If the advertising, shops and colder weather hasn’t already reminded you, it’s not that long until Christmas! Which means it’s really not long until advent…
My early years were spent in the Church of England, specifically “high church”, so I was very familiar with advent candles and the symbology behind the colours on the altar. The last 12 years we’ve been in a Pentecostal Church and whilst I sometimes miss the reverence that the reflection on the familiar words of the Eucharist brings, there’s an excitement and anticipation as we approach Christmas in our local church that you can’t fail to get involved in it all.
I’m getting ready to set up our advent calendar at home. The eldest doesn’t like chocolate (yes there is such a thing as a child who refuses chocolate!) so DIY is our only (affordable) option in some ways, but it’s allowed so much more than a focus away from chocolate.
We have a large wall hanging with 24 pockets and a variety of things to go in:
- A set of flashcards
- Playmobil nativity scene (set 5588)
- Bauble books
- Christmas activity books
I spent ages looking for flashcards that covered Christmas and couldn’t find any Christian ones. Maybe that was bad looking but I ended up making my own, which means we’ve got an eclectic mix that cover everything from the main nativity characters to snowflakes and santa! The decorations are the sort you can find in garden centres with names on. We have angels, snowflakes, snowmen; all of which tie in on one day or another and can only be in pockets after the tree has gone up! Each year I’ve got a photo of the little ones in a “make your own” plastic bauble too.
The nativity scene is sturdy enough to cope with toddlers and the smaller bits I’ve just put out of the way for a few years (which means added interest as they get bigger hopefully!). It’s a big outlay the first year but long-term much cheaper than the annual advent calendars that so many toy manufacturers are producing now. We got the kings set (set 5589) as well as the base set and the scene builds up as we work through advent. I try to broadly follow the story in terms of who arrives when, and some of them bring a story too! That’s the best thing about it really, being able to customise it so completely, so the Christmas tree flash card is in the pocket on the day we’re going to be putting our tree up, the shepherds turn up in the nativity scene with the Bauble book that tells the story from their perspective and the reindeer flashcard when I know I’ve got time to take them to the nearby garden centre to see some real ones.
The stickers from the activity books (one each) get split up over days when there isn’t the germ factory or play group or anything getting us out of the house, so when I need time to get lunch cleared up or make tea they can work through a couple of pages of that!
And going back to my traditional start, Jesus is in the last pocket, reminding us all what we’ve been looking forward expectantly to. But the baby lying in a manger has already been, the picture on the last card is of the empty cross. My children may still be very young but as we work through advent with them and enjoy the tinsel and snowmen, we’re also linking the waiting of advent with the preparation of lent.