It’s official. Christmas is a month away. It’s time to start getting the December calendar out and planning the holiday parties, end of the year school functions, and work get-togethers. For our family, we have the calendar out to start planning our annual Advent Activities
In 2009 I decided I wanted to share my love of Christmas with my kids. I wanted to do more than just decorate the tree or watch holiday movies. I decided that we would do one Christmas activity a day during December leading up to Christmas. As a homeschooling mom, I wanted to incorporate fun into our learning and learning into our fun. I wanted to take our lessons and give them a Christmas feel. I wanted to teach the kids how to use math while they learned to bake. I wanted to put into practice writing skills with movie watching and writing their own stories. But most of all, I just wanted to have fun and spend time with my kids and my husband.
Things to remember:
1. FLEXIBILITY. Each year is different. Some years I am able to plan my days out ahead of time but most years I won’t know for sure what I am doing until the week, or even the day, before. Some days we have a big activity planned where we might go to Zoo Lights or watch a movie that has lots of cooking/baking that goes with it. There are a few days we simply add “go to Hope’s school performance” or “Candlelight service at church.” It’s something that we would do normally, but makes it feel special when we put it on the calendar for the entire family to be a part of.
I have had friends who panicked at the thought of doing 25 activities so they have asked me if they could do just a week or do a “12 days of Christmas.” Sure. Why not? You have to do what works best for you, your family, your budget, and your schedule. The very first year I planned on doing one advent per day, we were well into the month when my grandfather passed away. My kids were a bit disappointed that we weren’t able to finish the month because we were on the road for a week, but it was a special time being able to share some of our activities with our family when they all gathered for the celebration of Papaw’s life. I learned real quick that flexibility is key when planning for ADVENTures.
2. EASE. Don’t make the activities too complicated. Many of our activities are simply things that we all want to do every year such as watch a Christmas movie or go look at Christmas lights. With most movies, we will incorporate some sort of food. For example, when watching The Christmas Story we eat Chinese food like the Parker family does at the end of the movie. When watching The Nativity the kids and I get together to make no-bake cookies called haystacks. After 5 years of watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and not having a food to go with it, Grace came to me and said “we should make brownies because they say ‘of all the Charlie Browns, you’re the Charlie Brownie-est'”. It made me so happy that she wanted to contribute and had been paying attention to the theme of matching movies and food.
3. HAVE FUN! If you get bogged down in the details, you will lose the magic and amazement of the Advent Activity. If you aren’t having fun, then the people you are sharing the day with won’t have fun either.
4. REMEMBER THE WHY. John & I value two things. God and family. Advent Activities allow us to spend time with our kids and share with them our true meaning of Christmas. Our family starts every year with reading the accounts of Jesus birth then watching The Nativity. We do our best to do a family devotional each day leading up to Christmas. We have used the Bible App to find many different devotionals (our favorite being Carols: A Christmas Devotional). This year we are doing The Way To The Manger by Jeff & Abbey Land that we got at LifeWay.com.
Now onto the real fun. Here is the list of the Advent Activities that my family has done year after year. *At the end of the list I have included a list of activities that we have done in the Memphis area.*
NATIVITY. Read the accounts of Jesus birth in Matthew and Luke. Compare and contrast the stories. Watch The Nativity (older kids) or The Star (younger kids). Make haystacks (no bake cookies using crispy lo-mein noddles, peanut butter, marshmallow cream, and butterscotch chips).
ELF. Watch Elf. Eat spaghetti. Buffet of candies and syrup
CHRISTMAS STORY. Watch A Christmas Story. Eat Chinese food (crockpot orange chicken and homemade fried rice). Drink Ovaltine
ITS WONDERFUL. Watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Eat Italian food.
CHRISTMAS CAROL. Watch A Christmas Carol (musical with Kelsey Grammer, Disney version with Jim Carrey, The Muppets A Christmas Carol, etc.). Compare and contrast the different films. Write your own version using people you know as the characters.
GRINCH. Read then watch the classic The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Eat roast beast or green eggs & ham
CHARLIE BROWN. Make brownies. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.
GINGERBREAD. Decorate gingerbread houses (I buy kits from Kroger or Michaels; I use Pepperidge Farm gingerbread men instead of making my own). Watch Shrek and Shrek The Halls. Read the Gingerbread Man books by Lauren Murray
POLAR EXPRESS. Put on pajamas. Make crockpot hot chocolate. Read then watch The Polar Express. Drink hot hot hot hot chocolate and eat cookies.
REINDEER GAMES. Play board games while watching Rudolph. Make dips (from kits) to eat so you have one hand free for playing and one hand to eat with.
SIBLING GIFT*. Split up into two teams. Buy gifts for your sibling. Go home and wrap gifts
*this is my kids FAVORITE Advent. They love the one on one time with each parent and they enjoy thinking of others. We make a day of it: shop, eat, wrap
CAROLING. Find fun hats. Go caroling and deliver gifts to friends
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. Pile in the car and look for Christmas lights. Drink hot chocolate or eat holiday-flavored ice cream. Or both.
Memphis Area ADVENTures
-Nighttime at the Memphis Zoo lights
-Pink Palace Enchanted Forest and Festival of Trees
-Christmas Lights at Shelby Farms in Memphis or Southern Lights at Central Park in Southaven
-Drive through nativity at Longview Heights Baptist Church in Olive Branch
-the March of the Ducks at the Peabody
-check out the holiday shows and movies at the Orpheum
-The Singing Christmas Tree at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova
-Holiday Wonders at the Botanical Gardens
-Southaven Christmas Parade of Lights
-Collierville Christmas Parade. Tree lighting with Santa at the square.