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I love Advent!!! In an effort to escape the materialism of Christmas, our Advent season has expanded over the past few years into what is now a full six weeks of celebrating Jesus, and we look forward to it all year!
We start on December 1st after fulling reveling in at least a week of thankfulness during American Thanksgiving. We set up nativity scenes and work through several Advent calendars I’ve collected over the years which I’ll show you in future posts. We have a Jesus retreat and birthday party about a week before Christmas during which the focus is entirely on giving to Jesus (post coming soon on that too!) On Christmas Day, we give gifts to one another as well as our friends and community. And then we begin our countdown to Kings’ Day, also known as Epiphany, traditionally celebrated on January 6th (the 12th day of Christmas). On Kings’ Day, we go on some sort of journey to commemorate the wise men’s travels, we picnic on Middle Eastern food like they might have had, and we give each family member three special gifts. I’ll also share more about our Kings’ Day celebrations in another post coming soon!
Anyway, despite all these plans, I found myself inspired recently by this post from Amanda of ohamanda.com to add just a little more to our Advent celebrations. Two of the ideas she shared just seemed like so much fun and like they’d work together well, so we’re going to try them this year. We’re going to hide the baby Jesus from one of our nativity scenes until Christmas morning, and have Mary and Joseph go on a journey throughout our house on their way to Bethlehem throughout the month. (Our wise men don’t come out until the day after Christmas so our Bethlehem scene might be a little sparse!)
Each morning, our kids can hunt for Mary and Joseph who will be hidden in a new spot, a little closer to the Bethlehem scene each day. Along with Mary and Joseph, they will find a book about Christmas, wrapped and ready to be opened and shared. I’m so excited!!! Now, since we live overseas, I couldn’t really go and find a bunch of new books about Christmas, so I’ve spent the last week scouring our bookshelves pulling out all the Christmas-related books I could find. I actually had enough with a little creativity!!! (And then I was able to borrow four more so I didn’t have to be as creative as I thought I would!)
I wanted the books to either be about Jesus or really communicate Christ-like values of generosity and community, so while my list isn’t a completely Jesus-centered list, there aren’t any Rudolph, Frosty, or Santa-focused tales in our list but you could include whatever you wanted in yours. There are so many, many Christmas books to choose from if you have access to English bookstores or book-selling websites, but if you don’t, you can still creatively add a few “books” if you find yourself a little short. I’m planning on giving each kid an activity/coloring book for the whole month on the first day, made mostly from online free printables. I’m also thinking of a blank book for journaling their prayers through the Advent season on the first day. I think it would be cool for each of them to add to their own book each year!! What a keepsake that would make! Maybe I’ll push the activity book to later in the month. Hmmmm. I’m also waffling on whether or not we’re ready for Bartholomew’s Passage starting on day 2 – I think my kids will be scared – so I think I might make them their own Christmas song and hymnbooks that we can sing from as a family throughout the month for that day. I think that will go over better this year.
So here’s my starting list for anyone looking for ideas. I’m including links to Amazon for any books I can for your convenience. A lot of these are old books so some of the prices are ridiculous but some are super cheap, but at least you can see what the covers look like. (Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate because I get questions about where to buy the things I write and tell people about. Amazon sends me a few cents if a reader buys something from clicking the book link.)
- Advent prayer journal and/or activity book – if what I make turns out decently, I’ll post it for you!
- Bartholomew’s Passage: A Family Story for Advent($) by Arnold Ytreeide or maybe a family Christmas song and hymnbook
- Good King Wenceslas($) by John M. Neale and Tim Ladwig
- The Story of St. Nicholas: More Than Reindeer and a Red Suit($) by Cheryl Odden, illustrated by R.F. Palavicini
- Children Just Like Me: Celebrations!($): Festivals, carnivals, and feast days from around the world by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley
- A Charlie Brown Christmas($) by Charles M. Schulz (characters), Diane Namm (text adaptation), and Art and Kim Ellis (background illustrations)
- Star of Christmas($) written by Cindy Kenney, illustrated by Dennis Bredow, based on the video created by Phil Vischer and Tim Hodge
- The Littlest Snowman($) by Charles Tazewell, illustrated by George De Santis
- Punchinello and the Most Marvelous Gift($) by Max Lucado, illustrated by Sergio Martinez
- My First Little House Books: Christmas in the Big Woods($); adapted from the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Renee Graef
- Let’s Play The Christmas Story($) by Leon Baxter
- Tina Marie’s Best Christmas($) by Clare Mishica, illustrated by Sheila Lucas
- No Tree for Christmas($): The Story of Jesus’ Birth by Marilyn Lashbrook, illustrated by Stephanie McFetridge Britt
- The Crippled Lamb($) by Max Lucado with Jenna, Andrea, and Sara Lucado, illustrated by Liz Bonham
- Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear!($) by Don and Audrey Wood
- The Small One($) by Alex Walsh, illustrated by Jesse Clay
- My Son, My Saviour: The Awesome Wonder of Jesus’ Birth($) by Calvin Miller, illustrated by Ron DiCianni
- A Child’s Calendar($); Poems by John Updike, illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman – (I’m planning to just read December’s poem. Day 17’s book is long, so it may get extended into Day 18.)
- Probity Jones and the Fear Not Angel($) by Walter Wangerin Jr., illustrated by Tim Ladwig
- Bible Stories for Early Readers: Not a Bed($) by Lavaun Linde and Mary Quishenberry
- Mary’s First Christmas($) by Walter Wangerin Jr., illustrated by Timothy Ladwig
- The Pine Tree Parable($) by Liz Curtis Higgs, illustrated by Nancy Munger
- If Jesus Came to My House($) by Joan Gale Thomas
- The Gentle Carpenter($) by Lois Rock, illustrated by Cathy Baxter
- The Legend Of The Three Trees – Board Book($) by Catherine McCafferty, illustrations by Gene ‘n Geppy Productions
A book we have but I didn’t include this year is The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by John McIntosh, written by June Williams. This is an Australian book and is a lot of fun, but my kids are still a little young for it. I’m sure it will make the list in future years though, and maybe we’ll read it this year during the days after Christmas. Other books I’d love to include if I had them would be several more that Tim Ladwig illustrated – I love his work! – and The Clown of God($) by Tomie dePaola. How about you? What books would you recommend or consider as absolute must-reads?