This post was originally published on November 28, 2012. I pray that these ideas bless your family in some way. Most of these ideas have already begun in our home this year as well.
I don't know about you, but I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.
We had an AMAZING Thanksgiving holiday.
I could not have asked for ANYTHING more (other than for my Daddy and brother to have been with us in more than just spirit).
The family and friends were perfect.
The food was delicious.
The laughter was beautiful.
The joy was contagious.
The traffic was bearable.
Everyone made it home safely.
But, now it is back to reality.
Of course, this new reality is an Advent reality, which is SO much better than the usual reality you come back to after a vacation!
Yes, there is laundry to do and there are suitcases to unpack and groceries to buy.
But, there is also CHRISTMAS to get ready for.
That makes everything better.
I thought I'd share some of our plans for this Advent season in case you need inspiration for your own home. We've already begun to celebrate a few of these around here and the rest will be in full swing come this weekend when we can get all of our decorations out. This list is all that we have planned this month with ideas for how you can do it, too. Read it, enjoy it, make it your own. Whatever you do, do not get stressed out by the list. Just do what YOUR family enjoys doing. This is what WE have going on ...
The first thing you should do is begin (if you don't already do this) lighting a seasonal smelly candle each morning and as you enter each room. I have candles in "mulled cider" and "gingerbread cookies" and "baking spices" and "pumpkin spice" and things of that nature. As soon as I get my tea in the morning, I light the one closest to me for my quiet time. When I leave that room and enter the kitchen, I blow that one out and light the one in the kitchen. It keeps the home smelling lovely and makes it cozy, warm and inviting. And, whenever you notice the flicker, say a small prayer for PEACE ... peace in your home, peace in your heart and peace in the world.
Next, go ahead and get that Christmas music playing in your home and car. Will it make you crazy after an entire month of it? Maybe. But, your kids will love it and it will get you in the right spirit, even if it IS 75 degrees and sunny where you live. If you don't have any Christmas CDs, borrow some from the library or play one of the Christmas stations on Pandora or the like.
We have already started reading from our massive list of Christmas books (I will do my best to share some of our favorites later in the season, but you can look in the archives for what we read last year). We have not yet gotten out our Christmas boxes (where all the books we OWN are), but I made sure to request about 20 of our favorites from the library before we went out of town for Thanksgiving, so they were waiting on us when we returned. Then, when we got back, I requested about 20 more that are slowly trickling in at the library. Simply place them in a basket in the living room and GET TO READING ALOUD to your children. Morning couch time is perfect for this. Sleep still in the children's eyes, bedhead and pjs make for good listeners. Get them to cuddle up on the couch under a blanket right away (with that seasonal candle burning on the table next to you) and read a few books to them before chores and breakfast. Then, even if the day gets away from you, you've done this one special thing already. Read about the Nativity story, read inspiring stories about love and generosity and peace. Stick to the GOOD stuff and keep your eyes on the "reason for the season" here.
Listen to some Christmas stories on audio at places like www.thestoryhome.com. We've already been listening to them.
Devote your morning Quiet time to Jesus. I mean, that's basically what you do anyway, but I mean REALLY put your focus on Him and His message this season.
Have a meeting with your children to figure out exactly what all you plan to make for gifts for family and make a list of supplies needed. Then, get to the craft store and GET TO MAKING those gifts! The time to ship them is right around the corner! I don't know about your homeschool, but making gifts and reading Christmas books and baking Christmas goodies and listening to Christmas music and doing all the things of the season is our "school" during this time. So, during that block of time you would normally be doing school, MAKE GIFTS.
Get four candles, some greenery and a larger pillar candle for the Christ candle and set up an Advent wreath or similar for your kitchen/dining room table. Make this with your children (if they are old enough and able) and begin to light the candle(s) at dinner each night. Light one candle this week, two candles next week, three the week after and four candles the final week. Save the center candle for Christmas, in honor of Christ.
Get a special stocking and some scrap pieces of paper and pens. Hang this "Jesus stocking" on the mantle (or whatever you have in your home) all alone so that it is special (save the other family stockings for Christmas eve). Each day, write something you are thankful for and place it in the stocking. Then, on Christmas eve or Christmas day, take the stocking down and read what all the family members placed inside all month.
