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A few years ago when my kids were all pretty young, I went on a quest to find ways to focus the Christmas season more on Christ. I wanted my kids to really understand what this season was all about and to try and minimize the commercial, worldly influence on them as much as possible. Plus, if I'm being honest, I really needed it! I tend to be one who is so excited for Christmas to approach, but then when it does, I become so ornery and stressed out with how busy the month becomes that I completely lose sight of what the true meaning of the season is.
Over the years, I have incorporated quite a few fun traditions into our Christmas holiday season to help us stay focused on Christ, but today I am sharing with you this super, simple Christmas Advent wreath calendar that I found in the 2005 Friend magazine. I printed it out on nice, heavy cardstock and we pull it out every year and hang it on the wall. We have quite a few advent calendars around our house at Christmas time, but this is definitely one of the kids' FAVORITE ones because it means more than eating a piece of chocolate or hanging up an ornament - this one means QUALITY FAMILY TIME!
This calendar simply gives you some sort of activity or idea to do each day in December that helps you keep the true spirit of Christmas! Examples are: Secretly help someone in your family; Visit someone who is lonely or sick; Sing a favorite Christmas song; Name three things you are thankful for; Name one way you can follow the Savior; Read Luke 2:1–20 with your family; etc. Since this particular calendar came out in the December 2005 Friend magazine, a few of their activities are specific to stories or activities in that issue. Thus, I've actually tweaked my calendar just a bit to fit better for my family. For example, instead of reading the specific stories they reference, we read some of our family's favorite Christmas stories like "Mr. Finnigan's Giving Chest" by Dick van Dyke. Instead of doing the sharing time activity they refer to, we take turns picking pieces of the nativity and reading about them in the scriptures. Instead of drawing pictures from Joseph Smith's life, we draw pictures of Christ's birth, etc. I would share with you my revised copy, but out of respect for the original creator of this calendar (and copyright laws), I feel I cannot publicly share it. I do however, have great plans to come up with my own type of advent calendar with my own revisions and ideas by next year!
What I like best about this whole calendar is how simple each thing is. They don't require much time. For my own family, we try and gather together each evening in December and start off by discussing the item/activity for that day and then sometimes I have bigger activities planned as well that we then do - such as watch a Christmas movie together on the couch with some hot cocoa; go to a Live Nativity; drive around and look at Christmas lights; take treats to neighbors and friends; watch the Christmas Devotional, etc. Now that my kids are getting older (and much busier), sometimes we aren't able to do it every single night. But when we do get together, we discuss any that we missed and make sure we still do them. It's actually turned into a fun, enjoyable tradition for my family now and the kids look forward to what each day's activity will be. It's so fun to hear your children excitedly tell you what they did secretly for someone in the family that day, or bug you to find out what the widow across the street's favorite treat is so we can take her something, or actually do chores WITHOUT being asked! It makes the whole family happier which in turn helps us remember who and why we are celebrating at this time of year.