One of the many things I've learned in the past 3 years is that, when you have four birthdays to celebrate on Christmas Eve, Christmas itself easily can—and does—become an afterthought. And recently, with both big days already around the corner again, I've been thinking a lot about how to change this. How can I teach my children that their birthday, while wonderful and exciting, is not the most important birthday of the year? What should Christmas look like for a family such as ours?
Although I don't think there are any perfect answers to these questions, I've decided to try to address the issue this year by starting a new tradition for us: For the first time, our Christmas celebration will include an Advent calendar. And not just any Advent calendar—once I realized how pricey ready-made calendars tend to be, I decided to make my own!
First I bought a small hardware storage box with 25 compartments:
Then, to dress it up, I lined the drawers with leftover Christmas wrapping paper and numbered them with punched card-stock circles (labeled with a gold-leaf pen and attached with foam dots). For the finishing touch, Ted spray-painted the case with some Rustoleum for plastic. Here's how it turned out:
I've filled each drawer with four pieces of Christmas candy, one for each kid to eat while I read a story from our illustrated children's Bible. Since the kids are so small, I didn't bother coming up with symbols to place in the drawers; instead, each one contains a "coin" (bottled water lid painted gold) that tells us the name of the person we will be reading about on that particular day. (I figure I can use the next 12 months or so to come up with something a little more elaborate.)
We started our Advent today with the story of Creation. In the tradition of a Jesse Tree, the following days will take us through the Old Testament and into the New, with the last 5 days focusing on the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. I am trying to keep things as simple as possible by just reading a story and then letting the kids color a picture related to what we've read (as they get older, perhaps we can make some sort of craft or ornament instead).
Time will tell whether this Advent calendar will end up being the solution to our Christmas quandary, but at least it's a start!