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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Experiencing Christmas

I love the adventure of Christmas. I want to pass along that love of Advent to my little Tongginator. But, oh my lands, it seems a HUGE task, especially amidst the busyness and chaos that is December. How do I teach the Tongginator to slow down and embrace the true meaning of Christmas when some days I fail to remember it myself?

I so don't have all the answers (and would love some advice!), but here are a few things Tonggu Daddy and I do to help keep the focus where it should be during the Christmas season.

First off, we've limited the number of parent gifts for our Tongginator. I know many of y'all mimic the tale of the Maji, giving just three presents to each of your children, just as Christ received three gifts from the Three Wise Men. I love that idea, but we do something a bit different. We give the Tongginator four gifts, following a catchy poem.

Something she wants.
Something she needs.

Something to wear.

Something to read.

She does still receive gifts from other relatives and Santa also comes to our house, but following this little poem forces the husband and I to be very intentional with our purchases. And Santa brings just one gift and fills her stocking.

For ourselves and other adults, we often donate (or ask for others to donate in our name) to some of our favorite charities, such as Half the Sky, Love Without Boundaries, Heifer International and Living Water International. We DO still give each other gifts, but our tremendous level of consumerism is quite a bit less embarrassing as compared with ten years ago. One of the Tongginator's favorite gifts for school teachers and support personnel is a flock of ducks... she LOVES to announce that she gave them "a bunch of quackers." At only $20, it's a GREAT alternative to the mandatory teacher mug or scented lotion.

But my FAVORITE way to help all of us remember the true meaning of Christmas is our two advent calendars. The first focuses on the nativity story and the second is your basic boxed advent calendar.

The first nativity helps the Tongginator learn the Christmas story, but the second one helps to create family memories. Instead of filling our boxed advent calendar with candy, we fill it with clues to the days' events. Every morning, when the Tongginator opens that day's door to the advent calendar, she learns what Christmas-related activity we have planned for the day.

Row One, from left to right: Christmas party at Chinese class; photos
with Santa Claus; reading Ezra Jack Keat's book "The Little Drummer
Boy;" the first day of winter; Panda Day (the day we received our adoption
referral for the Tongginator).
Row Two, from left to right: setting up the
Christmas train; feeding the birds; baking Christmas cookies.
Row Three,
from left to right: reading the Christmas story together from the Bible; driving
around at night to look at Christmas lights; writing a letter to Santa;
buying the Christmas trees; church caroling party.
Row Four, from left to right:
the first night of Hanukkah; Christmas movie Saturday; movie night - "The Polar
Express;" the last day of school; traveling to Grammy and Grandfather's house.

I love how this helps focus me during such a busy time of year. So what do y'all do to help you slow down during the adventure of Advent?


mumma to many said...

I love the calendars!

Here is NZ it is pretty full on as we also have the end of the school year and summer rolled into one!
So we have huge amount of activity and I frequently have to think slow down!
We have done elves this year where the children have to hunt for them from through the house and once school is finished on the 17th for Em we will put up our knitted nativity.

We have also already made christmas cakes for everyone.

Hugs Ruth in NZ

Take care and breathe!

Buckeroomama said...

I love the boxed advent calendar. What a lovely idea. :)

bbmomof2boys said...

Yep, love the boxed advent calendar.

Heh...limiting presents? See...the thing is...I grew up with 2 brothers and 2 sisters. My Christmas memories are of us coming downstairs and seeing the tree FILLED with gifts! And rightly so because there were 5 of us! One of my favorite gifts is a doll trunk my dad made for me and my sister. He built it, put stain on it, clear coat and even put Holly Hobby on it! I say it IS on of my favs because in a few years I will be giving that same trunk to our daughter. But..back to gifts, I go kind of crazy. I feel as if the tree needs to be slam full on Christmas morning. Yeah..I have issues!

Slowing down is something that is done everyday. Each day is an adventure that I try my best to savor slowly!


Peanut said...

I tell everyone about what you do with the boxed Advent calendar. I think it is so great and totally works with helping build traditions and intentionality into your Christmas season. I'm collecting ideas of how I would fill ours if I ever managed to find a calendar like that!
This year, we are takibg a longer Christmas break in order to spend some extended time with my mom (as her health is declining). Doing so has taken a week away from the preparation time for Christmas, so in order to avoid the busyness of the season, I started my Christmas shopping really early and we have said no to all but a few events that aren't family related. It was hard to do, because there are always more things you can do than time, but trying to prioritize and schedule realistically has helped.
I haven't figured out a tradition for gifts for our kids yet in order to reduce the consumerism, but we do work really hard to not get caught up in it ourselves (all year long we haven't let ourselves buy stuff for them, and now is our chance and suddenly we want to buy them everything!). Sticking to a budget has helped.
I think what you're doing is great and I appreciate your intentionality in everything you do :)

Lindy said...

Your boxed advent calendar is such a clever idea! It makes the Christmas season more meaningful and spreads out the fun and joy. You are a very imaginative mother!

Aus said...

What great traditions - I LOVE both the Christmas calendars! Great traditions there. We bring some of our German into the Christmas Season as well. In order to make a good Springerly you have to start the baking around 12/1 so they are done for Christmas. Fruitcake must be made by all members of the family or the recipe will fail. We acutally set aside a couple or three days during the season for baking and candy making - and that forces you to slow down and plan! We also use the 'shelf elf' to help control some of the excitement related behavior 'issues' that can crop up! Every morning the girls have to hunt for the elf to see where he is hiding so that he can watch their behavior during the day!

hugs - aus and co.

