The Christmas season is a busy one. The days and evenings get filled with all sorts of good things…sometimes too many good things! It can be hard to say no to a holiday party or special holiday-only entertainment. As the parents, our job is to sort through the invites and occasions to find what will best support our children’s experience of this holy season. Choosing the things that keep our focus on what’s most important to our particular family is a gift to them, and to us!
My goal with our celebrations of the Advent season is to choose wisely the events we add in, and focus on our home and Church as the center of the season. Here are some things we’re reading, listening to, and doing to prepare for and celebrate Christmas this year:
We love reading in this house! Finding books about this special time of year is an engaging way to share the stories of this season with kids. We love a mix of both spiritual books as well as books that share the general joy of the season. These are some of the books we’re planning to read this Advent:
• St. Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins. I love the story of St. Nicholas, and as his feast falls on December 6th this is the perfect time to enjoy his story!
• Pick a Pine Tree. A rhyming story of finding the family Christmas tree. With beautiful illustrations, it’s a fun one for tying in the Christmas tree tradition.
• Polar Express. We’re still working out our whole St. Nicholas/Santa/magic/faith situation, but it’s sort of a conglomeration at the moment. This book is a magical story including Santa Claus and bonus: the author is from Grand Rapids!
• Welcoming the Christ Child! We don’t have this one yet, but I got to preview my friend’s copy and it is lovely! A perfect way to prepare for the Nativity of Christ. Definitely on our list for next Christmas.
There are many places to find Orthodox music online. Here are two options if you’d prefer to go old school and purchase actual CDs. However, Spotify or other web music players are probably easier! For the Nativity season I love my friend’s Byzantine choir Christmas carols–you will feel like you’re in Church! I also discovered another beautiful Orthodox Christmas album, and it is lovely!
Also, this is the best roundup of Christmas music EVER! She has so many playlists, and we have Old School Christmas on repeat (think Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennet). So good!
There are so many activities to choose from this time of year that it can feel overwhelming. Choose the most important first and mark them on your calendar. THEN, if there’s time and energy add in extras!
Of course we’ll be celebrating St. Nicholas day on December 6th. Here are ideas for ways to celebrate, as well as why we celebrate this day!
I’m all about helping kids make or purchase gifts for others. I especially love making gifts; it helps our children learn to put time and energy into doing things for others. This year little daughter is making everyone…WAIT, I can’t share as some of my family reads this!…but at 20 months she’s not too little to make something for her family for Christmas morning!
Visiting elderly parishioners or friends this time of year is a lovely gift. It’s important to teach our children generosity and care for others, but it can be hard to find meaningful opportunities for little kids. Choosing someone who can’t easily leave their home (and maybe doesn’t have a lot of small grandkids nearby) is a great way to bring joy and teach our kiddos thoughtfulness.
We’ve started our Advent wreath and little daughter loves it! (it’s a great lesson in practicing patience, too, as she was asking to light the blue candle since last Tuesday)
I’m excited that my church is praying Advent Paraklesis this year on Wednesday nights throughout Advent. I’ve never had this opportunity before. I find the extra services during Lent to be super beneficial to our family’s spiritual life, and I think these Advent services will be the same! (if your church isn’t offering these services, you could still pray them at home!)
And that’s all we have planned! We’ll be decorating our home together over the next couple weeks, which I’m sure will delight and amaze our daughter. The nativity scene will be set up soon. The bishop is coming to visit our church for St. Nicholas day! It’s going to be a season of joy and excitement and hopefully lots of beautiful family traditions!
Here’s a great article about creating Advent practices in our homes if you’d like more reading on this topic. And I’d love to hear your family Advent and Christmas traditions! What do your children love this holiday season? What is your favorite way to celebrate?