It might be a little ridiculous to say that I have been researching Christmas advent traditions for the past year, but it's true. I have been reading blogs and visiting varying websites and looking at lists about how other people do the Christmas season. It was very important for me to teach my son the significance of the season beyond the lights, presents, Christmas tree, and Santa. After all my efforts, I still think these are the things he was most impressed by. He is also 2 and a half, so it's all good. This was his first year of understanding Christmas more, so I made a real effort this season to think about what kinds of traditions we might want to do and what kind of lessons I want to impart to him.
I have seen tons of resources and ideas for how people do advent. For me, its just a fun way to count down to Christmas and maintain some activities, while remembering why the season is important.
I looked at advent calendars online for months and never found one I loved. I ended up getting two different kind at the very last moment. I tried reading a book with Caleb every night, and reading the scripture from the card every day. The idea of the activities is to do the activity for the day, but I just decided to make a general list of goals and do them whenever it worked for us. Working full time does not allow me the same flexibility for that kind of set daily schedule, and the activities are more of a suggestion anyway.
In the future, I will use other advent materials. I found some really cool ideas, but can't decide which I like the most for future times. However, last minute this year, I went with:
Because I could not make up my mind on advent materials, I just drove to Barnes & Noble and got this. Each day you read a little book. It is too old for Caleb, but I just wanted something to do with him.
I got this version of an advent calendar on Etsy. I liked it primarily because of the numbered cards with scriptures on one side, and activities on the other. I realize now I could have done it myself, but really, I would rather buy these things then craft them on my own. I see how cheesy my version of display is, but all I have is wall space and limited funds. This is called making due. ;)
Christmas Holiday Goals
- Go to Irvine Park for the train and zoo
- We didn't get around to this. It was my intention to, but there was limited time and sickness going on. I'm not too bummed about it though, there are other years.
- This was Caleb's first year making and decorating sugar cookies. He loved it.
- Decorate a gingerbread house √
- I looked at recipes for making my own from scratch. That did not happen, and I am so glad I opted to buy a gingerbread house that was already put together. We just decorated it, which was perfect. Caleb cared far more for the candy then actually decorating the house.
- Decorate for Christmas & Christmas tree shop! √
- Christmas dance tunes √
- This is just something that happened at random. Caleb loved randomly busting out into song and dance for songs like, "Hanukkah" and "Up on the Housetop".
- This did not happen. I thought it was a cool idea and thought about doing it a few times, but I didn't get around to it. I'm okay with it, there are other times for that.
- My sister and brother in law gifted the Veggie Tales christmas DVD's to Caleb when we went tree shopping. These are the only Christmas movies he has, so he primarily watched the Veggie christmas DVD's. His favorite movie and Christmas song is Little Drummer Boy.
- Make a new Christmas craft √
- I am not a crafter. I don't have the time to do that kind of thing. Plus, Caleb would rather be free to play with his trucks and go outside. However, this goal was pretty much attempted and met.
- I wanted to find ways to express the Christmas spirit to those around us. I often told Caleb how Christmas is about giving out of God's love to others (and Jesus' bday). While I am not a crafter, I also didn't want to bake something with Caleb to give this year. I know moms who do their own cute homemade goods. I am okay with not being that mom. I am sure in the future, we can attempt something like that. But really, it wouldn't turn out that pretty anyway for a gift. Not at this point. So I just bought some frosted sugar cookies and explained to Caleb what we were doing. He walked over and knocked on the door, and handed the cookies to the boy who answered. The boy said thank you and shut the door. A week later, I told Caleb we were going to give some treats to the teachers and his school and staff at our apartment complex. He remembered giving to the neighbor and told me that the boy had said thank you. I was so glad that he remembered that! I know he is young, but these are just small ways I thought we could give to someone else. Even if it is just a sugary treat.
- This year was Caleb's first year drinking hot chocolate. He was okay with it, but did not care for it that much. He didn't want whip cream or anything like that.
- I buy a ridiculous amount of books for Caleb. I love books, be it for a child or an adult. From this year alone, we accumulated a good stack of Christmas books. We read a Christmas book almost every day. I actually wrapped each Christmas book and let him unwrap one to read every day. Once we ran out of books to unwrap, we obviously just read all the new opened books.
- Caleb got his own nativity this year. I found it very helpful for him to be able to conceptualize the Christmas story more. He seemed to really take to it well. We also saw many examples of nativities when we were out and about.
- Orange Circle nativity!
- Caleb and madam Olivia!
- Caleb tried to ride a sheep when we walked past this home.
- Make or buy a new ornament for your tree √
- Caleb picked out a glittery tow truck ornament and a train ornament. Also, my good friend Josiah made us two ornaments and shipped them from Texas! Only one made it alive, and here it is:
- Perhaps a future activity. Last time I tried doing these, they were unimpressive.
- We saw lights on a two specific occasions and whenever we drove around. We went to a neighborhood that was set up nicely, and then we went to a place with Amanda and David later in the month. It was very nice to get out and see the lights and decorations. While it was fun, I found myself wanting to remind Caleb that Christmas isn't about lights, or presents, and all the other things that are done to commercialize it. These things are nice and help make the season special, but we can so easily lose the true heart of Christmas if we aren't making an effort not to. Definitely a nice and fun thing to do together though and something that will be good to do again next year.
- Take gifts to teachers & friends √
- Donate presents to children in need or other giving activity (Donate old toys to Goodwill or another charity. Go shopping for a new toy to donate through a local charity).
- We did not donate gifts this year. This stuff gets expensive! Future years I hope to do a shoe box with Operation Christmas Child and maybe a food donation somewhere. It would also be great to volunteer when he is older.
- I have thought quite a bit about the Santa thing. I never believed in Santa as a child and am totally fine with that. Because of my own life long knowledge that the Santa Cola Cola helped created years ago is untrue, I felt weird enforcing Santa with Caleb. But again, he is so young and is exposed to Santa everywhere. So his knowledge and acceptance of Santa was natural this year and I just went with it. It was actually cute to see him excited about it, and we have many other years to discover who the real Santa was. Personally, I find the real Santa far more interesting. I'm sure this is a Christmas spirit killer for kids, so I won't push it with this. However, if in the future years he asks me about Santa, I may have to tell him that he lived a long time ago and was very much real then. I would tell him about his life and how he gave all he had to others. There is more to St. Nicolas than that, and we can explore that more in the future. Now, If we do Santa, I have my own spin on how we will do it planned. Just a few small, cute things to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season, but also allow the magic of the fictitious Santa and his little elves to continue. I haven't made up my mind yet. Caleb's dad is a Santa fan, so I have chilled out a little on my disinterest in Santa as of now. It can be okay if I still teach Caleb the things that matter. I'll think more about this for next year.
- After all my Santa talk, I thought it would still be nice to walk around a Christmas area at a mall. Caleb enjoyed it but we didn't meet Santa. Waiting for that for over half an hour was not worth it with an active boy. Result to this idea of visiting Santa-
- Go out for a xmas treat
- We had many treats. We never intentionally went out for a treat, but there were plenty.
- I decided against this activity due to the crowds that would surely flood the train platform. Caleb does not do well with packed crowds in concentrated spaces.
- I have noticed that this is a Christmas tradition for many families. I did not go out and specifically buy him Christmas pajamas, but he already had some polar bear kind. We didn't intentionally do this one this year because I don't think either of us cared. However, he did rock those polar bear pjs...
- A cool idea I saw where at the end of the season, you could write a letter about the experience or season or year and open it the next year. We didn't do it this year, and I am not sure if I will make this a regular future thing. But the idea is noteworthy.