Holiday Traditions #1 – Advent Calendars

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Holiday Traditions #1 – Advent Calendars

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Are you ready to start or add some new holiday traditions this Christmas? Here are some of our favorite family traditions to help you have fun with your family this Christmas season.
31 Christmas Ideas to start some new holiday traditions

Christmas Traditions for Families

I think traditions are very important. Traditions give us a sense of belonging, anticipation, order, memories, and FUN! So this holiday season I wanted to take the opportunity to share 8 of my families favorite Holiday Traditions. We have lots more, but these are our cherished favorites! Of course ever season includes time with extended family, Christmas’ with both of our families, reading of the Christmas Story, Christmas Music, Candlelit Christmas Eve  service, and delicious food that becomes some extra pounds .  It is my hope that you will be inspired to create some new traditions with your family this Christmas Season.

Advent Calendar Tradition

The first tradition I wanted to share with you is our Advent Calendar. The reason I am starting here is so you can really benefit the most of your advent calendar, you will need a little bit of time to prepare before December 1st rolls around! My family looks forward to opening the drawer for each day of December with much anticipation ~ it is definitely a highlight at our home!

Advent Calendar TraditionAdvent Calendar Tradition

Why should you do an advent calendar?

Besides that it is fun and helps kids countdown, it helps us be intentional with the limited time in the month of December to make sure we are making the most of every day!!  We use a drawer advent calendar (I will show you in tomorrow’s post) and include activities to do with our children. We open the drawers every morning so that we know what fun thing we get to do that day. I know there are some premade calendars with chocolate or Legos and although I think that is fun, I feel like you would be missing something if that is all you do. Using the drawers allows us to add candy on some days, Lego pieces, scripture, a key, or whatever to enhance our Advent Calendar.

31 Fun Christmas Activities for Families

Christmas Cookie Cake

Holiday Cookie cake 

(admit it, you’ve always wanted one like Mrs. Fields without paying the $35 price tag!) - MY COOKIE CAKE RECIPE

Shoebox for needy kid -  

Since Operation Christmas Child collects these boxes EARLY – we make ours for the following year. That way we still make them as part of our advent activities.
Pray with kids at Christmas

Pray together 

Pray as a family for each and every person who sends you a Christmas card. We keep these throughout the year to pray over our friends & family regularly.

Caroling for a Senior Citizen Home 

Spread the Christmas joy to folks who don’t tend to get a lot of visitors! Call ahead and find out if you can bring some cookies too!Christmas Countdown Chain

Count-down Paper chain

    December 2011 1700

    Annual Family Puzzle (more on this tradition here)

    Live Music 

    (concert, ballet, etc. – after all it wouldn’t’ be Christmas without some great music!)

    Everyone gets to pick their favorite meal to have later in the month


    Grow Your Own Candy Cane 

    This has become a tradition in our house! Our Elf on the shelf brings us a package with a magic seed, snow from the North Pole, and planting instructions. My kids are amazed with the peppermint seed grows into a candy cane! Complete instructions & {free} printable seed packets here.
      Opening an early Christma PresentOpening an early Christma Present

      Open 1 present early 

      This is a much anticipated activity in our house!! Even grown-ups get a present. These are not big presents – maybe a holiday related item like Christmas socks that by the time you open it on Christmas you can’t use it until the next year, flavored coffee for Dad, snowman stuffed animals from Target dollar section, special ornament reflecting a milestone or new interest (ballerina for Minnie this year since she started taking ballet class), you get the idea. The fun is in the opening!

      Go bowling or play mini-golf

      Family Christmas Memories

      Christmas Pictures 

      Whether you go to a studio (and out for a treat afterwards) or take pictures at home, make sure to capture your precious family at that moment in time!

      Go to Chuck E Cheese

        Family Game night with Grandpa

        Game night 

        Game night complete with Appetizers for dinner. Sometimes we have had Cheese fondue or brought out our Chocolate fountain (got it for 75% off + 20% off coupon at Kohl's one year!)

        Go to an Arcade

        Watch a classic Christmas movie & string popcorn 

        (family favorites would depend on the age of your kids: Grinch Movie, Home Alone, National Lampoons Christmas, Curious George Christmas, etc.)
        McDonalds Play Tunnels for Christmas Eve

        Breakfast at McDonalds & play in Play Tunnels

          Daddy as a Christmas tree - he's a great sport!Ice Cream Cone Christmas Tree Forest

          Something silly & fun 

          (One year we made Daddy into a Christmas tree, made ice cream cones into Christmas trees, you get the idea)

          Watch a movie at the Theatre 

          (if there is one that we feel is appropriate out) – We don’t go to the movie theatre often so this is a treat. Our theatre offers free refills on drinks & popcorn so we splurge & call it dinner!

