The snow pictures are from a few years back - one of the rare white Christmases we've ever had. We made sure to enjoy it, setting up a candlelight walk on Christmas Eve to a creche in our woods. It was the only night we've ever done this and a magical night none of us have forgotten. I got that idea from reading someone's blog. I was thinking this morning how blogs have completely changed our understanding of Christmas and our celebration of it. I had no concept of Advent ten years ago, let alone the celebration of Christmas and Epiphany, and now these are some of the most treasured and anticipated parts of our year. (And more than that, finding a Christian community online and discovering that there was more to Christianity than just evangelicalism...that saved my faith.) So thank you, friends, for all that you have shared over the years, just living your lives and giving what you have to offer. You have changed our lives and I'm so grateful.
Thanksgiving will be here soon and we'll have a house full of kids and guests for the next week, so I wanted to post our Advent and Christmas plans before the time gets away. I always appreciate when people post ideas before the holidays arrive so that I can actually use the ideas that appeal to me instead of trying to remember for the next year, don't you?
We've been developing this plan for several years now and slowly bringing the kids along in understanding the season differently. Almost always, when we have taken the time to explain the reasons and meaning behind changes we've made, the kids have responded with eagerness and willingness. It was the kids who came up with the idea to stop buying gifts altogether (more about that later) and it is their happiness and contentedness that encourage us to keep going.
I've kept with my goal to add "no new schemes this year, no purchases of trinkets or decorations to help keep saints' days and holy days; that too, is a subtle trap. I have enough in my hands right now for worship and proper reverence." These are plans that have evolved over the last eight years. I hope you will find something helpful in them.
season of waiting
- Draw names for gift-making**
- Make Advent wreaths from branches collected on our property
- Get Advent/Jesse Tree supplies out of attic
- Make Winter Solstice brew
- Clip and dry rosemary sprigs
**We give no gifts outside our immediate family, preferring to spend time together, play games, share meals, etc. At home, we give each person $20 and everyone draws two names to make or buy gifts for. Gifts are mostly handmade, but they can be purchased if we stay under the $10 per person limit. It's absolutely amazing and wonderful what people come up with to bless each other with so little money! It's the favorite part of the season for our kids.
- Make up St. Nicholas boxes to send back with college kids - to be opened on 12/6
- Ideas: gold chocolate coins, christmas tea, print out of St. Nicholas story, a small gift (chocolate bar or coffee gift card?) to keep and one to give away to a friend
- Set up Advent wreaths, candles, etc.
- Make a giving box for Christmas offerings
- Begin baking cookies and freezing for celebrations ahead (do this throughout Advent)
- Advent begins (just starting an Advent observance? Tips here and here.)
- Begin collecting change for a Christmas offering.
- Set out creche and barn animals
- Begin moving Mary and Joseph on their journey towards the creche
- Begin Jesse Tree readings (Scripture suggestions here)
- St. Nicholas Day
- Breakfast of St. Nicholas-shaped cookies, spiced nuts, oranges and tea.
- Set out basket of wrapped Christmas books: open one a day from now through Christmas
- Discuss and encourage anonymous acts of kindness throughout the month. Everyone can be St. Nick!
- St. Lucia Day
- Oldest daughter makes breakfast of coffee and buns.
- Set out St. Lucia dolls
- Plant wheat or grass seeds in a dish and set in creche with the waiting animals.
- Add O Antiphons to Advent devotions. (listen here)
- Find and bring home Christmas tree
- Decorate tree with lights only
- Winter Solstice
- Have a fire outside - if it's not raining (burn this summer's driftwood and the fall's pinecones, along with dried rosemary from the garden)
- Wassail and Winter Solstice Brew
- Christmas Eve
- Decorate the Christmas tree!
- Finish wrapping gifts
- Finish all Christmas preparations
- Mary and Joseph arrive at the creche.
- Simple supper of soup and bread
- Attend a midnight service
season of rejoicing!
- The first of the twelve days of Christmas!!
- Baby Jesus and angels appear at the creche
- The three wise men set out on their journey to the Christ-child (move them through the house until they arrive on Epiphany)
- Light the white Christmas candle (decorate with holly)
- Set candles in the windows to proclaim the Light of the World
- Feast and celebrate all day! Sing Christmas carols!!
- St. Stephen's Day
- Read about and sing: King Wenceslas
- Donate our Christmas offering
- Horseshoe-shaped rolls or cookies
- St John's Day
- Drink mulled wine and cider
- Feast of the Holy Innocents
- Write letters and make small packages for World Vision kids
- Make bird seed ornaments to bless the birds and leave peanuts and cracked corn for the woodland creatures
- Make Epiphany boxes to send back with college kids - to open 1/6
- Ideas: prayer to bless room, cake mix, small gift
- New Year's Eve
- Write out dreams for the new year
- New Year's Day
- Rest and recuperate
- Serve Hoppin' John
- Twelfth Night, the last night of Christmas
- Take down Christmas tree and decorations
- Make Wassail and King's Cake and crown a King for the night. Every time King takes a drink, toast him/her loudly! (I will make a simple cake with a bean cooked inside. The lucky finder of the bean gets to be king for the night.)
- Sing We Three Kings
- The three wise men arrive at the creche (leave this up for another week)
- Bless home with chalk inscription and prayers
Whew! It looks like a lot when I type it all out, but because we avoid the whole frenzy of gift-giving, this is actually a really fun and relaxed season for us. The Advent readings and prayers, for example, take perhaps ten minutes in the evening. There is a lot of time for all the fun holiday events like going to see Christmas lights, watching favorite movies, ice-skating, decorating cookies, etc. (And did I mention, no shopping!!) I find a detailed schedule helps free me up from worry that I've forgotten anything. And if I do forget or we are too tired or busy to do something I've planned, it's no big deal. This is a season to enrich us, not to wear us out.
Hope you find something to inspire and excite you in the list. It's a wonderful time ahead.