Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Traditions - Old and New

I love traditions, especially during the holidays.  It has been fun to build some family traditions with our kids  and watch them remember things from one year to the next, in anticipation of what is to come.

One tradition that we started two years ago when our kiddos were both 3 years old, was to celebrate "advent" each evening, and read a portion of the Christmas story leading up to Christmas day.  My family used to do this same thing when I was growing up, using paper chain links that contained different portions of the story.  I found this ornament "kit," that we have really enjoyed using:

The kids take turns picking out the numbered story for the day, and then we read and discuss what happened.  Then, they get to hang it on the tree!  They look forward to it every night and it's something we all enjoy doing together.  It also helps us, in the midst of gifts, toys, lights, Santa, treats, parties, etc., to spend intentional time teaching our children what Christmas is all about and why the baby that was born in the manger was the most incredible gift they will ever receive.

Another thing our kids have enjoyed the past couple of years is a chocolate "countdown" to Christmas calendar.  They love opening the little window each day to see what delectable chocolate shape is awaiting them :)

During the Christmas season, we also enjoy reading Christmas-themed books to the kids as their bedtime stories.  This year, I stole an idea I found on Pinterest and decided to wrap up 25 books so that they could open one each day for us to read together.

Now, I sort of cheated on this because we are on a tight budget... so with the exception of a couple books I purchased to add to our holiday collection, I actually just checked the rest out from the library!  Ha!  My kids could care less, they just loved opening the books each evening to "discover" what we were going to read.  This also gives me the chance to carry-on this tradition in years to come, without having to buy 25 new books each year... see people, if you set the bar low then it won't take much to beat it :)

Another new tradition I put into place this year was having a special "activity" for each day of December, up to Christmas Day.  This took a little bit of planning because I had to look at our calendar and determine what dates certain "fun events" were already assigned to so that I could stick them on the activity calendar, and then I filled the rest of the days with various things I knew we would enjoy.  If you use this idea, I highly recommend setting it up in such a way that you can easily move activities around to different days if needed (or change them altogether).  I used the small white cards you see below to write the activities on, and then "hid" them behind the numbered red cards.  It was very simple to move the white cards to different dates as needed, or use the extra white cards I kept on hand to write out new ideas as things came up!

This was one of our activities....

The kids wore their new footie pajamas (opening those was another activity from a different day on the calendar):

An activity that Micah got to "oversee" (since I was gone for a few days this month at a work conference), was making gingerbread houses!  This was the first year our kids have done this, and they had a great time.  Daddy did a pretty good job too :)  The houses were mostly eaten by the time I got home, but here is a picture of the one that "survived" the longest!

Another activity, was spending the morning volunteering as a family at the Salvation Army Christmas Angel project in downtown Phoenix.  We were assigned to be "runners," and as families came to pick up gifts for their children, we found the items on the shelves and brought them to the cars to be loaded.  It was neat to have the opportunity to serve others in this way, and remind our kids that not everyone is blessed to have the many things that they have.

And yet another exciting activity included... BAKING DAY!  Fortunately my mom came over to help with this event, and we decided that a 1:1 ratio with the kids is a necessity on Baking Day :)

Some of our final products... frosted sugar cookies, fudge, oreo truffles, and Christmas krispie treats!

Doing the December activity calendar was A LOT of fun, and the kids woke up every morning excited to see what "fun thing" they got to do that day.  I included some of the more time-consuming activities that we do every year, anyway (like baking, looking at Christmas lights, etc.), but some days also just had very simple activities such as: coloring a Christmas picture, writing a letter to Santa, singing a Christmas carol, drinking a mug of hot chocolate, watching a Christmas movie with popcorn, etc.  These are the things that made it not overwhelming :)  

Hope you enjoyed reading about some of our Christmas traditions!  Would love to hear about some of your family's favorite Christmas activities and traditions, so leave a comment!

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