Advent 2016


There is always this lingering tension I feel as the holiday season approaches. Don’t get me wrong, I love this magical season of beauty and cheer and all things cozy, but the (self-imposed) pressure to create a memorable season for myself and my family can seem daunting. Pictures start popping up all over Pinterest and Instagram of the perfect Christmas where the halls are decked head to toe in fresh garland and every corner of the home looks like a photo from a magazine. If I’m not careful, this season can quickly become more about me trying to prove something (my worth? my creativity? my ability as a mother?) instead of celebrating the always-incredible gift of Jesus. I don’t ever want to be the reason my family is drawn away from the true meaning of Christmas and I want to be very serious about avoiding comparison and high expectations and falling into the trap of consumerism. It’s not easy and it’s going to take a great deal of intentionality through the years.

So. In order for me to achieve this, I need to do a little planning ahead. First, I need to decide what I want my family to value most through the holidays. First and foremost, I want Jesus to be exalted and in order for that to happen I think it’s best to keep things simple. Simplicity is my goal and that’s going to mean being content with my choices and not using social media as a measuring stick. Family time, service to others, and teaching the girls about the Christmas story are the essentials. I need to hold onto everything else loosely.


Since I would like to be intentional about creating special moments for my family, I knew that I needed to plan early enough to avoid any stress. We’ve never done an Advent calendar, but I love the idea of having something fun to wake up to every day. I know there are many ways to do this, and after doing some research I feel that the best fit for us is an advent calendar based around experiences rather than actual daily gifts. I searched the web and asked other mamas what their favorite Christmas activities are and I came up with a list of activities we will enjoy. This requires little prep time on my part and the only thing I’ll need to do is create a simple advent calendar. There are more than 25 activities here so I need to condense them before I finalize our calendar! If you’re looking for some inspiration, here you go!

  1. Go to the bookstore and let each child pick out a Christmas book to read throughout the month.
  2. Make dinner together and eat by candelight
  3. Find a scripture to read and memorize each week
  4. Family Movie Night: Charlie Brown Christmas
  5. Open Christmas gift of jammies to wear throughout the month
  6. Decorate sugar cookies
  7. Family  Movie Night: Elf
  8. Look at Christmas lights
  9. Make and take treats to friends
  10. Donate food to a food pantry
  11. Take gift to teacher
  12. Take treats and thank you card to local police station
  13. Pay for a stranger’s coffee
  14. Make Christmas cards for a nursing home
  15. Make handprint Christmas trees
  16. Read Christmas stories by the tree
  17. Decorate and hang snowflakes
  18. Family Movie Night: Polar Express
  19. Visit a live nativity
  20. Leave a thank you note for the trashman
  21. Bake cinnamon rolls for breakfast
  22. Family game night by the tree w/ Christmas music
  23. Go watch the ice skaters
  24. Go to a local Christmas carol concert
  25. Hand out care packages to the homeless
  26. Special date with mom and dad to pick out Christmas gift for siblings
  27. Make paper chain Christmas countdown
  28. Each child gets to pick out one new Christmas ornament
  29. Make picture ornaments for grandparents and mail to them
  30. Handprint reindeer
  31. Snowman craft
  32. Make Christmas wreaths

Some days we’ll do a few of these together (i.e. look at Christmas lights and finish with a movie). For me, this is a great way to experience all the fun Christmas things without the stress. It takes a little planning ahead, but it’s worth it if I get to enjoy the month with my family!

What are your favorite ways to celebrate the Christmas season with your family? How do you avoid the trap of comparison and consumerism? What are your essential family traditions? I love hearing how others stay intentional during the holidays!

Cheers to a stress-free, grace-filled holiday,