This Is My Favorite Family Tradition: Celebrating Advent

Celebrating Advent as a Family

For children and adults, the anticipation of the holidays is always exciting. Much of the joy the season brings is in the waiting and anticipation of Christmas morning. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas morning. “Advent” is defined as “the arrival of a notable thing, person, or event” or “the coming or second coming of Christ.”

It’s in the waiting that we can find hope and joy. This is metaphorical for any time or circumstance in our life, but a tangible example is the way that we wait and prepare for Christmas.  I want to create a great sense of anticipation for something beautiful in our home. With so much pain in the world, it fills me with hope to anticipate Jesus coming back someday and making all things new.

This Is Why I Love Family Traditions

I’m a girl who loves tradition. Growing up, my parents did a great job of creating simple traditions that meant a lot to us as kids. On our birthdays, we got to pick our favorite homemade dinner and invite one or two friends to sleepover. On Easter Sunday, my parents hid our Easter baskets for us to find, and we would go to my grandma’s house to eat glazed ham and baked pineapple. Christmas was filled with many special traditions. We would go to our late evening Christmas Eve service, so excited for the part when we would get to light the candles and sing “Silent Night.” Afterwards, we would go to a close family friend’s house with a group of families for delicious food and punch. Christmas morning we would wake up and wait for our parents so that we could see what Santa brought us.


As I raise my own children, I’ve always tried to create a sense of tradition similar to what I grew up with. And if you didn’t grow up with any traditions, then you could create your own! Most importantly, don’t compare to the people around you—do the simple things that make your family smile. The key is keeping things simple and consistent. I always say, keep the bar low so that there is somewhere to grow in the future.

For example, on Valentine’s Day (I know, different holiday, but it illustrates my point) we have a “fancy dinner.” I started this when our kids were toddlers. I simply get out the china and serve our normal dinner. The table is outfitted with a pretty tablecloth and Champagne flutes filled with sparkling cider. Each chair usually has a heart balloon tied on the back. There are no gifts. The presentation is the gift. After dinner, we share what we love about each other, which is written on construction paper hearts that we hand out. If you’re thinking, “My kids would never do that,” well, take heart, because mine would never do it either—I forced them to! As the years have gone on, our simple dinner has morphed into a bit fancier food (ribs), but everything else is the same. And every year the kids ask, “Which night is the fancy Valentine dinner?” It makes my soul smile that they anticipate and appreciate such a simple thing.

This Is How Our Family Celebrates Advent

A few years ago, I was trying to come up with a way for our family to celebrate Advent without creating too much overwhelming work or spending unnecessary money. I decided to take the things we already do and spread them out. I happened to have a calendar with 24 little boxes that all open. Every year, after Thanksgiving, my husband and I come up with ideas to write on little pieces of paper to put in the boxes. Each morning in December leading up to Christmas Day, one of the kids opens the box to see what that day’s event may be.

Here are a few of the activities we do:

  • A Christmas puzzle. We’ll usually start it that day and work on it for the next few weeks.
  • A Christmas concert. All four kids have a concert at some point, so we find the dates and put it in that particular box.
  • Peppermint milkshakes. My husband makes yummy milkshakes from Trader Joe’s peppermint Joe-Joe’s cookies (yum) and peppermint stick ice cream.
  • A Christmas movie night.
  • Christmas lights. We drive around to find the best decorated house or go to a local lights display.
  • Christmas cards. Time to finish ’em up and mail ’em out!
  • Homeless gift bags. We fill about 12 Ziploc storage bags with socks, candy bars, gloves, hats, toothbrushes and toothpaste, then drive to locations in our city where the homeless live and hand them out.
  • Gingerbread houses. This is always a fun night of kids laughing, arguing, and creating messes.
  • Start reading Keeping Holiday. I start reading this special chapter book with the kids each night. We read it throughout the month. This children’s book, by Starr Meade, is a beautiful fantasy/allegory of how God brings a person to faith. I read the same book every year (and there are some years that we don’t get through it!).
  • Sing songs by the fire. We love building a fire in the fireplace and singing Christmas hymns.
  • Christmas cookies. It’s always fun to spend an evening making a variety of Christmas cookies and delivering them to friends and family.
  • Serve someone else today. Find a way to serve another person and write down what you did.

This may not seem like rocket science to you. But to me—it does! Being a working mom, there is a lot going on in our life and I want to be sure to prioritize my family during this season. These advent box activities are a way for me to be sure that I intentionally plan special memories for my kids. And the great part is, if our schedule changes (which it always does) or if something in the box is just too much for that day, then I simply switch them around, and our kids don’t know the difference.

The joy in my heart rises up after Thanksgiving when the kids ask, “where is the Advent box?” I love that they anticipate it, and I hope that in the future, they can look back and see the sweet traditions that brought them hope and joy during this Christmas season.

This year, we all could use something to look forward to. Let’s enjoy it the whole season, not just on Christmas morning.

For more on enjoying the holidays, check out this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Surviving the Holidays with Grit and Grace – 015

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