Holidays and birthdays, and life in general, have always been about experiences in our house. We try not to focus on the things, but instead create memories along the way.
I started our Activity Advent experience, the “25 Days of Hupp-mas” as I once called it, back in 2011. At the time, we had a 17 month old and a 2 month old and “more stuff” is the last thing we needed for Christmas. I was overwhelmed as a new mom with two kids under a year and half. We barely got our Christmas tree up that year, but I was determined to bring some holiday magic into the kids’ lives. I wanted to start a tradition that we could continue to expand on throughout their childhood. Thus, the Activity Advent was born. Small, easy holiday themed activities for each day of December leading up to Christmas Day.
In the beginning, these activities were extremely basic. Most we didn’t even have to leave the house for!! Things like coloring Christmas pictures (that I printed off the internet) and making ornaments from craft supplies with had around the house. No, the kids don’t remember those first couple years of this tradition, but I do. I remember seeing the Christmas joy in their faces when they pulled the cards out each morning to find out what our activity was that day. The calendar itself was even simple; literally just cards in envelopes hanging on a string!
I’m excited that, 8 years later, this tradition is still going strong. The kids look forward to it every year. They have started suggesting activities to include and our activities have become more complex and allowed us to explore lots of holiday events and traditions around Kansas City. There have been times that I thought maybe including this tradition would further complicate the holidays; put more pressure on me to do all the things. I think, in general, it’s been the opposite. It has kept us on track. It’s pushed us to do things and kept us going through the holiday stress. I’ve learned to keep it simple when we need to and incorporate things that are already happening, such as the kids’ school holiday programs.
A few years ago, the kids and I made a new calendar to display our activities. It was time to graduate from the envelopes on a string and create something a little more permanent. They helped design it and put it all together. And, thus, our current calendar was born…
We collected a large stick from the yard and cleaned it up well. We added a big bow and some gold faux berries to give it a holiday touch. To create the activity card holders we used gold cardstock cutting it into equal rectangles and rolling them into cylinders. We wrote the day number on each roll and attached them to the branch with yarn. They’re attached at varying lengths and are not in numerical order so it’s a hunt each day to find the correct number. We just use small sheets of paper to write each activity on and slip them inside each day. I make sure to keep a list of all of the activities and which days I place them in so I can be prepared for any needed supplies or arrangements needed for each activity.
There are quite a few activities that stay the same every year, but we also make sure to include something new. Here is a list of activities, new and old, that we have used over the years:
- Luminary Walk
- Nativity Scavenger Hunt
- Make Holiday Milkshakes
- Christmas Movie Night
- Holiday Puzzle
- Write Letters to Santa
- Advent Night at Church
- Sleepover at Grandma’s House
- Make Ornaments
- Gingerbread Houses
- See Polar Express at Union Station
- Christmas Train at Union Station
- Christmas Bingo
- Visit the light display in the park
- Drive around and look at lights
- Visit Santa
- Make cookies
- Deliver a Treat to the Neighbors
- Make Reindeer Food
- Do a Random Act of Kindness
- Christmas Nail Polish
- Make Christmas Paper Chain
- See a Holiday Show
- Go to the Nutcracker
- Color Christmas Pictures
- Make Christmas Presents
- Go to a Christmas Party
- Christmas Music Dance Party
- Read Christmas Books
- Take a family photo by the tree
- Collect Food for Food Pantry
- Go to preschool Christmas show
- Christmas Eve service
- Mommy/son, daddy/daughter Date Day
- Pizza and Movie Night
As the kids get older, we hope to incorporate more activities related to service and giving. To encourage them to pass along the Christmas spirit. What Christmas traditions do you have? What activities would you add to this list?