My kids start asking this question in October. I’m relieved when December 1st finally rolls around and I can give them a visual answer—the Advent calendar.
Advent calendars and countdowns are a special way to focus on the birth of Jesus and to infuse some everyday fun into the season. Best of all, there are so many varieties available to buy or create yourself that you can make your family’s Advent activities as unique as you are. Here are some ideas to create a buzz of anticipation for the big day.
In our house, rather than a calendar, we create a classic paper chain and call it our countdown to Jesus’ birthday. Every morning, my girls take turns tearing off a ring. This simple activity is a daily reminder that we’re looking forward not just to a holiday called Christmas or the presents it will bring, but to a birthday party. And at a birthday party, everybody knows the birthday boy is the star of the show. I love how this easy and inexpensive craft can focus our hearts on the central meaning of Christmas.
Last week during my group Bible study, my friend Lori shared an idea for making those countdown rings even more fun and meaningful. (Thanks, Lori!) Before she assembles her paper chain, she writes a special activity on each ring. When her kids tear one off, they read their “assignment” for the day—and of course, every task involves an exercise of faith or family fun. Examples include “read a Christmas story,” “decorate cookies,” “pray for Grandma,” or “dance to a Christmas CD.” The point is not to add more to-do’s to your list, but rather to reinforce the love and merriment of Christmas with your kids. Choose easy activities that are age-appropriate and won’t overtax your daily agenda. Then have a blast building memories all month long.
Thriving Family “Journey to the Manger”
Thriving Family is Focus on the Family’s award-winning marriage and parenting magazine, and my personal favorite. This year the folks at Thriving Family are offering free downloads of Advent resources for families. These include an Advent poster, Bible character cutouts, daily faith activities and kids’ puzzles. You can click here to download them directly from ThrivingFamily.com.
Favorite Store-Bought Advent Calendars
If you’re not a do-it-yourself-er, Advent calendars are widely available to buy this time of year. You can pick up a basic chocolate calendar at your corner grocery store for a couple of bucks, or invest in a longer-lasting option. Some Advent calendars that my mom friends have recommended to me are the Little People Advent Calendar (which I just discovered is 50 percent off at Family Christian today through Friday, yay) and a wooden/magnetic Advent calendar by Kurt Adler (thanks to my faithful reader friend JoLynn for suggesting this one; I found it on Amazon).
No matter how you do it, Advent countdowns are a fun and memorable way to focus your family’s heart on Jesus. Starting with day one, a countdown sets the tone and helps remind the kids (and their parents) of the reason we anticipate Christmas. In my case, none of that prevents my girls from fighting over who gets to tear off the next countdown ring (you did it yesterday, no YOU did!) but thankfully we have an entire month to emphasize God’s love for us—and how we should, in turn, love one another.
“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” (Galatians 4:4–5, NLT).