Advent season always sneaks up so quickly (this year it started on November 29th!), but it has become a ritual of celebration that our family loves.
When it comes to holiday celebrations and traditions I've found many an inspiration in Martha Zimmerman's Celebrating the Christian Year. Now, I have found one never knows what attempts will actually "stick" and become truly meaningful. Sometimes what is glorious for one family may be agonizingly impossible for another. (I should know, I've tried.) But, if you take Martha's book with the proverbial grain of salt, you may just be able to find a few ideas and twist them to fit your family wonderfully.
One that we particularly like is what we call "Rice and Beans Night." Each Sunday of advent we replace the evening meal that we normally would have with one made of rice and beans. Just boil some brown rice in broth and serve with red beans and a glass of milk. This is to serve as reminder to us of all of those in this world that would be grateful for such a simple meal. You'd think the kids would grumble but I'm always surprised by their enthusiasm.
The money saved by making this our meal is represented by a dollar bill placed above the plate of each person. This gets tucked into our "Blessings Jar" along with any other donated funds from chores or savings. We choose some person or group that we know could use the gift and send it to them after Christmas. It's simple and not a huge amount of money, but a very real way to show the children how they can show love in Christ's name.
After mealtime we sing a Christmas hymn together (this week is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel), clean up, toss on the jammies, light the advent candle, and cuddle under a blanket for the advent reading. Last year I came across a book called Jotham's Journey and it is just excellent. I highly recommend it as a fun way to work through Advent and the real meaning of Christmas.
Reflecting upon all of my attempts to make meaningful experiences and memories for the family, the main thing I've learned is: Keep it simple, keep it fun, and bag it if it's not! It will be interesting to see what traditions continue through the years, what fades, and the birth of the new. Regardless, it's all starts with just being together.