I love Christmas. It is my favourite celebration, even more than Easter. For me, Christmas is about the love of God for us and the closeness of God to us. Christmas is about God’s magnificent Salvation Plan. The hope of the Old Testament come to bear. As I wait, excitedly and impatiently, for Christmas to arrive I am reminded of the people of God waiting, excitedly and impatiently, for their Messiah. Likewise, Advent is taking the time to wait, to prepare and to hope for the celebration of the arrival of the Messiah. Personally, we begin December 1st, although the liturgical Advent period will include four Sundays.
This year, our first year of homeschooling, I have scheduled a super short, 4 week term that covers Advent. We will be using this term to celebrate Advent. In other words, celebrating Advent will be our “curriculum” for the term. I hope that this will help us to be deliberate in our choices and committed to following through. A number of our Advent and Christmas traditions have been established for a number of years and are important to us. Having this time set aside for these means they will not be competing with academic pursuits (not that we have many at the moment but you know, for future years…)
I thought I would share what we will be doing this Christmas Season as well as a list of wonderful resources to help you celebrate Advent and Christmas with meaning.
Celebrating Christmas with Wisdom & Wonder
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December 1st has always been the day that both our families put up the Christmas tree. The morning after we got engaged, we put up our first Christmas tree together and my then fiancée got a little teary thinking about our future. Well, talk about a special moment on a special day! Each year since, he has taken (or tried to) the day off work and we have put up our tree and decorations together.
Our big boy’s first Christmas!
Our most precious Christmas decoration is our Nativity set. When our son was a baby I searched for one that would be perfect for him. I wanted one that could be played with, the story reenacted, and yet that was beautiful (or at least not totally horrid). I chose the Ever Earth wooden Nativity set and we love it. Each December 1st, we read the Christmas story and set out the little people in their stable.
We also gift the boys a new Christmas book on this day, to be read many times during Advent. The first few years we gave them books that told the actual Christmas story but this year we are broadening our collection a little and so we have chosen The Legend of St Nicholas by Dandi Daley Mackall. We pull out all our Christmas books from storage and set them out so we can read them throughout Advent.
Finally, on December 1st, I get a little snap happy. These are our Christmas photos for the year, especially since I know I won’t get a chance on Christmas Day and we don’t do Santa photos. My husband barely tolerates this, but I love looking back at our family around our teeny tiny Christmas tree.
Firstly, and merely for countdown purposes of course, I enjoy a chocolate countdown calendar every year. Um, well, maybe it has something to do with the chocolate. My 4yo however, is allergic to dairy and I don’t really want to share my chocolate with my 2yo so I also got them a fun countdown calendar. This year we have a Crayola one, which proved to be a hit last year. Seriously, this has basically nothing to do with Advent, it’s just fun. Oh, it teaches them to count the days. Yep, there’s some homeschooling right there.
Okay, more seriously, and much more importantly, we also do Advent readings. This year we will read through the Jesus Storybook Bible Advent readings (one chapter a day from the start until visit of the wise men). My friend kindly gifted us some magnets with pictures from each reading which we will use to trace the journey from Creation to Christ. You can find the free reading plan and printables here.
We will also read through our growing collection of Christmas books. Since we are still mostly in the picture book stage we can read a different book each day. Perhaps next year we will choose a chapter book to read.
I have been fairly lax with memory work this year, although Mr 4 did memorise a couple of verses and bits and pieces of some of his favourite poems. For Advent though, we are going to memorise together Luke 2:10-12. Well, we will try. I would really love him to have these words in his heart as he pieces together all the different bits of Christmas he encounters.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 (ESV)
We will also be attending our regular Church services as well as our local Carols by Candlelight which is simply delightful. It is a combined churches event that brings our community together with joy, hope and truth.
Our youngest’s first Christmas Carols. He has still not outgrown the nickname “Smoosh.”
We are teaching our boys that Santa is a figure who helps us to celebrate Christmas. He’s based on someone long ago who did just that for people who couldn’t afford to celebrate. Now he’s just for fun. He’s not real. He doesn’t bring presents on Christmas Eve. It’s a story, a character to help us have fun. (We also tell them, well our 4yo, that it’s a secret). We told our son this last year but when the Santa stuff started appearing I thought I’d better start telling him again. He quickly informed me that his (older) friend Paulie already knows that Santa’s not real so he doesn’t have to keep it a secret from him. There’s no way we could have fooled this kid into Santa, even if we wanted to (which we didn’t). All that said, on Christmas Eve we wait for Santa (or rather, someone dressed up as Santa) to bring us lollies while riding on top of a firetruck at Nanny and Pa’s house. We do this because, well, it’s fun. It gives us something to do on Christmas Eve besides go crazy and the boys can mess up Nanny’s house instead of mine.
Our Church has a wonderful Christmas Eve service that’s really aimed at the children. All the children from our church perform, there is a children’s talk and we have sausage sandwiches afterwards. I really love this service because it is our chance to celebrate Christmas with our Church family. People are happy to hang around afterwards and talk while the kids let off steam.
After Church we head home and open our Christmas Eve box. This box is all about my sanity. It’s a movie night box – a new DVD, snacks, PJs. It’s a fun tradition that helps all survive until bed time.
On Christmas morning, I have always been the first one to wake and am left waiting for my sleepy-head child and my dead-to-the-world husband to wake up and join the joy. One day, I’m sure they’ll wake first and, I have to admit, I am looking forward to that day! Did I mention I love Christmas? The very first thing we do, cuddled up in our big bed, is read the Christmas Story and thank God for sending his Son into our world.
Then, presents! I always aim to have my Christmas shopping finished before December so that the focus during Advent is not on presents. That isn’t to say that we don’t love giving and receiving them though. For our boys, we do the Four Gifts: Something you Want, Something you Need, Something to Wear and Something to Read. Plus, a game to share. We have done this each year since our eldest was born. The boys also give each other gifts, and a gift to us. With the boys at this young age, we talk about Christmas as celebrating Jesus’ Birthday. This is the context in which we have our parties and presents.
I put together a Christmas Gift Guide for Homeschool Families if you’re looking for ideas.
We head to Church for our Christmas Day service and then spend the rest of the day celebrating with our family. It is such a special and meaningful day. Full of joy, hope and love and we celebrate God’s great gift to us and the birth of his Son. We even sing happy birthday to Jesus at dessert time which is a little weird but helps the young kids so much and, yes the adults too.
I would love to hear how you prepare for and celebrate Christmas in the comments below.
Meaningful Advent Books and Resources
Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide (Amazon)
Wild Bells: A Literary Advent by Missy Andrews (Pre-order available for a second printing)
Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent with Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins (Sold out but available on Kindle)
Truth in the Tinsel by Amanda White (eBook)
Your Morning Basket Morning Time Plans: Advent by Jessica Lawton (PDF)
Advent: Nature Study Through the Holidays by Cindy West and Melissa Leach (Downloadable Advent Curriculum)
Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Calendar Printables + Reading Plan (From Faith Gateway)
Christmas Book Advent Tradition (From Brandy Vencel at Afterthoughts)
Make your own Jesse Tree with this Ornament Kit