Last year, I had so much fun creating my own Advent Calendar, complete with readings, activities, and treats.
This year, I can’t even find where I stashed the stupid thing.
Life is like that. Some years you are making paper snowflakes and building gingerbread houses as soon as you turn the calendar to December 1, while other years you struggle to even get the tree up.
We can all learn from this, I think. What determines a great holiday season is not how great last year’s went. What determines a great holiday is not how hard your current circumstances may be.
What determines a great holiday season is our own willingness to drop our perception of what it “should be” and simply cling to the simple beauty of what it “can be.”
A homemade Advent Calendar didn’t make the cut this year. But carving out time to spend simple and meaningful moments with my family does, and fortunately, less is truly more in this department.
So this year, I went to Aldi and found three of their adorable Advent Calendars that is filled with chocolate. I found a great deal on Christmas PJ’s online shortly after Thanksgiving. And I stumbled upon a sweet Advent reading plan that uses The Jesus Story Book Bible, a book we already own and love. (You can find that reading plan, here.)
Advent starts the fourth Sunday leading up to Christmas (not December 1!), which this year landed on Sunday, December 3.
The night before, our little village hosted “Christmas in the Village” where the kids got to decorate cookies, see Santa, go on a carriage ride, and explore the historical village our town has worked to re-create. It was a fun, free night, and only added to my excitement for Christmas this year.
The following night, we attended our family’s favorite local holiday tradition, a reenactment of the Christmas story told in vignettes that you travel from scene to scene with the guide of a “shepherd.” Together, your group is looking for the Christ Child. The final act leads you to a quiet sanctuary and a live nativity, where you offer your gifts to baby Jesus (donations to a local food pantry). It is simple and meaningful and special every. single. year.
After we arrived back home, I had the kids open their first (and only, lol) Advent gift which was their Christmas PJ’s. I like to give them their PJ’s on the first night because they get so much enjoyment out of wearing them all Christmas season long. And let’s be real, is there anything cuter than kiddos in Christmas PJ’s? I’m going to milk that as long as I can. 😉
Then, after the kids had changed, they opened up their first night’s worth of chocolate and we settled into our reading.
Each night since has just consisted of their chocolate calendars and our nightly reading. No crafts or activities or service projects or extra presents. This is simply not the year for it.
This year is the year for quiet moments, enjoyed together. This is the year for simplicity, in order to not miss the sacred. This is the year – not of lowered expectations – but of realizing our expectations have already been met, and exceeded, long ago.
This year, the hope and beauty of Advent is that we get to look forward to good things entirely apart of our own merit and effort. There is nothing I have to do to make this season special, because it already is in it’s own right.
This is the year to LET Christmas be special.