          Disney On Ice – 

          Check out whatever live entertainments is available in your area. Create a fun family memory at Disney On Ice, Ringling Brothers Circus, Nutcracker, etc. December 2011 1555

          Homemade Gifts 

          Have the kids make homemade gifts for each other and Grandparents! This is such a fun way for kids to enjoy the pleasure of GIVING! They will take such pride in the gift. I also enjoy giving gifts that are from the heart. Every year I knit my kids a hat. For hostess gifts, I give our homemade pickles.
            Meeting SantaMeeting Santa

            Visit Santa  

            (Now I know lots of people will think we are crazy, but we are very upfront with our children & have told them that Santa is not real. We don’t ever want to knowingly lie to our children – not about Santa, the Easter bunny, or anything. We want them to know fact from fiction – when we tell them the Christmas story they know we are stating facts not playing with our imagination. We do see the fun in pretending about Santa and although it may not work for everyone, our kids seem to have just as much fun pretending as believing. We visit Santa, leave him out cookies, and read Santa books. I think Santa is a cultural thing my kids need to understand, but I am glad they are using their imagination to pretend about Santa instead of believing he is the star of Christmas!)
              City parade & holiday events: face painting

              Annual Christmas event 

              (city parade, Santa’s Village, Disney on Ice, Puppets, you get the idea
                Gingerbread Nativity

                Make Gingerbread Nativity 

                (This is actually an annual event at our church complete with the craft, singing, drama, and a time to socialize. We love it! But you could easily replicate this at home using graham crackers, plastic Nativity figures from Oriental trading company, icing, candy, and your imagination!)

                Christmas shopping & out to lunch 

                (I love this family Christmas shopping event. It is so cool to help our kids pick out gifts for each other and see the love, generosity, and how well they know each other! We swap around every 20 minutes so everyone can buy a small present for everyone and they we finish off the event with going out to lunch – a very special treat! If we are at the mall we love going to Red Robin with bottomless fries, delicious freckled lemonade, a balloon, and if we are lucky a visit from the Red Robin himself. If we are out and about my kids love Mexican food as much as we do – more chips please! )
                  Pirate Snowman

                  SNOW FUN 

                  Sleigh Ride, Sledding, or make a Snowman (here is our Pirate snowman)

                  Holiday crafts 

                  (I love these tot/preschool/early elementary years where the kids LOVE crafts! I love to see their little hands manipulate and create. We make gifts for their grandparents (like this painted salt dough ornament we cut out with cookie cutters), ornaments for the kids tree, and decoration for our home that I cherish putting up from year to year.
                    Salt Dough Ornament

                    Play Personalized Memory Game 

                    (I wanted to have a fun way to remind the kids of all the fun things we’ve done over the years: vacations, memories, special events, and the love that we share. So I made a memory game that includes funny stories and lots of pictures. )Fisher Price Nativity Playset for Kids

                    Kid Friendly Nativity  

                    Buy (or make) a nativity the kids can play with and act out the Christmas story all season long. This is the one we have and LOVE!Making Christmas Cookies

                    Make Christmas Cookies 

                    (We make a LOT of Christmas cookies in our house! I love having a huge variety to sample & share) – more on our tradition & favorite recipes later.

                    Practice Hospitality 

                    (Have a friend/family over for dinner, appetizers, or dessert.)
                      Christmas Cookie Plates for Neighbors

                      Take Christmas Cookie plates to neighbors 

                      (This is a favorite of mine and I’ve been doing this back before I was even married. Back then I took my 6th grade Sunday School class around the church neighborhood.) Here are our favorite Christmas cookies & their recipes ~ YUM!
                        image     November 2011 226

                        Make personalized Ornaments 

                        Make keepsake ornaments that you and your kids will treasure year after year Snowman Keepsake Ornament or Salt Dough Ornaments

                        Zoo lights 

                        (This is a local event – but there are lots of great local events this time of year. Check your newspaper, radio, as a friend or neighbor and find what makes your city unique this time of year)

                        Scripture to read daily 

                        (Christmas is about Jesus! We want to help our kids keep focused on the true meaning and not get lost in the celebration. One of the ways we do this is by being grounded in scripture daily with our children.) Elf on the Shelf Christmas Tradition

                        Elf on the Shelf  

                        Start a December long tradition with the Elf on the Shelf or The Christmas Angel . My kids LOVE seeing what silly places the elf has moved to or what interesting things he brings them! They are looking forward to seeing him already!

                        Hot cocoa & drive around and look at Christmas Lights  

                        (One year we got special holiday thermoses on clearance from Kohl's which just make this event even more memorable! We love driving around the neighborhood and seeing the beautiful twinkling lights around us. We of course have some good holiday tunes blaring on the radio. It is always fun to hear the kids oohs and ahhs and “Mom – LOOK AT THAT!!”
                          Viewing Holiday Lights
                          Did that inspire you to create an advent calendar for your family? I sure hope so! Remember it doesn’t have to be grand or over the top, just intentional time celebrating this joyous season with the ones you love! Check out tomorrow’s post with creative advent calendar ideas! If you have a fun family event I didn’t mention, please tell me in the comments section! I am ALWAYS looking to spice things up with new, fun ideas!!

