Christmas was both totally abnormal this year, lacking so many things we look forward to, and yet still full of traditions and repetition. The same ornaments, matching pajamas, holiday films, treats, and carols filled our days. We were able to orchestrate all the quarantines, testing, distancing agreements, and travel logistics to be with family over Christmas and I can’t get over how special that was.
In early December, I took to Instagram stories to complain about what I feel to be lack in the Advent resources for kids. Following that rant, I received some excellent suggestions of resources and wanted to share them… and it is just now happening, after Advent is over, but before Christmastide technically ends on the 6th, so I’m calling it, if not a win, than maybe not a total failure? Save these ideas away for next year and check back in early November. or panic the day after Thanksgiving like I do.
I love Advent and I have Strong Feelings About It, as I expressed long ago here. I think that celebrating Christmas without the preparation and expectation of Advent feels lackluster. I have blogged about my search for Advent resources in the past but I am still searching. It seems like many children’s Advent resources fall into two groups: a focus on Jesus’ entire life (which is great, but get Holy Week out of Advent!) or a Greatest Hits of The Whole Bible approach (Jonah what you doing in my Advent??). I recognize the biblical tradition of the latter, but I’m not a huge fan for young kids. I want an intense focus on the amazing aspects of the birth story. I want 4 weeks of anticipation, building excitement, recognition of light coming to extinguish darkness, etc. I also want it to be short and sweet and simple because I have three children ages 4 and under.
Here are some Advent ideas for young children:
- Last year I hit the library in November and pulled every kids Christmas book that had religious themes. I wrapped them and every morning of Advent, the kids opened one and we read it. It was simple and easy and not bad, but it did create an overwhelming amount of books, and this year it was impossible as the libraries are closed to browsing.
- I love love love this Nativity set that has you add a different item every day of Advent and learn about the birth. It includes important things like the Census, which adults take for granted but little kids are like WHAT IS THAT. I do not love that it is super pricey. Am I considering making my own with a similar concept? Yup.
- Alissa has the best liturgical resources for kids and families. I LOVE her idea of Magi on the Fly during the 12 days of Christmas and next year I will absolutely be buying her Advent resources. She includes things like tips for Saint Nicolas and Saint Lucia day and a prayer of blessing for your Christmas tree. She also has the best list of Christmas children’s books.
- We loved the We Wonder Advent podcast in 2019 and listened to it again this year, though I didn’t love the 2020 one quite as much.
- We became Anglican a couple years ago and I love the way that the liturgical tradition adds richness and ritual to life. We fully embraced Saint Nicolas Day with the kids, as it allowed us to process Santa Claus and yet keep the focus on Christ. It was also one of my favorite Advent days. We talked about Saint Nicolas the night before (though I would love a good kids book with his story!) and the kids were thrilled to wake up and get their chocolate gold coins from their stockings (because I forgot to put them in shoes). Then that night, we gave the kids a list of organizations and let them decide how to divide up and give our monthly tithe. We wrote checks instead of donating online and let the kids run in their pjs down the block to drop them in the mailbox. They LOVED it and it felt like such a good continuation of talking about Saint Nicolas.
- Following my Instagram rant, a member of a local DC church messaged me and offered the resources they prepared for their church families. I absolutely LOVED it. They had a theme for each week, short readings and questions to do with your kids, and then some suggestions for weekly activities, some of which were DC specific – like a trip to the National Gallery to see a specific painting that represented the Christmas story, etc. It had the Advent liturgy for each Sunday to do as a family in this era of Zoom church. Every morning, we lit our advent wreathe over breakfast and did the daily readings, which took about 5 minutes. We then sang a Christmas hymn (yes I know you are “supposed” to hold off till Christmas but I want the kids to learn them). It was a really lovely, practical, and rewarding advent.
- For older kids or adults, we love this book of insanely good daily readings, this book of poetry and reflections for each day, and reading these Christmas sermons.
What about you- any winning family Advent resources to share?
We were not very financially well off when our kids were young, so we made “Advent Bags” with brown paper lunch bags. We cut apart several Christmas story coloring books and put a picture on each of 25 bags. Then in each bag was a verse or two of Luke’s narrative of the birth of Christ. Each year we hung these on a string that was on cup hooks along our dining room ceiling. I would put a goodie or two in each bag (some times candy, sometimes a matchbox, sometimes a “coupon” for a special thing) and each night after dinner from Dec. 1-25, we would open the bags, read the verses, move Mary and Joseph along their route to the manger, and enjoy the treat. We did this for at least ten years. The kids are 25 and 27 now, and we still have the bags for when the next generation is ready.
I love that idea!!!