I have already written about quite a few of our family's Advent traditions in another post, but this year we tried a couple of new ideas that I would like to share.
Hearts for Jesus:
A good friend has her kids craft hearts to give to Jesus (I think on Christmas Eve). I really loved this idea. I had also read somewhere about a sacrifice chart during Advent, which I also wanted to try. We ended up combining the two ideas and came up with these:
We drew hearts on construction paper and hung them on the bedroom doors at the beginning of Advent. The kids were reminded that Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for Jesus, and that these paper hearts which we can see, would represent our real hearts. We talked about how plain the hearts were and how wonderful it would be to decorate them and make them beautiful for Jesus. But how could we decorate them and make them beautiful??? By making sacrifices and doing good deeds of course!!! The children were instructed to place a sticker on their heart every time they made a sacrifice or did something good for Jesus during Advent.
Now, I AM lazy and Advent is already busy enough so I had to make sure they could follow through with this without much help from me. I gathered all the stickers in the house and placed them in an easy to access location for the kids. Each time they made a sacrifice for Jesus during Advent they were responsible for putting a sticker on their heart for Jesus. If they asked me if something had earned Jesus a sticker I reminded them that this was something between only Jesus and themselves. There were lots of conversations about how only they and Jesus knew what was in their hearts and whether or not they should put a sticker on. I did guide them with ideas of things I thought Jesus would consider to be sacrifices.
On Christmas Eve after the baby Jesus was placed in His Crib under our tree, the children took down their hearts and laid them next to the statue, giving their hearts to Jesus. After Christmas Day we taped them on the wall, next to the tree.
Overall, everything went quite well. However, there were a couple of bumps in the road. First, the very young three year old obviously wasn't old enough to figure this all out and so we pretty much just let him run and put stickers on as often as he pleased. He happened to really like the stickers though and more often than not as soon as he put one on, he tore another one off for his own pleasure. You can see his heart is quite empty (above). I was fine with this. Seeds are being planted for future years and I just did not have the energy to help him do things the right way this year. Besides, I am certain that Jesus LOVED his little heart!
A real problem did surface about halfway through. One morning the boys were playing some version of indoor football. My oldest son kept joyfully saying, "That's a cheap shot!" to my middle son. He would then put a tally mark on a sheet. I naively thought this was all part of a score system for their made up game. However, at the end the oldest son counted tallies and shouted, "Yes!" "That's 28 stickers for my heart." This got my attention and he informed me that since he did not lose his temper each time his brother "cheap shotted" him that that earned him a sticker for every cheap shot!!!! ACK! I had watched the whole thing and now it was clear why he was sooooo joyful each time he declared, "That's another cheap shot!" We had a good talk about true sacrifices again, which was laced with loads of "Only Jesus knows what is REALLY in our hearts," and I kept my ears and eyes a little more open to any future cheating!
I loved this and we will definitely be doing it again in the future!
Addition to the Advent Angels
We also draw names for Advent Angels every year. This year I decided to fill a box with little gifts for the angels to place in stockings throughout Advent. I purchased things like Hershey's kisses, candy canes, and small dollar toys. The limit was one piece of candy per day and one small non-candy item per week. I placed the box in an easy to reach location and that was it. It worked pretty well, although all the daily treats seemed to make Advent a little too celebratory and I think next year I will keep the box, but fill it with paper notes that say nice things, instead of all the treats/toys. Or better yet, maybe paper notes with ideas of ways to do something nice for the person they have.
Last year I purchased the Jesse Tree activities from Holy Heroes. If I remember correctly the idea was to watch the dvd daily and then color an ornament for the Jesse tree. It was a great activity and the kids enjoyed the dvd. The problem was my own lack of consistency. We were supposed to watch a section of the dvd daily. We wound up watching 5-10 at a time because I would forget so many days. We did not do it this year and read the book below instead, which surprisingly, our 4 year old loved it and would remind me to read the Jesse Tree story! I am hoping to try Holy Heroes again next year and with the help of the older kids, to actually remember to do it daily!!!!
The 12 Days of Christmas...Something for Next Year???
As hard as I tried to get all the shopping done early this year so I could really be at peace and have the proper focus on Advent, I failed. I failed, maybe worse than ever. I decided before Advent even began that the cause of my troubles was our 3 gift policy and declared that this year I was just going to buy what I wanted and be "free". What a joke! It was worse than ever. I could never remember what I bought and for whom and every time I went out I found something someone would like even better than what I had already purchased! So, along with vowing to shop for Christmas this summer (a vow I seem to make every January and forget every June), I am trying to talk my family into 12 gifts total. One to open each day of Christmas. So far, I think I'm the only one sold, and the reality is it may not solve any shopping problems, BUT I think it would be beautiful. Info/Idea