Look at the language that comes with Advent: watchful, vigilant, hope, waiting, anticipation, preparation, journey, rejoice, conversion... Come, Lord Jesus (implying, of course, that He's not here YET).
I have small children who see Santas EVERYWHERE (which is another controversial blog post entirely) lights, music, Grandma got ran over by a reindeer, etc.... but I really value my family recognizing and living the difference between "All Christmas 'til Christmas" and "From Advent to Christmas." I don't just want to "white knuckle" through Advent and never leave the house so that we're not overexposed to too much Christmas. I don't want my children to resent the season of Advent because they don't get to do the stuff other kids get to do. I have to get creative (which does NOT come naturally to me). So I thought I would share a list of some things (that other people thought of) that we do in our family while I figure out how to joyfully accept this invitation...
- We wait to put up that Christmas Tree until the 3rd weekend of Advent or "Rose Sunday" as we call it in the Catholic Church (and when the kids ask why our tree is not up yet, I simply answer, "because it's Advent, not Christmas")
- We let the children journey toward Christmas using a Jesse Tree, which has ornaments that are specific to the old testament stories and people that lead up to and participate in the birth of Christ..
- We pray each night (or almost each night) around the advent wreath with the candle(s) lit for family prayer. We sing "Oh come Emmanuel" instead of the other song(s) we usually sing to end family prayer.
- We don't listen to Christmas music constantly (sorry LA 929, the Lake), but instead we attempt to be intentional in teaching them the Christmas Carols so that when the Christmas season DOES begin, and all throughout the 12 days of Christmas (it's not just a song, who knew?) we can sing and listen to the songs as much as we want! NOTE: Radio stations will stop playing Christmas music pretty much after Christmas day, so you'll have to provide it yourself.
- When we see Santa here and there, we remind them that Santa is a nickname for St Nicholas, who WAS A REAL PERSON!
- The kids actually ask if it's Christmas yet... so we answer them with "It's Advent. Jesus is still in Mary's belly"
- We keep the decorations to a minimum, save this:
- After Christmas even we change to statue that is the center of family prayer from the one above to this
- We go absolutely CRAZY with excitement in the last week of Advent (which follows Rose Sunday).
- We avoid putting presents under the tree at until Christmas Eve. I notice the kids are usually less focused on "what am I getting for Christmas" when there aren't any presents under the tree.
God is inviting us... Anticipate!
"Rejoice, Rejoice, Oh Israel. To the SHALL COME Emmanuel"