Advent(ures)

I’ve been searching for meaning. Meaning in a season that seems to revolve around Santa, elves that do the parenting for you for a few weeks, spending money you may or may not have, stress, weight gain, zero downtime, and a lot of musts and shoulds and expectations. I know that it’s supposed to be magical, but it hasn’t felt that way for me for a long time. Christmas seems less about Christ’s birth than ever. Ask my husband and he’ll give you a spiel about Paganism, Saturnalia, fire hazards and lying to your kids about a fat man breaking into your house. Sorry for anyone who has been to a Christmas cocktail party with him in the last, er, lifetime, he can be a bit of a (historically accurate) buzz kill.

When I had children, I resolved to resolve some of the inner turmoil I was feeling. I felt that, in order to be a good parent, I had to really believe in the season, and strive to create traditions for them that would feel like…home. I wanted to be able to explain to my kids why we celebrate the way we do, and why we are celebrating in the first place.

Whether you eat braised short rib lasagna on Christmas Eve (looking at you Gina, and wow was that a Christmas Eve to remember), or Chinese food after Mass, or whether your traditions revolve around Santa, cookies, Jesus, elaborate gifts or more, your traditions must mean something to you. You must be able to defend them.

Why are those traditions important to you?

Growing up, Advent was synonymous with a chocolate calendar with little perforated doors. My sister and I alternated days of putting that little wafer of molded milk chocolate on our tongues. When I started my own my family, I identified Advent as a season of anticipation, and I have always been an anticipation-junkie.

For me, waiting for a vacation, or anticipating a reunion has always been as sweet to me as the actual event, so it makes sense that Zac and I have centered our traditions around Advent, as a way to reconnect around the values that matter most to us: togetherness, undivided attention, quality experiences, memory making and giving back to the people who hold up our little family.

The Medium

 

Your calendar can be elaborate, it can be virtual, or it can be a small DIY project that you put together during a naptime. My friend Starr has an Advent calendar that is an elaborate wood structure, hand-painted, a work of art. My friend Katharina has a gold and white inspired tree with sachets attached that glitters in the way only German Chirstmas decor can do. My friend Megan made one herself that matches her stunning winter white and gold decor scheme. My sister-in-law Carey made one from solo cups once that inspired me before I even had kids. Mine is from Pottery Barn kids, and takes two seconds to hang and fill with paper. Because our advent season centers around experiences, I don’t need for it to hold much.

What follows is a template for advent, should you choose to take on this tradition with your family.  You can mix and match these to create a calendar that works for you and your family, and I’ll let you in on a secret, you can switch up the papers/days as the month goes along – the key is being flexible. This is not meant to be something that adds a lot of extra work to your plate – if it does, it shouldn’t be a tradition in your family. I want you to revel in your traditions, question them, reform them so they constantly work for you, and include your family in them as much as you can as they grow. As a mama, it can feel like the work of the holidays falls straight onto your shoulders alone, and that can be really lonely.

The Mix

53377215438__DC8CA219-8A85-4D74-A5B7-2E27DDEBAE05

The mix that I’ve come up with has 6 categories. Use these 6 categories to choose your activities, and assign them to days. If you are working parents with kids in school, the bulk of your experiences will fall during the weekends, where the weekday activities will be light. If you are home with kids all day and looking for ideas, you may center more of your experiences during the week and keep the weekends light, as holiday month weekends are always busy on their own. As the month goes on, you can always adjust these. In our home, the majority of our celebrating will be done in the days leading up to Christmas, and the day itself will be mostly lazy, with 1-2 gifts, and a lot of snuggling and eating, playing and FaceTiming with family.

