Here's a picture of our humble little Jesse Tree and the one ornament we've put on it thus far. Tripp climbed up on a ladder and cut these branches down from a tree in our yard.
One new tradition that we're starting this year is doing an Advent calendar, basically just a way for us to count down the days until Christ's birth, but with some fun activities planned. I made our calendar by simply nailing four rows of wire to the back of this frame (which is my decorating workhorse for creating vignettes for birthdays and parties seen here and here.) and took gift tags and embellished them with washi tape and a number. On the back I typed out 24 activities for us to do as a family.
Here's my list:
December 1: Make hot cocoa from scratch.
December 2: Watch Charlie Brown Christmas.
December 3: Make cards to send home to family.
December 4: Open a Christmas present. Just one Christmas present for all the kids.
December 5: Make a Christmas craft. Here are a few I had in mind - nativity set, candy cane craft, poinsettia craft.
December 6: Cut out paper snowflakes.
December 7: Color a Christmas picture.
December 8: Focus on loving others today - helping someone when they fall, offering to help with chores around the house, taking the time to listen when someone speaks to you, speaking with a gentle and kind voice.
December 9: Read the story of Jesus' birth from Luke 2.
December 10: Make some baked goods for our neighbors.
December 11: Write out (or draw pictures for those who haven't started school yet) a prayer thanking God for sending his son to earth as a little babe.
December 12: Sit down as a family and spend time talking about what you love and appreciate about each other.
December 13: Read a Christmas book.
December 14: Spend time praying for the least of these and those without families to love them.
December 15: Go through clothes and toys to give away to those in need.
December 16: Have a birthday party for Jesus.
December 17: Learn about the real St. Nicholas.
December 18: Go to the school Christmas program.
December 19: Surprise activity: maybe a trip to the mall playground or to the park to play.
December 20: Play our favorite Christmas album and sing around the tree.
December 21: Make an ornament - we'll probably make something similar to these.
December 22: Go to Heifer International, MAF or World Vision and discuss the importance of giving. And then buy a gift together using some of the kids' money they've earned.
December 23: Candlelight dinner with wintery type foods - this will probably be some sort of soup or stew and some good homemade bread. I'm not a make-your-bread-from-scratch kind of person so if you have any good recipes, do share.
December 24: Wash each others' feet as a way to demonstrate the servant heart of Christ and his humble beginnings on this earth.
Come, thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free;
from our sins and fears release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now they gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit,
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy gracious throne.