I remember when our fourth child was three. It was mid-October and she was grocery shopping with me, when all of a sudden she blurted out, “Look Mama! Santa!”
I looked up and saw that, in fact, she had spotted the jolly ol’ bearded man. Well, at least a likeness of him. A store employee was unpacking the first of the holiday ornaments and, of course, there was one with Santa Claus. But here’s the kicker…I don’t have a clue how she knew who in the world Santa was? Her three older siblings were well past the Santa phase and we hadn’t had a Christmas with Santa since she was born. Yet, she knew that the tiny ornament that teenage kid was holding was Santa. However, she couldn’t pick Baby Jesus out of a police line-up. I was failing as a parent.
I wish I could say that I changed my ways immediately and from then on we always put Jesus first during our Christmas celebrations, but I can’t. I’m Not Quite Mom of the Year. Oh, I tried, but always seemed to fall a little short. I always had a mental list of what I wanted to accomplish each season, but never seemed to accomplish even half of them.
However, last year we got it right. I had been seeing all over Pinterest ideas for Random Acts of Christmas Kindness (RACK.) I loved the idea, but when I began planning the month, it started looking like an awful lot of “busyness.” 25 different RACKs over 25 days could be exhausting (not to mention expensive!) As a parent, I believe that it is very important to balance the amount of busyness my children are involved in, but I didn’t want to give up on the idea. I was confused, so I did what I always do when I need wise advice. I called my friend Amanda.
As usual, Amanda was a genius. She pointed out to me that just because it wasn’t feasible to be on the road every day doing some sort of RACK, I could do my own version. Duh. Sometimes I am really dense.
In our Christmas Advent Celebrations, we do a mixture of RACKs, family-time activities and gift giving. It is a nice balance between being on the road doing for others and staying home and enjoying time as a family, all the while keeping our focus on the real reason for the season. Follow me throughout December and I will go into detail for each activity. I have created printables, including a calendar, to make it even easier to celebrate a Christ-centered Christmas. If you would like to participate, subscribe to my newsletter to gain access to the printables. Once you have subscribed, here are some steps I suggest to get you started.
- Once you have printed the calendar, write in events that are already scheduled. For instance, one of our daughters has a Christmas concert at school. I wrote this in first so that it became that day’s Advent activity.
- As you are filling in your activities, try to take in account daily and weekly activities that could have an impact on your choices. For instance, if you usually attend church on Wednesday nights, the amount of time you have available for any activity will be shortened. Those days, you may want to do an early morning activity or give a gift.
- When planning gift giving, plan a family activity a day or two before where you can make something that you can give as a gift. For example, the day after we are making fudge as a family we are giving a gift to the school bus driver. And guess what that gift will be? Yep…fudge! It just makes sense (and makes your life easier.)
- Once your calendar is filled in, make a list of all the supplies you need for the month. Your month will be much less stressful if you can do this in one step before the month even begins.
Okay, here are some of the ideas that we do, but there are a gazillion out there and on Pinterest…
Acts of Kindness
Take hot cocoa to the Salvation Army bell ringers
Give crossing guards cocoa
Deliver cards and a treat to neighbors
Gather change around the house for bell ringers
Ring bells for the Salvation Army
Make thank you pictures for the garbage guys
Tape dollars to toys at the Dollar Store
Tape quarters to the grocery carts at Aldi
Deliver goodies to the gas station attendants that are working on Christmas day
Visit Frankenmuth (or a Christmasy place near you) and buy an ornament
Write letters to Santa
Attend a Christmas concert
Make a present for a teacher
Go to the mall and visit Santa
Read the Joy of Giving and write a thank you letter to Jesus
Make a gingerbread house together
Have a Christmas movie night with popcorn bar
Make Christmas cookies
Make sugar cone trees
Make Oreo Truffles
Gifts to Give
Sunday School teachers
School bus drivers
School secretaries and principal
Pastors and their families