Aunt LoLo said...

Love it!!! Y'all are SO organized. heh.

prechrswife said...

Where did you find that nativity Advent calendar? I would love to find something like that now that our children are getting old enough to "get it."

December is a crazy month in our house, between MJ's birthday and all of the assorted church and preschool related events.

Anonymous said...

We have banned Santa from our house. When the kids were little, we talked about how many kids believe he is real and not to ruin the fun for them, but Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas. It is HARD to find decorations, paper, etc., without Santa on it. Our kids are a bit older now (13 and 11) and are completely on board with the no Santa theory. My son commented that so many things this season are called Xmas - "Mom, that is like crossing Christ out of Christmas!" We also let each kid pick a child from Samaritan's Purse - we take the kids shopping to fill the box for their child and send them to kids in need.

Football & Fried Rice said...


Patricia/NYC said...

I LOVE the boxed advent calendar!!! I might have to...no, I WILL copy that idea for next year! ;)

We do an advent calendar, but I am already seeing the disconnect from the actual meaning of "advent"...that's why I am going to have to change it up next year.

We have bought gifts for the poor, getting names, ages & suggestions from our church's "Angel Tree"...and this Sunday is Kiara's Christmas pageant from her religious ed. program...they do such a wonderful job of reinforcing the true meaning of all the Christian holidays.

Thanks for sharing your traditions with us!

Debbie said...

I love all of your ideas. Santa has always only brought one gift per child to our house too.

Andrea said...

We get the boys 3 gifts each, then Santa fills the stockings and leaves a few un-wrapped gifts that all can enjoy. We also light our Advent wreath each week and have a devotion during that time.

I liked your Christmas notebook so much, I'm going to "borrow" it!

rosemary said...

I absolutely love your Christmas poem that helps guide your gift choices! I am going to steal that for our family. We have been looking for a way to skillfully limit the present madness and that is beautiful.

I also love your advent calendar of xmas events! I think that really plays up togetherness instead of buying stuff. I am super impressed and will be stealing this idea too!!

Wanda said...

Your killing me here. That is the most wonderful way of memorializing each day. What a wonderful tradition you're passing along. Really special.

What do we do? Yikes, not enough....read something each day about the true meaning of Christmas. You've inspired me. I have to do more.

Chris said...

I really like how you are so intentional about focusing on what Christmas is really about!

I really love your advent calendar. Where did you get it? We just use the cardboard open the flap with chocolate kind. (At least it has a manger scene on it!)

We have decided to do the three magi gift idea this year for our kids. However, I have been struggling about the whole Santa issue. Shea pretty much figured out that Santa is just pretend. In her words, "it just doesn't make sense that he can fly with reindeer, and get into people's houses, and etc. etc. etc. But alas, her heart doesn't want to give him up quite yet. I do like the idea of getting just one present from the big guy and a filled up stocking....we might just have to try that this year!

Thanks for sharing all your Christmas traditions! You sound so organized!!!!

Alyson & Ford said...

Wonderful Traditions. Sounds like you do it perfect for your family!
We are still "finding" our way as to number of gifts and how to remember the reason for Christmas. Each day we look at the nativity scene and I tell her about the Christ child. Then I tell her that Santa gives out presents because it is Jesus' birthday. I think your idea with the two calendars is perfect.

Alyzabeth's Mommy

Ohilda said...

What great traditions and fun to teach your sweetie about Christmas. Love it!

Michelle said...

Always great ideas over here in Tonggu Country!!

jen@odbt said...

We always give something to read and wear however I know I need to work on the something they want. It tends to be somethings. I love your advent calendars especially how you depict your activities with little toys!

anymommy said...

That second advent box calendar is SO clever. Awesome, truly.

We try to slow it down as well and limit the gifts. I love your poem - especially focusing on one want and one need. We do only one Santa present to all the kids, usually something bigger (this year a play kitchen). One present each from us and we fill their stockings. Last year I told aunts and grandmas only one present each. It's worked really well. I love the chaos reduction!

Cindy said...

I love your calendar! I am afraid I do not slow down too much
you must be very well organized person!

Also tell your little one the angel is beautiful I have those all over my house, I went thru a phase collecting angels and now I have way too many!No I don't do the letters I love the old fashioned Christmas cards!
That is just me though!

you are a very nice person!
Hope you have a very Merry Christmas

Cindy said...

I do the Mission of Hope and the Samaritan purse thing too!
So hope I spelled that right I just don't go around talking of it too much!

Kristi said...

That is the third time I've seen the star advent calendar. Where oh where did you find it? I'd love to have one!
We also take time nearly every day to play with our Fisher Price Nativity scene. I read the story out of the bible or from one of their children's stories and they move the characters. It's so fun to watch them play later and recount the story on their own!

CC said...

You are now my Christmas hero. Can you come plan our activities for the month? I love teh idea of "doing something" daily. But (cough cough), other than get to work and back and get dinner on the table, that's about all I can get done.

I really want to only give the kids a few gifts. But then I end up with more than planned b/c I win something, or someone gives me something, or I get something free with coupons. I inevitably end up saving some of the gifts for their birthday. And then each birthday there is too much, so I save some for Christmas! Never ending cycle.

The Gang's Momma! said...

Where did you get the boxed Advent calendars? We've tried off and on for years to "make our own" semblance of an Advent plan and it just always escapes us as we get overwhelmed and busy. Something like these would be so nice to have - done already and consistent from year to year. HELP!

And I love the cloisonne panda - bought one for Grandma and Grandpa's tree when we were in GZ, should have thought to buy some for us!