SummaryNo need to as Amy Pawlusiak, mother of five children from teen to toddler has found some easy ways to embrace the season.
Just when I can’t imagine adding one more thing to my hectic life, along come Advent and Christmas.
We all have busy families, and I hate to add complications to my life if I don’t have to. Yet, Advent is beautiful, and I want my family to enjoy the season to its fullest! For us, that means keeping it Catholic and Christ-centered. And for my sanity, it means I need to keep it simple.
If you are struggling with simple ways to celebrate your faith this Advent season so the kids are more aware of the real “reason for the season,” here are a few things I’ve found have helped make the season special for all of us, without being too overwhelming.
1. Get an Advent Wreath.
If you don’t have one, get one. Or make one. It’s not hard. I’ve found that candles can be found online or at a local store without being too costly. The major point of doing an Advent wreath is to create the sense of anticipation of Jesus’ birth, and to have all the children, from teen to toddler, feel involved.
I used to feel I had to pray a special prayer each day, from a pamphlet or from online prayers sent each day to my email in order for it to be really “good.”
However, this also meant that it was more difficult to do, since I’d have to look up the prayer each day at meal time (an already busy time of day), and some of the prayers were a bit long and complicated—too much for a hungry family who has varied ages and attention spans!
Then a couple years ago, my friend told me that she just sings the first verse of “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel” each night as they light the candles.
I tried it, and believe me, that song is so simple, and so pretty, and so filled with longing for Christ, that all the family can participate in it before each meal and feel a sense of awe. Let the kids take turns lighting and blowing out the candles, and you’re on your way to an excellent Advent!
2. Get an Advent Calendar with Chocolates.
Even though the chocolates are probably not the best quality, the kids love having something to look forward to every day. Have them take turns about who gets to open the next door, and get that chocolate each day. It builds anticipation, and the kids, especially the little ones, love to open the door and have a special treat!
Usually, there is a picture under each day’s chocolate as well, or sometimes a bible verse to read. Take a moment to discuss the picture or verse. If chocolate isn’t your thing, I’ve also used an Advent calendar where you put a little ornament on a tree each day.
However, the chocolate calendar definitely seems to make the kids more excited. Also, when Christmas arrives, you can throw it away. Less to store!
3. Wear Pink on the Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete Sunday).
This follows with the first two easy things, because it’s about being aware of the weeks leading up to Christmas. Trust me, even the boys can wear a pink tie or have a pink something on them for this special third Sunday of Advent. (The name Gaudete Sunday comes from Philippians 4:4: “Gaudete in Domino semper” which means “Rejoice in the Lord always.”) Lent is supposed to be a penitential time of preparation, so after you reach the midpoint, the pink candle gives us hope!
By celebrating this day, you are showing your family that they can wear their faith as well as live it. It’s special, and fairly simple to do! Let the kids be inventive too—make a pink bracelet, or even wear pink socks!
4. Have a Cookie Exchange.
What do cookies have to do with Advent? Well, cookies can be stressful for many of us who aren’t born bakers. We love the thought of making a smorgasbord of cookies for our families to enjoy for Christmas, but let’s face it—most of us just don’t have the time. Having a cookie exchange does two things.
First of all, your friends will probably jump on board for a cookie exchange night so they can have more cookies to add to their platters! Not only will everyone have to make fewer cookies, but also, other people’s cookies taste amazing! Secondly, this is also a time for Moms to recharge and to laugh and pray together. By starting the night with prayer, lighting some candles (or your Advent wreath!), this can become a loving way to prepare for Christmas with friends.
I love having a night with my girlfriends, trying each other’s recipes, laughing about the Christmas season’s craziness, and going home with a container of amazing Christmas cookies to share with the family (who really appreciate trying them all when you come home!).
5. Sing Christmas Carols Together as a Family.
I’m blessed to have some older children who have taken piano for a couple years now, and can play some Christmas songs for us. But, even if you don’t, grab a CD with some favorite songs, and get some song sheets online. Sing, eat cookies, or better yet, make cookies together WHILE you sing.
My kids make cutout cookies every year (don’t stress, you can buy the ones in the refrigerator section at your grocery store and just decorate and bake!) and my husband makes his famous rum balls. Whatever you decide to do, pump the tunes, and don’t be afraid to belt out your faves, old and new. Make it a little family party, and have some fun. The best part is that you can discuss the meaning of the songs while you sing them.
Think about the words of the songs, because most of them, especially the traditional ones, so beautifully present the baby Jesus as our Savior. One of the best newer Christmas songs ever is “The Night Before Christmas” by Brandon Heath. The song is all about how desperate humanity was waiting for a savior “the night before Christmas.”
It puts it all into perspective. Sing the songs that remind us how unbelievable it really is that God would come to earth as one of us, when He obviously didn’t have to. It really is an amazing thought.
Despite the craziness, we have to make time for important lessons to be learned and passed on. We want to fully embrace the season, while focusing on the anticipation of Christ’s birth.
By doing things together as a family, even little things, during Advent, they will help you to faithfully enjoy Christmas as it was supposed to be enjoyed—a celebration of Christ’s birth.