Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A new tradition: Christmas Countdown

When I was little we had the coolest advent calendars.  There were two that we used every year. One was Santa's workshop to which someone got to add a (paper) toy each night until the 24th night when you added a Christmas tree to the very top.  And the other was the Nativity story, in which you opened a flap to reveal an additional piece of the story each night..."Long ago in the city of Nazareth/there lived a young woman named Mary/One day an angel appeared to Mary..." (yeah, pretty much still have the whole thing memorized.)  We did these same two advent calendars for as long as I can remember.  (Technically, I believe at some point there were three, but one was very forgettable...a consolation prize so that each child in our family could have something to do each night.)

So, when RRL and I had children, I was anxious to start some sort of every-night tradition with them as well during the Christmas holiday season.  In similar fashion to our two calendars growing up, I wanted it to be meaningful and fun, creative and different, simple yet memorable.  Not much pressure, right?  I scoured the Internet and DIY books.  I asked others about their traditions.  I found lots of things I like and some things I did not like at all...but definitely nothing I loved.  I liked something we could do as a family.  I did not like things that required getting a present/food each night.  I liked something that reminded us about the meaning of the season.  I did not like things that were above my children's learning levels.

And I'm sorry to all of you "Elf-on-a-Shelf" lovers...but that thing is CREEPY.  WATCHING US?  WHAT????  I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, I am just saying he/she/it creeps me out personally.  Yes, I know it is not, I did not say that my creeped-out-ness was reasonable.  But regardless...sorry, kids, Mom is out on that one.

SO...In the end, this year I finally decided to make my own "Count-down to Christmas".  We put up a big paper Christmas tree and each night we add an ornament to the tree.  Each ornament has an activity for our family to do together.  They range in difficulty from easy to super-easy.  Most require little to no preparation ahead of time, all require complete family participation.  Very few required spending much money, and most of the time when they did require spending money it was spending on someone else.  Each night the kids take turns being the one to choose an ornament and add it to the tree, so for the most part the order of the activities was completely random (I'll admit to cheating a couple of times)

Let me just say  I AM NOT CREATIVE.  I think I've mentioned that once (or a thousand times) before.  But what I can do is RESEARCH.  So this idea is really the combination of many people's ideas smushed together in a way that worked for our family.  And woked it has indeed.  This has been SO.MUCH.FUN.
There have been moments, like anything you do for TWENTY-FOUR-NIGHTS-IN-A-ROW that were not so fun.  But those moments have been quickly forgotten. 

I'm going to try to just share the highlights.  I'll break it up into a few posts since there are a lot of days to share.  I think I've managed to get at least one picture from almost every night so far, maybe missing 3 or 4.

Without further ado...
Count down with us..."24 Sleeps Until Christmas" style.
(EVERYSINGLENIGHT KJ says, "including this one".  Our mini-accountant has to be sure we remember that 24 sleeps includes the sleep we are about to enjoy.  Important clarification, Bud, but I think we got it after about 5 nights...we are now on 20 and still being reminded)

First, we had to make our count-down tree (aka "the green Taj Mahal") and color the ornaments that we would use for the countdown. 

Then we got busy counting down.  Here are "ornaments" 1 through 7....

Day 1 (24 sleeps until Christmas):
Watch a Christmas movie or show
Our kids chose "Rudolph"...claymation style of course.

Day 2 (23 sleeps until Christmas)
Color or create a Christmas picture
RRL and I were at a wedding this night so the kids got to do this activity with Grammy and I only got an "after" picture.

Day 3 (22 Sleeps until Christmas)
Choose a Christmas book to read before bed

Day 4 (21 Sleeps until Christmas)
Make Christmas things out of play dough
Ok, this one might qualify us for this website of worst nativity scenes.  A yellow manger, filled with orange-snake-hay atop which lay the pink peanut of a baby Jesus, surrounded by snowmen, angels, candy cane, reindeer...and a ZIPPER.  Yeah, we are working on the story.  I didn't really give the kids any direction, just got out the play-dough some Christmas cookie cutters and said "Lets make Christmas things".  We all 5 participated.  RRL made the amazing reindeer.  I made a manger.  And Cbug added the orange snakes/hay.  We were all busy working away and Lou reached out her hand with a little wad of peanut-shaped pink play dough.  "And he-uh" she said "Is da baby Jesus".  I was torn between thinking it was so sweet in the midst of all of us laughing and playing that she had been working away at making sure we had Jesus.  AND trying not to crack up at how serious she was about her little peanut shaped Baby.  Love her heart and her creativity.

Day 5 (20 Sleeps until Christmas)
Bake Christmas cookies
In another post will have to share some "before and after" pictures of this process.  Making cookies with all three of them was a bit I-N-S-A-N-E.  We employed my favorite short-cut of making sugar cookies from pre-packaged dough.

Day 6
(19 Sleeps until Christmas)
Deliver Christmas sticker and treats to a friend
This was one of of the kids very favorite activities.  We took them to the store, let them choose a small basket full of goodies and then pick a friend to deliver them to.  They loved running to the door, putting the package on the doorstep and sneaking away.  Turns out the sneaking was so necessary because the recipients were not home...but they loved it anyway.  Sure wish I had taken pictures of their sweet faces getting to surprise someone else.

Day 7
(18 Sleeps until Christmas)

Go look at Christmas lights
This was kind of a bust.  I thought it would be fun, but the fun faded fast and everyone wanted to go home.  I think because we do this all the time when we are driving along, it was not really something special.  Or maybe it was just the night.  Who knows.  But definitely did not take pictures of the five of us driving along, kids asking if we could go home and Mom and Dad repeating "no, we can't go home yet.  We.Are.Having.Fun"  Nope, no pictures of that.

Can't wait to share Days 8-15. and 16-20.  Stay tuned.  The images of Cbug dressed as baby Jesus and our whole family Christmas caroling to stuffed animals will be totally worth your while.  Promise.



Kendra said...

hysterical...I LOVE your posts!! Cant's wait for Part 2!!

Charlotte said...

Love your posts. Just another idea for a 'fun night'....I had my grandkids draw a Christmas related picture, sign and date it. Then I started a Christmas Memories Book and added their pictures every year. Only one thing, I started too late and they lost interest. But, I enjoy the ones I have.