Thursday, 27 November 2014

Our Advent Traditions: Savouring the Season

Advent is almost upon us, and once again, I'm trying to prepare my heart and mind for one of my favourite times of year. For us, the run up to Christmas is as special as the day itself as we build up to the 24th and 25th...

Over the past three years, we have purposefully sought to establish some family traditions which will help us remember what Christmas is really all about. Don't get me wrong, I love the reindeer, the snowflakes, the excitement about the arrival of Father Christmas and the caroling. But they are not the things I long for our little girls to savour during this season.

As the girls grow, I want their memories of Christmas to be more than magical. I want them to be based in reality... in understanding what happened just over 2000 years ago, and in understanding why that is something truly worth celebrating. These 24 days in the run up to Christmas are an opportunity for us to fester an excitement in our girls - not about sleigh bells or Santa or snow (although those things are extremely exciting - even at 29!) but about remembering the arrival of a baby King who would shake the world forever.

So here are some little traditions we've established which help us truly savour this season for all its worth...

Feel free to steal/adapt/pick and choose at will. Perhaps you have a tradition you do which you could share in the comments... I'm always after new ideas!

Either way, when it comes to savouring the season... I'm pretty sure this one is the one I savour most of all.

The Advent Candles...
Advent candles go way back... like hundreds of years back. Four candles signifying the four weeks of Advent in the run-up to Christmas. Each Sunday, another candle is lit... it signifies the hope, the expectation - the countdown that we're looking forward to a major historical event. This sense of expectation and joy is at the heart of what Advent is all about. My four candles are ready to go out on display, waiting to be lit (the first one will be lit on November 30th and we'll read the first part of the Christmas story as we light it). The Christmas story is all about light - the light of the star that led the Wise Men to Bethlehem to meet the Light of the world...

The Advent Book Box...
We started this tradition for Ava's first Christmas. Every year, on the first of December, the girls get a Christmas book to enjoy in the run-up to Christmas. As children, the 1st of December was always VERY exciting for us... it wasn't just the day we got to open our advent calendar, it was also the day we were allowed to pull out our Christmas books, listen to Christmas songs and watch Christmas videos (Raymond Briggs' "Father Christmas" and "Muppet Christmas Carol" being the favourites!). An advent book can be a fun christmassy story, or something more thought-provoking that points back to the birth of Jesus. What a wonderful way to prepare children's hearts to remember the Saviour... more on recommended children's Christmas books to follow!

The Kindness Elves...
Our little friends, Nico and Nati, rocked up last year on the first of the month and stayed around til Christmas. Every morning, they would be discovered by Ava up to some sort of mischief, with an idea of how to be kind to somebody that day - baking for our neighbours, sharing our toys, gathering some items for food bank... you name it! I'm sure they will be making an appearance again this year. Watch this space!

The Advent Calendar/Manger Scene...
After weeks of hunting for a very particular advent calendar I had in my head a couple of Christmasses back, I realised it didn't exist, and resorted to making it myself. It has been a labour of love over these past two years, but I'm thrilled with it now that it's finished, and the girls love it every year. Hidden in the advent calendar each day is a little artefact/figure to add to the manger scene. We build up the scene as advent goes on, with Jesus being placed in it on Christmas eve. As the scene builds, the story unfolds with an accompanying verse bringing the next part of the Christmas story. After hunting everywhere for a nativity set that had 24 parts, I gave up and decided to go with the 8 piece one I had, and make my own extras. Good old Fimo did the trick and its lasting us well. 

The Storytelling...
On the evening of Christmas day, after spending the afternoon at my parents, we head back to our house for the retelling of the Christmas story. Using the verses from the advent calendar that are put together to tell the full story, Dave and I use the figurines to re-enact the Christmas story. The girls sit and watched mesmerised, and I'm looking forward to the day where they will be able to do it themselves! Throw in some carols as you tell the story and you have your own little nativity every year. The children love it!

The Gift to Jesus...
This was an idea I picked up from Noel Piper's book "Treasuring Christ in our Traditions" (highly recommend!) What are we actually celebrating at Christmas? Jesus birthday! And yet so often, we forget the birthday person! Jesus said "I tell you the truth, whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me"(Matt 25:40), so we can use our "gift to Jesus" to bless an individual, a family, a missionary or a charity. Doing this, again, helps the family remember that it is Jesus' birthday we're celebrating, and stops it from becoming purely a present-opening. We will do this with Ava for the first time this year. A small financial gift to her, which she can choose how to pass on. The money is purely for her to think about how she can bless somebody else this Christmas. We are keen for her to understand that the giving is more important that the receiving.

I'm not sharing these ideas because I think we do it right, or our way is the only way, but just in case you find yourself in the position I did three years ago of asking; "How do I point my little ones to the real meaning of Christmas this year?"

Maybe we can share some ideas!

Have fun!

Savouring the Season is all about celebrating the season we find ourselves in...whether it be recipes, crafts, outdoor adventures or reflections on life, link up and share some comment love! And don't forget to grab a badge!

If you link up, please try and comment on at least one other post! 

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  1. Lovely traditions. Our elf is returning this year with kindness cards tasks too, I want to remind the kids whilst having fun, that christmas is about kindness etc. I love your story telling on christmas eve too.

  2. Oh those are lovely traditions! We have our church Mary and Joseph come to stay for a night on their progress around the village before they end up in the crib scene on Christmas Eve and this year I've started to tell bits of the Christmas story to Kitty while she acts them out which is turning out to be a lot of fun - I've promised her Pip can be baby Jesus in due course!

  3. Love these traditions Claire. We are hoping to do an advent nativity this year and I think I might have got the inspiration from seeing it on your blog last year. I also love the idea of putting on your own little nativity for the girls, I can imagine it is lots of fun!

  4. Hm, I think I might be a little late to Fimo myself a 24 piece nativity set in time for 1 Dec. Drat. That is an amazing idea though! Maybe I can start now and have something ready for next year...

  5. I LOVE this! You're a woman after my own heart. I totally feel so sad that advent gets so overlooked and everyone fast forwards to Christmas on 1 Dec. I wonder if Christians should start advent on 1 Nov?! Anyway, love all your little ideas. Wish I'd thought of them when mine were younger. Still, this year, I've got quite inspired and made my own advent calendar inserts for a fabric calendar I bought from Traidcraft (didn't have time to make, and its way better than I would've made), with each pocket having a weird fact about the Christmas story, a challenge to apply it to their lives, and of course a sweet or chocolate. They're loving it. I'm going to do a post on it soon, once i have time! In meantime, i'm linking up my post re how to kick the greedy gremlin out of Christmas....;-)

  6. Er, then again, maybe I won't - as I'm too late!!! Next week?!


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