Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Advent countdown to Christmas

Christmas trimmings began to appear in stores before Halloween this year. I was not at all inspired to start decorating that early. I was reminded, however, that I really should start my Christmas shopping in order to avoid the Holiday rush, both in stores, and in the mail/shipping realms.

But as far as this house goes, we don't start thinking about Christmas decorating and celebrating until after Thanksgiving. The season of Advent typically begins the following Sunday after Thanksgiving, and/or December first, and that begins the countdown for us. I refuse to play, and for the most part listen to, any Christmas music before this time also. The day after Thanksgiving though, I play/listen to Christmas tunes as much as I can until the New Year!

For a number of years now, during the Thanksgiving break, the kids have eagerly anticipated making their Advent countdown chains ... it helps them countdown to Christmas Day in a very visual and tangible way. They now know the poem by heart (see picture) and can recite it at any time of the year! It is especially meaningful for us because each night of December we read Christmas & Advent stories, both religious and secular. And we're known to sing a Christmas song for a bedtime lullaby.

So in addition to the countdown chain, another Advent/December/Christmas tradition is pulling out every Christmas movie we own (and borrowing what we don't) and watching them all throughout the month! I always find it perplexing that all the kid/family Christmas movies start at 8pm on TV — on a school night! — when most of the kids they appeal to (like mine) should be in, or heading for, bed. Or are my kids the only ones who go to bed around 8pm on school nights??! Anyway, the best advantage of watching DVD's is NO ADVERTISING, not to mention you can watch them at any {more convenient} time!! We have an {almost} weekly Family Movie Night (especially in the Winter months) around a coffee-table finger-food picnic-feast, when we watch the feature-length movies together.

Thanks to my husband, we have an annual tradition of choosing/cutting a live Christmas tree. This happens after deer hunting season is done with (roughly the first 2 weeks/3 weekends of Dec), so maybe next Sunday afternoon we'll fulfill this if the weather cooperates! Frankly, I'd be happy to buy a faux fir (as that's what I grew up with), but I haven't been able to convince him of it yet, and the kids love the hay ride, and sometimes hot chocolate, at the Christmas Tree farm. And I must say, I love taking the photos of Papa & the kids working together to cut the tree.

Then there is the tree decorating! It's a walk down Memory Lane each year as we rediscover all the ornaments that the kids have made through the years, or special ornaments they were given, or my husband and I were given ... One of our most treasured wedding gifts (a May wedding mind you) was a box full of beautiful Christmas ornaments and a tree skirt - all of which we still have and use!

The kids also like to make & eat soft pretzels (no real tie in to Christmas/Advent, but usually when we find the time to do it) and bake cookies for Mama & Papa Santa, with Yo-Yo's & Choc Chip being {our} favorites. I might add another variety to the mix this year too! Yo-Yo's you might ask??? (also known as Melting Moments) I'll include the recipe and some photos when we make them, but basically they are two shortbread cookies joined with frosting, or some we cut some into shapes and just decorate them with frosting & sprinkles.

Somewhere in the organized chaos of the season, 
we visit Santa for the annual photo op.
Christmas Eve we go to church and soak up the "reason for the season" and all the rich tradition that goes along with celebrating the birth of our Savior, such as singing Silent Night by candlelight. This will be the first year in about 13 years that my husband or I aren't involved in the Christmas Eve services, which normally had us at church for the better part of 5-7 hours in the afternoon and evening. It will be lovely to worship together as a family this year.

And even though Christmas is considered pretty much the most exciting day of the year for our kids, after all the counting, and baking, and eating, and watching, and reading ... they have voluntarily decided (for a second year!) to let Mama & Papa sleep in until 8am, as their gift to us! That is NO. SMALL. GIFT. as it means remaining in their rooms (quietly playing or reading) and not even sneeking a peek at/under the tree downstairs until after we wake up, and read the story of Jesus birth, and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!

So that's how we celebrate. How about you? What are your Christmas or Holiday traditions??