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Simple Family Advent Traditions

Welcome to the December Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let’s Talk Traditions

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


advent bags

Last year, I wanted to create an Advent tradition that was simple and meaningful, and that could be flexible enough to grow and change with my family. I came up with a set of Advent bags with felt numbers on the front, one for each day of December between the 1st and the 24th. I sewed them out of a scrap piece of navy linen I had left over from a dress I made years ago, and glued the numbers on the front. Then I stretched a piece of twine between the windows and hung each bag on the line with clothespins. Inside each bag was a sweet for each family member to eat after dinner, and some bags had an extra special surprise – a pretty, polished stone, a tiny book or a Christmas poem to read.

advent calendar

This year, I wanted to incorporate more Christmas activities into our Advent celebrations instead of focusing so much on gifts and sweets. So, in addition to the sweets there are tiny pieces of notepaper clipped to the outside of some of the advent bags, and each paper has a special Christmas activity written on it.  I couldn’t quite get my plans together in time to schedule all the activities I want to do on the specific day I want to do them, but hanging up the notes as I go through the month seems to work, and it’s also adding an extra element of surprise as new notes appear each morning.

I have fond memories of our Advent celebrations at home when I was a child – the smell of the candle wick smoldering as I blew out our dinner candles tonight brought back a strong memory of lighting candles as part of Advent.  Even though my traditions today aren’t exactly the same as the traditions I had growing up, there’s a few threads of simplicity, togetherness, anticipation and handmade crafts that run through them both. What I would really like to add to our current traditions is a simple, secular spiritual daily passage to read together, but I haven’t found just the right book or resource to use.

Our traditions are slowly becoming more cohesive as our family grows. I want to have holiday traditions that are meaningful and add positivity to our lives instead of making them even more hectic and stressed. I’m happy with our simple advent calendar, and I’m looking forward to adding in a few more easy traditions to our holiday season.

What are your favourite family holiday traditions?


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{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Rachael December 14, 2010, 11:12 am

    What a lovely idea! As always, I wish I were more crafty.

    Regarding a source of “simple, secular spiritual daily passages,” I don’t have any specific book in mind, but I bet you could find some good passages by looking through some poetry anthologies at the library. Such poets as Rumi, Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, and Dickinson might have lines and passages that will work for you and your family.

    Oh! Oh! And I just thought of a lovely anthology: The Book of Luminous Things, edited by Czeslaw Milosz. Highly recommended.
    Rachael´s last blog post ..Giving Christmas to the Critter

    • michelle December 14, 2010, 10:02 pm

      Lily – I’m glad this calendar could inspire a tradition of your own! It is totally customizable – vary the number, size or contents of the bags to suit your own celebrations.

      MrsH – I hope they have fond memories of our holiday celebrations… So far I know my toddler has learned that there are treats in each one, and throughout the day she’ll randomly point at the bags and then in her mouth, as if to say, “treats go in here!”

      Mandy – I’m curious about what you do to celebrate Solstice. What do you do to mark the shortest day?

      Dionna – I haven’t had time to read many other posts yet, but I’m looking forward to reading about Bluebirdmama’s. I think the idea of a pocket per day is a pretty widely adopted one. My family had an advent tree with a pocket full of sweets each day until Christmas. Our cloth bags definitely have room for more fun things to hide inside! And you can make the bags as big or small as you like.

      Rachael – Yes, poetry is a good place to start looking. Thanks for the reminder. And I’m pretty sure I have that anthology on my bookshelf already! I saw it in the bookstore when I was on holiday once and couldn’t resist the title. :) Luminous is an excellent word.

  • Dionna @ Code Name: Mama December 14, 2010, 1:09 pm

    What a creative idea! I love that you can fit things in the little pockets. I just read another Carnival post (from bluebird mama) with an advent calendar and the numbers almost look like they are magnets. I had my heart set on something similar – but then what about the fun little things to put inside?! Hmmm, back to the drawing board!
    Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last blog post ..Acupuncture for Fertility

  • Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children December 14, 2010, 4:40 pm

    We have also added something similar to our Solstice Calendar this year.

  • MrsH December 14, 2010, 6:49 pm

    Definitely having advent calendar envy over here! That looks really cute and I bet your children will end up having fond memories of the calendar, and even fonder of the activities you got to do together! We also put it in the night before, except of course when mom forgets…
    MrsH´s last blog post ..Establishing Traditions and Older Child Adoption

  • Lily Shahar Kunning December 14, 2010, 7:18 pm

    What a fantastic idea! I have been looking for a way to celebrate the advent of the solstice but all advent calendars do the 1st through the 24th! This is a way we can have a fun advent or even a scavenger hunt throughout December.


  • Kristin December 15, 2010, 8:07 am

    Hey, love your advent calendar! We do something similar (my mom made ours), though I am filling them mostly with little presents instead of candy and/or activities (and they are therefore not quite big enough to fit all three girls). I really like the activity idea, and just haven’t been that organized this year!

    I also would love to find some passages to read, similar to what you describe — let me know if you find anything!
    Kristin´s last blog post ..Our Holiday Traditions- New and Old

  • Tracey - JustAnotherMommyBlog December 17, 2010, 11:30 am

    Very sweet! I love the simple ideas like the bags on a string. I’m sure this will be an activity that will grow and change as your family does. Merry Christmas!
    Tracey – JustAnotherMommyBlog´s last blog post ..Bashing head against the screen as I type

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