SummaryHomeschool mom of 6, Gina Berrios absolutely loves the anticipation of Advent, and shares 7 ways that her family loves to celebrate life and Christmastime!
I love this time of the year! I love the decorations and the music and the traditions. I love the joy and anticipation that comes with the season of Advent!
We have traditions in our family that we look forward to every year and that capture the JOY of Advent. Here are a few:
1. Feast of St. Nicholas
On the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, the kids leave a pair of shoes outside their bedroom door. In the morning, they find the surprise of gold chocolate coins in their shoes. We enjoy this tradition as way to focus on the joy of Advent and to incorporate St. Nicholas’ joy of sharing presents as a theme for celebrating Advent.
I do not want Advent to fly by as a stress-filled time of baking, making, shopping, and wrapping. And I do not want the kids focused on what they want for Christmas. Sharing the story of St. Nicholas is a way for us to slow down and remember this is a time for giving to others and awaiting the greatest gift, Our Savior!
In that spirit, the kids are involved in all the present activity in the house. They want to shop for each other and wrap each other’s presents. I let them be a part of the process. We set the presents under the tree throughout the season of Advent.
They enjoying seeing the gifts pile up under the tree, but more than that, they enjoy being a part of giving the gifts to their siblings.
2. Ornament Traditions
I started a tradition of sharing ornaments between my children and a good friend’s children. It happened by coincidence that we both have six children now, almost all the same age. When our oldest were first born, we started an ornament exchange between the girls, and it grew as we added more kids to each family.
Every year, the kids look forward to receiving their new ornament, but more than that, they enjoy buying a special ornament for their friend. We live in different states and do not see each other often, but it has been a fun way for the kids to stay connected.
When my kids move out and get a place (and Christmas tree) of their own, they will have a box of ornaments to start with, all of them a result of this friendship ornament exchange.
I also like buying a Christmas ornament when we go on vacation.
It is a lot of fun to reminisce every Advent, when we decorate the tree and pull out the ornaments from the different places we have visited over the years. It is fun to hear the exclamations of, “Oh, I remember when we got this ornament!” Or, “Remember our trip to (place), when we got this?”
3. The Nativity Story
I have a beautiful lift-the-flap Nativity storybook. It has been a tradition since my oldest was five that my husband reads the story every night at bedtime during Advent. The little kids love lifting the flaps and reading along. My husband is very dramatic with his reading of the story.
A very joyful result of this tradition is the kids have all memorized the Nativity story and now say it with their dad. I love hearing their little voices reciting the words of the angels to the shepherds, who have come to “announce Good News.”
Last year, I had to sneak in with the video camera to capture this Advent tradition. I do not want to forget these days!
4. Holiday Photos
Every year, we get a picture of the kids on Santa’s lap. We put the photos on the fire place mantle, until the year they started overflowing to the top of the piano, too. We finally had to put them in several long frames that hold six 5×7 photos each. We hung them on the wall this year, and then we stood there.
My husband and I were looking at each picture, remembering each photo session. My oldest heard us laughing, and she came over to reminisce. Eventually, all eight of us were standing in front of the wall of pictures, laughing and sharing the memories.
We cracked up at the photo of the year our second oldest (at age three) was captured screaming and thrashing on Santa’s lap.
We must have spent 30 minutes in front of the photos as a family, talking about each one. Then, we realized we do this every year. Each year, when those Santa photos come out, we spend time as a family looking at all of them, commenting on how each child and our family has grown every year. It is a cherished tradition!
I have also saved our Christmas card photos and letters from every year. The kids have had a lot of fun reading those each year! They also enjoy looking at the photos and sharing the memories of why we used that photo.
These traditions are such joy-filled times for us as a family to reminisce and enjoy our family life.
5. Holiday Baking
We set aside a Saturday for some serious holiday baking. It is a family event of making cookies, fudge, and all sorts of treats. As the kids have grown older, the recipes have become more challenging and involved, but it is always fun.
The kitchen is a mess; frosting and sprinkles are everywhere, but it is perfectly fine and fun. We load the goodies on plates, wrap them up, and deliver them to our friends and neighbors!
6. Christmas Lights Tour
One year, I surprised the kids with “Mom’s Christmas Lights tour.” I told them to be dressed warmly and ready to go at 6:00. They had no clue what was going on. I simply told them, “Participate, don’t anticipate” and we loaded up in the car.
We stopped first at a local coffee shop for hot chocolate, turned on the Christmas music, and drove around town to the different neighborhoods that decorate with lights. On the way home, we stopped at a church with a living Nativity scene with donkeys and sheep.
This was a fun, spontaneous idea that has become a tradition. The kids do not know what night it will happen, but one night during Advent, they know to expect the surprise Lights Tour.
7. Advent Penance Service
Our parish offers an Advent Parish Mission and Penance Service. We attend as a family every year. As the Sunday Gospel reading reminds of St. John the Baptist, the voice in the desert crying out for repentance, let us heed that call. What better way to prepare our hearts for Christ’s birth than through the Sacrament of Penance!
Our family traditions, although simple, are cherished times to which we look forward every year. They remind us why we have a whole season of Advent to prepare our hearts for the joy of Christmas and to welcome Our Savior into our family life.
Have a blessed and joyful Advent!