Last year, we had a blast with our Family Advent Calendar. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to do it again this year and add a little something to it as well. Andrea (@MissFish) put up her 25 Days of Christmas post, though she’s scaling back to 12 this year. We’re joining in for the full 25 — and I’m so excited!
This year we’re doing the activity envelopes, recycled from last year and adding a book a night to unwrap. I’m sharing both processes with you here right now.
I saved all of our envelopes from last year, minus two that disappeared. I was completely out of Christmas scrapping paper, as I honestly don’t scrap anymore, so I got creative and used a few of the Christmas cards that we saved from last year. I think this adds a nice touch to the calendar seeing as how one of the cards I used was from my Grandma. You can find the template for the envelopes at Andrea’s site.
I stuffed them all this year ahead of time, checking our family calendar, my husband’s fire department work shift calendar and all of the things we have to do. I decided not to put any weather dependent things on our list this year (sled riding, etc) because I didn’t like switching things out and worrying about what the weather was doing. I don’t need more stress during the holidays! And so, our calendar is hanging up in our dining room, ready to go for December 1st!
Here’s what’s on our list this year:
- Watch the Guernsey County Court House Light Show
- Make hot chocolate
- Elf someone
- Bake peppermint cookies
- Make ornaments for Grandmas (I’d share the link, but they read)
- Take toy donation to our local Secret Santa program
- Watch a Christmas movie in jammies
- Stuff, stamp and mail our Christmas cards
- Write our letters to Santa
- Attend the Cambridge Singers Christmas concert
- Go to LittleBrother’s Christmas program
- Visit Santa!
- Celebrate Munchkin’s birthday with cupcakes
- Decorate paper trees with glitter paint (a hit from last year)
- Build a puzzle in front of the tree
- Go to Nina’s for a surprise!
- Donate canned goods to a local pantry
- Make teacher gifts!
- Write a Christmas story as a family
- Winter begins! Make snowflakes!
- Time capsule letters!
- Game night in front of the tree — everyone gets to pick one game!
- Unwrap one present (it’s jammies!)
- Read the birth of Jesus from the Bible before we open presents.
Exhausting — but wonderful. I’m really trying to focus on doing things together this year — everything from making gifts for teachers to all of our normal donations to baking to just hanging out. It’s very important to me for them to recognize the importance of those things, whether during this time of year or not.
Which is why we also decided to implement the Book Advent Calendar as well. It’s all over Pinterest and the blogosphere this year, and I almost didn’t blog it. But I thought, at the very least, adding our extensive Christmas book library to the discussion might be helpful.
I didn’t have trouble filling 24 days with Christmas books. In fact, I couldn’t put all of our Christmas books into the calendar. We have over 30. A few of them are new for this holiday season, purchase via the boys’ November Scholastic book orders from school, but the rest have been purchased over the years. I pulled all the ones we own last month, added in the new ones and sorted through which ones I thought would be best to read this year.
Here’s our book list:
- No Room at the Inn: The Nativity Story
- It’s Christmas, David!
- Llama Llama Holiday Drama
- A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas
- Froggy’s Best Christmas
- Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary’s Christmas Gift
- The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker!
- Little Porcupine’s Christmas
- A Cars Christmas
- God Gave Us Christmas
- The Spirit of Christmas
- The Polar Express
- A Small Christmas
- Mary’s Baby
- Christmas in the Barn
- This Is the Stable
- Who Is Coming to Our House?
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
- The Night Before the Night Before Christmas
- Firefighter’s Night Before Christmas
Books not wrapped include a The Night Before Christmas Look and Find and a Rudolph Look and Find as those don’t work well for my two as bedtime books. I also had a handful of board books that need to be passed on as well as a pop-up nativity. I also chose not to wrap Veggie Tales: The Star of Christmas (because it takes eons to read) or either version of The Night Before Christmas since we’re reading The Firefighter’s Night Before Christmas. Also, the boys love the one that my parents recorded for them last year and would have missed it had I wrapped it!
The idea is to open one wrapped book every night and read it together in front of the tree. The boys are already curious as to what the wrapped, book-looking-like objects in the box under the tree are for, but I haven’t told them yet. I like keeping the holiday mystery for as long as possible.
Last year, we opened our Advent activity envelope at random times during the day, sometimes right before bed. This year, we’re opening it while they eat breakfast before school. Every slip of paper also says, “Don’t forget to open a book tonight!” So we’ll know the activity all day — and be less likely to have to rush to fit it into our schedule — and we’ll remember to open a book at bedtime. Not that I think they’d let me forget the books once they figure out what we’re doing.
I am hopeful that this will be another holiday season to remember for our family. The boys are a year older this year and it strikes me as most important to continue both building tradition and teaching them those core values that we hold so dear. Is it more work for me? For my husband? Yes and yes. Is it worth it. I believe so.
Are you doing any family activities this season?