roll the dice and the person with the highest number will start today, and the next day the other person gets a turn, and so on, until we get to Christmas Day. In each pouch is a little slip of paper that gives us an activity to do together as a family that day, and there will be a piece of candy for you both in each pouch that you get to eat. We will start after school on school days, and whenever you want on the weekends.”
They were so excited to get started! And so was I!
Here are some of the activities we have done over the years:
On each slip of paper were instructions to read one verse of Luke chapter 2 each day, leading up to December 20th .
- Read a Christmas book together (Grace’s choice/Luke’s choice/Mom’s choice/Dad’s choice) – we did this 4 times so everyone got a turn
- Watch a Christmas movie together (Grace’s choice/Luke’s choice/Mom’s choice/Dad’s choice) – we did this 4 times so everyone got a turn
- Build a snowman together
- Drive around and look at Christmas lights with hot chocolate and Christmas cookies (I saved this one for Christmas break for when bedtime wasn’t an issue)
- Shovel the neighbor’s driveway
- Decorate a gingerbread house together
- Go sledding
- Make Christmas cookies together
- Play games
- Make Christmas ornaments
- Each person do a random act of kindness today
- Have a candlelit picnic dinner
- Christmas Eve: read “T’was the Night Before Christmas” together
- Christmas morning: read Luke chapter 2:1-20 together. I also included larger pieces of candy this day.
This became, and remains a treasured family tradition for my family. It’s affordable and a great way to spend time together as a family while keeping Jesus the focus of the Christmas season. I plan to make Advent calendars for my kids when they have families of their own and look forward to continuing this tradition with my grandkids. It’s never too late to start a tradition, give it a try!
Does your family have any special Christmas traditions? What kind of activities would you put in your Advent calendar?