Our Family’s Advent and Christmas Traditions
December 12, 2011
In observing Advent and celebrating Christmas, our family’s activities can be placed into two categories: (1) things we do to observe the season itself, and (2) things we do to de-emphasize the commercial side of the season.
We certainly don’t shun all cultural traditions, as we love having a Christmas tree, decorating the house, making Christmas cookies, frequenting the holiday train exhibits, and watching shows like “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” that don’t explicitly have the Nativity in them. We evaluated each holiday practice separately and chose not to do the ones we felt distracted from the purpose of Advent – a time of quiet reflection, expectant waiting, and preparation – or the celebration of Christmas as the Incarnation. Of course, each family must make their own decisions about which cultural and Christian traditions to follow. I am sharing what we do to hopefully give others some ideas and inspiration, not to say that we are doing it the right or best way.
Here are some of the things we do to observe Advent and celebrate Christmas:
1. Advent Wreath – we use our church’s Advent booklet for families and do the lessons and questions each Sunday at dinnertime.
2. Advent Calendar – each morning at breakfast we open the appropriate door and read the verse for that day.
3. Nativity set for kids – we have a wooden nativity set for toddlers/kids that they can actually play with. I just ordered the Playmobil one for [my son] since he’s really into other Playmobilstuff and we plan to give it to him on the first day of Advent.
4. Books – There are so many good books out there for older kids, but my favorite for little ones is Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck and Felicia Bond.
5. Christmas Carols – I sing songs like “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” at bedtime during Advent.
6. Go to church throughout Advent and on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day
7. Watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” together!
Here are some of the things we do to de-emphasize the commercial side of Christmas:
1. We don’t do Santa Claus – obviously [my son] knows who [Santa] is, but we have explained that he is pretend, just like fairy tale characters, monsters, and superheroes. We plan to teach him about St. Nicholas instead as he grows older. This means we do not hang stockings for Santa, make cookies for Santa, get pictures taken with Santa, or receive presents from Santa.
2. We limit the number of presents – [My husband] and I give each child one or two presents, and we ask grandparents to go easy as well and save gifts for birthdays. As my kids approach the age of music lessons and other sports/activities, I will ask for “sponsorships” for these things instead of material goods. (As a result, I have noticed that my son never asks for things for Christmas, only for his birthday!)
3. No “Christmas shopping” – I try not to take the boys shopping at all during Advent (except to the grocery store). It’s meant to be a time of quiet reflection and anticipation of what is to come, and I find stores during December to be the complete opposite of this!
4. Give homemade presents – we have made a commitment as a family to give only handmade gifts this year. We are making ornaments, photo frames, canned apple butter, and handmade cards for our families. This way we encourage creativity while not engaging in consumerism. Another plus is that homemade gifts cost less than “normal” presents and mean so much more to the people who receive them.