  • Making Things: clove oranges, popcorn garlands, cotton ball snowmen, homemade snow globes, cutting snowflakes, signing Christmas cards, coloring wrapping paper, painting ornaments, watercolor place card settings, or any number of crafty crafts you can find – this is not my forte, but I can google stuff and if it’s not too messy, I can roll with it. I love to host these as play dates so there are more adults around and the supplies can cover multiple kiddos
  • Baking Things: holiday appetizers (to be frozen and popped in the oven for impromptu guests), your family’s favorite cookie, classic sugar cookies, instant pot lemon curd, freezer biscuits, monkey bread for Christmas morning, rolling pigs in a blanket, making egg nog, making a gingerbread house or scene
  • Giving Things: cookies for the mailman, goodies for the UPS/FedEx delivery men, teacher gifts, assembling kits for the homeless, shopping for kids for the Angel Tree, sending care packages to the military stationed abroad, delivering gifts to those in need, volunteering at a local shelter
  • Dollar Store Things: dollar store, dollar section at Target – I’m talking stickers, window decals, light up necklaces, gold chocolate coins, coloring books,
  • Big Days Out: tickets to see the Nutcracker, plans to see a Christmas parade, attending a Christmas concert, caroling, a wagon stroll to see Christmas lights, visiting Santa, attending a live Nativity, ice skating
  • Chill Nights In: decorating the Christmas tree, unwrapping and setting up the Nativity, opening up the box of Christmas books, reading Twas the Night Before Christmas, watching a Christmas movie with popcorn, dancing in the house to Christmas movie

Here are a few of our Advent highlights from last year:

Opening new ornaments

IMG_2750

Making a Christmas appetizer together

IMG_2913

Holiday cookie baking (peppernuts!)

IMG_3178

Wrapping for military kids

IMG_3139

Caroling at a Nursing Home

IMG_3497

Seeing Madeline’s Christmas

IMG_3374

Making pine cone ornaments

IMG_3322

Hot Chocolate for breakfast

IMG_3545

Holiday Light Stroll

IMG_3539

Ornament Making with friends

 

Seeing the Nutcracker

IMG_3639

If you’ve read this far, hopefully you’re thinking about the traditions that are important to you, and if Advent is the one that resonates with you, I hope you’re inspired by these ideas. I’d love to hear how you anticipate Christmas in a meaningful way – let me know in the comments or on the Facebook Page.

Cheers,

Sarah

 

 

2 thoughts on “Advent(ures)

  1. Liking the idea of tying advent to experiences. We have an advent tree that I think we got our 1st or 2nd married Christmas, so ancient now 😉 Tenaya has taken to opening it each morning. Wooden tree with ornaments in the base. We got her the Lego friends calendar this year too.

    Our traditions are cabin-house tree, picked and self cut at local tree farm, right after Thanksgiving. Home tree on December 1st, Zak has an old flannel shirt that was his late uncles, this is the only day he wears it. I never met him, but apparently he 2as very outdoorsy and loved Christmas, so this seems a fitting tribute, he’d have approved. Brandy for us while decorating, that one came from when we used to help my in-laws with their lights, it was their tradition so it continues that on. We buy tree ornaments as travel souvenirs, so putting up the tree is a wonderful trip down memory lane.

    Two years ago I started mother-daughter date to see Nutcracker, each year at the interval she picks out a Nutcracker and at home I sharpie the year on the base. Once she leaves home, this will be her collection to take with her, so she will start her adult life with some nice, and more importantly, meaningful decorations.

    I have a beautiful handmade card my mam sent me a few years ago, I kept because it was so lovely, and made by the mam of one of my oldest friends. She (his mam) died this year, so that card is even more special now and is in pride of place, prominently positioned. She was a wonderful woman, taught her grandkids crafting and now her granddaughter is a successful businesswoman selling crafting equipment, she’s been voted regional businesswoman of the year in NE England multiple times and it all stemmed from Pat. I love that.

    New pjs Christmas eve, mince pies and brandy or whiskey for Santa (we do the Santa thing, Zak and I grew up with it and loved it), none of this milk and cookies. I love mince pies and after the crazy of Christmas eve, the alcohol is nice!

    My sister and I used to get paranoid that we’d accidentally open one of the others gifts, so on Christmas eve we used to make and decorate little signs that said “Dear Santa, please leave my gifts her, thank you, name” for everyone in the family. Those kept us busy for ages, so I’m going to repeat that one.

    I love traditions, but agree they have to work for each family.

    Like

  2. I love these traditions- M and I also go see the Nutcracker and I adore the idea of her having her own Nutcracker collection to take with her- stealing that one!! And all of the traditional foods and the flannel – sniff sniff! What a wonderful rememberance.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s