Get to baking. Bake Christmas cookies and yummy bread and other sweet treats and give them to your elderly (or not) neighbors. The children will love the baking itself and the neighbors will feel loved when your children's smiling faces bring them goodies!
Get your tree and your decorations and get to decorating. Play that Christmas music as you and your children bring life to the home. Drink eggnog with freshly grated nutmeg while you decorate. Drink hot cocoa (add some Bailey's for the grown ups if you're into that sort of thing). Go ahead and bake some goodies just for the family.
Don't forget to do your oranges with cloves! The activity is fun for the family and the results are beautiful and smell amazing.
Read books about the real Saint Nicholas. Have your children set their shoes out on the eve of St. Nicholas Day (December 6th, so set them out on the night of the 5th) and then fill their shoes with treats while they sleep.
Get your hands on a catalog from Samaritan's Purse or something similar. Give your children a "budget" and allow them to pick out a gift (or more if you are financially able) for a family or child around the world. If they want to, they can pool their money together to get something "bigger" for someone, or they can use their own amounts to get smaller gifts. Either way, they are learning that Christmas is about GIVING, not about receiving. And, they are learning to appreciate all that they have ~ they can ask for the latest gadget for Christmas instead of a mosquito net to protect them from malaria or for a pair of shoes because they don't have any.
Find a production of The Nutcracker Ballet in your area and go. We are going to see the Nutcracker ballet with our homeschool group for the second year in a row and we are super excited about it. While you're at it, make Tchaikovsky your "composer" this month and listen to him and the Nutcracker at home. The ballet is much more enjoyable for little ones when they recognize all of the songs.
Find out when your town's Christmas Tree Lighting celebration is and go. Ours includes a bike parade, music and dance performances, hayrides, train rides, face painting, craft tables and more. Unfortunately, Daddy has to work that day, but we will hopefully make it over in time for Santa and Mrs. Claus to arrive via sleigh and watch as the community tree is lit. We went to the entire celebration last year and it was lots of fun. We'll be heading out to get our own tree after Santa's arrival and the community tree lighting this year.
Find a live Nativity or a live walk through Bethlehem in your area and go. We have the coolest live Bethlehem nearby that we went to last year and look forward to going to again this year. We get to go to an 8,000 square foot village with merchants, townspeople, artisans, beggars and live animals. There are over 200 costumed cast members that re-create the city of Bethlehem as it might have been on the night of Jesus' birth. There are authentic sights, sounds and smells and we get to walk through and make our way to the manger to see the Christ Child. Seriously awesome! We can't wait.
We will also be attending an Advent Spiral with friends. In this busy season, the Advent spiral is a time to slow down and reconnect with our souls and our inner selves. We will be sharing a meal with friends and the children will be lighting candles around the spiral, reminding us to be a light in the world. The oldest girl will get to be St. Lucia. It is a fun evening, full of both laughter and a quiet reverence. We really enjoyed it last year and look forward to it again.
Don't forget to take a night and go out and enjoy all of the Christmas lights! We love driving around and seeing what all people have done to make their homes beautiful during this time of year.
The last few years we have baked cookies and went out on Christmas eve searching for homeless people to bless. Two years ago we brought along several warm blankets and sweatshirts and socks and delivered all kinds of warmth (of the physical kind as well as the spiritual) to those in need. Last year, we did not have any blankets or clothes, but we still baked the cookies and took them out and delivered them wherever we could find people in need. I cannot tell you the joy on these people's faces to know that someone thought of them during this busy season. And, sharing this with our children is priceless. We will be doing this again this year, but we may get some more blankets and sweatshirts at the thrift store before we head out. We love this tradition.
Bake a birthday cake for Jesus and let your children make Him birthday cards to set out on Christmas eve. The card idea comes from the Princess. She wants to make Jesus a card and leave it out for the Angels to take it to Him (her words).
Of course, in OUR family, these celebrations also include a day devoted to the Hippie. Her birthday is two days before Christmas, so we'll be honoring her as well this season. Decorations will greet her when she wakes up, gifts, family breakfast, a family outing (whatever she wants to do) and a family dinner out.
And, finally .... Christmas morning.
Until next time,
~ Irie Momma