                          Popular Christmas Crafts

                          holiday traditions image image

                           image Photobucket  polar-express_thumb7

                          Christmas Crafts for Kids

                          Don't miss Christmas Crafts for Kids by +Beth Gorden with over 100 Christmas Activities, Crafts, and Recipes for families to enjoy together during the month of December.

                          The book (rated 5 stars on Amazon) is being raved as "impressive"..... "winning combination" .... and "well planned book with lots of great ideas" by readers.  So take the work out of your holiday season so you can focus on creating priceless memories together! 


                          1. wow! you've got a crazy awesome blog here! i'm coming back later when i have more time and more coffee!! just browsing thru a few posts gives me so many ideas!!

                          2. What a treasure trove of holiday fun ideas!
                            My hubby was just telling me he'd like more traditions in our home. Thanks for the inspiration!
                            I have a new one for you too:
                            Gift wrap all your Christmas books and have them under your tree on December 1. Each day the kids get to unwrap a book and cozy to hear a good book. My kids love this! After Christmas I look for holiday books on sale to add to the collection.
                            (I wrap the books each year before I put them up with the rest of the decorations so it's done ahead of time:))

                          3. This comment has been removed by the author.

                          4. Thanks ladies!
                            Bekki - you just discovered my Tradition #5 =-) So wait about a month & you'll see this is one of our favorites too!! My kids love unwrapping all month long... plus it gives my baby a chance to get some practice in before Christmas =-)

                          5. Bummer Beth! I thought I had a brilliant idea to share. Lol!
                            I love your blog:).
                            Ok here's another one:
                            Make "snowman soup" to share with friends.
                            Plastic baggies.
                            Hot cocoa
                            Mini marshmallows
                            Christmas stickers for decoration
                            Cute lable

                          6. Bekki - I love that idea! And I love the catchy name: Snowman Soup! Awesome! Thanks for the fun idea!!
                            Beth =-)

                          7. LOVE all of these ideas in one spot! We do an advent calendar w/ activities each year.. but you had some on there I have never thought of! I am going to spice mine up some this year!

                          8. I love all your ideas.
                            You are also the only other parent I have run across that handles santa the same way we do. It's nice to see it working for someone else.

                          9. Ah, I'm working on my list of activities now, perfect timing. Thank you for your ideas!

                            Since I'm taking some of your ideas I thought I'd share one of ours. We are planning on making cards for those closest to us. For us that's our family and some close friends. They hear how much we love them all the time but Christmas seems like the best time to make them a special card with our feelings written down. I hope when our kids get older we can do it within our little family as well.


                          10. yep... definately inspired! roll on December!!!

                          11. Love the idea of opening on present early! Why havent I thought of that? Zoo Lights were on of my all time favorite parts of the holidays ... sadly our zoo here in Texas doesnt do anything like that for Christmas :( Maybe I should recommend they start!!

                          12. Awesome post! Thanks so much for all the great ideas!

                          13. Wow! Love it-- wonderful idea to add to our family traditions, too!

                          14. GREAT ideas! Never thought about Hot Cocoa and driving around to see the lights. Fun idea! My kids would love it!

                          15. Lots of great ideas for me to steal ;). I'm right there with ya on the Santa thing...although we haven't done the pretend Santa thing...might have to give that a try this year. :)

                          16. Wow!! What great ideas. I love the gingerbread nativity. Thank you for sharing at Crafty Moms Share!

                          17. So many fantastic ideas! Thank you so much for sharing at Taking A Timeout Thursday! Hope to see you again tomorrow :)
                            -Trish @ Mom On Timeout

                          18. Great round up of ideas! Looks like fun ;-) Can you believe it's that time of year again? Thank you for sharing your ideas with us on The Sunday Showcase

                          19. Thanks so much for all the ideas, Beth! We are going to try doing a small advent calendar this year and I definitely want to incorporate some fun activities so I appreciate you posting some ideas! :)

                          20. Hi, this is great! I am having a holiday blog hop! Just up today! Enter your post if you like!I would love to make an advent calender this year!
                            Thanks for getting me in the spirit!
                            Theresa @

                          21. Great post! loving the cookies!!

                            Thanks for linking up to Serenity Saturday.
                            Hope to see you there again tomorrow

                            Natasha xxx


                          22. Love these ideas! We just bought Truth in the Tinsel to use throughout the advent season. We will definitely be doing some of these too :)

                            Sierra @

                          23. I love your ideas! You seem very family oriented, and so I am. We have a game night at least once a month complete with food, prizes and even Game Wheels. I really enjoy getting that time to spend with my husband and children, they grow up so fast! Anyway, I think I'll be borrowing your cookie cake recipe for our next game night!!!

                          24. Stumbled on your blog. Is it just my PC, or is the banner impossible to read? I can't read the lines under your title on the header banner image at all.

                          25. What an awesome Advent calendar, Beth! I love the drawers and activities throughout the month. I featured your post and photo in my 40+ Christmas Countdown Activities at

                          26. Ws like to do gifts for Jesus all month long, each day we do something nice and write it down that night and put it in a jar or box. Then on Christmas eve we read all our gifts to Jesus for his birthday. Helps the little ones understand the meaning of the season.