When Andy and I started having children, so many things changed. We began making decisions I NEVER would have dreamed we would make for our family. A decision for me to quit my job and stay at home nearly every waking hour with babies, decisions to homeschool (we never saw that one coming!), and decisions to sacrifice many hobbies and activities we probably never thought we would. Early on in parenting, we also made a lot of decisions about what we wanted holidays to look like for our family. We surprisingly found ourselves conflicted about a lot of the normal holiday traditions. We decided we didn’t really want any illusions of large bunnies wearing tuxedos and carrying Easter baskets to distract our family from the truth of a Savior, stripped and beaten, carrying the cross and our sins to Calvary and rising again as our Redeemer King. We didn’t want the obsessions of a jolly, plump man coming down our fireplace to distract from the small Christ-child entering the world in a stable. We just knew from the first moments of these little people’s lives that they are a blessing that we have been allowed to enjoy for a short time, and we want to try to do it right. We don’t always do it right, but we have decided it is worth being intentional with what we do as a family. From the moment Addy was laid on my chest as a newborn, I understood that we don’t have to do it like everybody else does.
Now, because these are our convictions, I certainly don’t want to stand high pointing my finger at all the families who do the Easter bunny and Santa Claus thing–not at all! In fact, Andy and I both grew up with these things, and don’t wish for anything different. The truth is, we kind of found ourselves in “this boat” as a lack of being able to make a decision of what to do. So for the past five years, it isn’t as though we have stood over our children telling them Santa doesn’t exist or that the Easter Bunny isn’t real, we just simply haven’t talked about it. Ha! Great parenting, right? When in doubt, do nothing?! Well, it has worked for us. Our kids just don’t hear about Santa that much, and possibly know nothing of the Easter bunny. We don’t have stacks of presents from Santa under the tree Christmas morning, but a few specially-chosen gifts from mom and dad. It isn’t as though we haven’t still discussed letting Santa come, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal for our kids. We watch Christmas shows with Santa, and they hear other kids talking about him, but it’s never been something they worry about too much. They have beautiful imaginations, and are content to do Christmas with or without him.
What our family has done in place of the Santa-thing is celebrate Advent. It is a tradition we started 3 years ago, and has become our favorite time of year as a family. We want to form lasting memories and traditions– things our kids will reminisce about when they have kids of their own. We want to make Christmas something that we don’t just do one day a year, but rejoice each day leading up to Christ’s birth. After looking everywhere for “our perfect advent calendar” in the stores, I decided to make one a few years ago. Each day, starting December 1st, we do an advent activity together after supper. It is meant to be something that involves everyone and makes memories. The kids LOVE advent. They look forward to it every day, and get so excited when it is “their day” to pull the activity out and read it. Some days it is a craft, it might be cooking together, reading a Christmas book, watching a movie, making something and delivering to the neighbors, just sipping hot chocolate together, or looking at Christmas lights….but the point is we do it together!
(If you are interested, here is the list of our advent activities for this year and some from past years!!!)
Our advent calendar is, in some ways, our rebellion against the craziness of this season. It is our intentional choice to slow down, remember what is important, serve others, love our neighbors, and form family bonds. It is our way of trying to show our children (and ourselves) that Christmas really isn’t about the gifts and the shopping and the parties, but about our Savior becoming flesh and choosing to enter our broken world to make it whole again….and THAT is a reason to celebrate!
Andy and I have come to believe that it isn’t individual gifts our children will remember in the years to come, but the time spent together laughing and making memories. I pray you would incorporate advent into your own family traditions, and see the blessing of the Christ child! Happy Advent Season!!