Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Advent: How do you celebrate with your kids?

The weeks leading up to Christmas are among the busiest for most families. The parent to-do list is endless: shopping, baking, cards, decorating, scheduling parties and activities.

And, in the midst of it all, there is the nagging feeling in our hearts that maybe we should be doing things differently.

How do we push aside the "to-do" list and take time to honor the holiday with our children? How do we help them realize that Christmas is not just about toy commercials and making "I want" lists, but about celebrating the birth of Christ and spending time with those we love?

A recent facebook post by one of my former students, Misty Zeller, suggested a great idea. She has a basket of Christmas cards that each list a potential family activity. She has her kids choose one, open it, and use it to inspire a creative time with her little ones.

One of her friends said that she wraps up all of the old Christmas story books. Each night the children unwrap one and she or her husband read them the loved stories that only appear once a year. That might also work with Christmas movies. Whether it is Elf, The Christmas Story, or White Christmas - make it a movie/popcorn night!

Among my daughter's favorite pre-Christmas activities:

- the Chocolate Advent Calendar. I know this one is too easy. I almost didn't buy it this year, but she said that 14 is not too old to count down the days. We've had all types of these calendars - even a simple chalkboard that counts down the days.

- making Peppermint Bark Candy. When cookie baking was too time consuming, this recipe saved the day. Melt white chocolate, crush peppermint (have them go outside, give them a hammer, and let them pound the pepermint in a zip-loc bag). Spread the melty mix on a cookie sheet and set outside to cool. Kids have fun breaking it apart and bagging it for gifts that they made by themselves.

- explore your Heritage. The Polish Christmas involves placing the manger and Baby Jesus in the middle of the family dinner table along with a flat, pressed biscuit. The biscuit is broken and passed from one family member to another with a kiss, blessing, or word of love. We tried this one year.

- cutting down a Christmas Tree. Some years we have gotten away with buying our tree from the front of Walmart (or our 1950s aluminum tree pictured above), but my daughter loves the real-live-cutting-down-the-tree tradition. We freeze our way through snow and slush, arguing about the right tree. One year, our dog leapt right into a puddle of slush and I had to warm him in my down coat. Even when we find the right tree immediately, we spend a good half hour laughing and walking and enjoying the time together. Okay - I guess we'll do it again this year.

What do you do with your kids to make the days before Christmas special?

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