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!
- Go to the bookstore and let each child pick out a Christmas book to read throughout the month.
- Make dinner together and eat by candelight
- Find a scripture to read and memorize each week
- Family Movie Night: Charlie Brown Christmas
- Open Christmas gift of jammies to wear throughout the month
- Decorate sugar cookies
- Family Movie Night: Elf
- Look at Christmas lights
- Make and take treats to friends
- Donate food to a food pantry
- Take gift to teacher
- Take treats and thank you card to local police station
- Pay for a stranger’s coffee
- Make Christmas cards for a nursing home
- Make handprint Christmas trees
- Read Christmas stories by the tree
- Decorate and hang snowflakes
- Family Movie Night: Polar Express
- Visit a live nativity
- Leave a thank you note for the trashman
- Bake cinnamon rolls for breakfast
- Family game night by the tree w/ Christmas music
- Go watch the ice skaters
- Go to a local Christmas carol concert
- Hand out care packages to the homeless
- Special date with mom and dad to pick out Christmas gift for siblings
- Make paper chain Christmas countdown
- Each child gets to pick out one new Christmas ornament
- Make picture ornaments for grandparents and mail to them
- Handprint reindeer
- Snowman craft
- 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,