On Changing Traditions: Christmas Books for Advent Calendars

On Changing Traditions: Christmas Books for Advent Calendars

On Changing Traditions: Christmas Books for Advent Calendars

Advent calendars start counting down the days until Christmas tomorrow. One by one, little doors will be opened by excited little hands, little envelopes plucked off string. We’ve continued to practice our Advent calendar tradition for six years now, choosing little envelopes filled with activities that encourage family togetherness and community giving.

However this is the first year in four years we won’t be opening a book a day. I previously wrapped 24 books, placed them under the tree, and each night we’d open one, reading it together before bedtime. I loved this tradition, as did the boys, but we’ve outgrown it just a little bit.

And also, I’m trying to slow down, to focus on a more mindful Christmas. I couldn’t bring myself to wrap 24 books. Again.

Now, don’t worry about us. Our large and always increasing library of Christmas books still sits next to the Christmas tree, all unwrapped and ready to be read whenever the boys so desire (along with a number of Christmas coloring books). I’m sure we’ll read through a number of them, and the boys already picked over the box earlier today, remembering their favorites and giggling.


But, I thought perhaps we’d approach reading a little bit different this year.

We added Ann Voskamp’s book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift last year. The boys did well with the readings, and I feel as though we’ll keep this as part of our tradition this year. I think we’ll move it to the morning, however, to start our day off on the right foot. The morning reading also allows for us to attempt chapter books and poems at bedtime without feeling like we have to jam all the reading in without enjoying the process.

I’m considering starting to read Greenglass House with the boys, though it seems to have some heavy adoption themes. Maybe we’re ready to start tackling heavy adoption themes in a safe place, like a living room softly lit by Christmas decorations. Or not. I need to finish my pre-read first. We’re also going to read poems from Santa Clauses and Winter Poems. I love adding poetry to our family reading time, so finding another one to add into the mix feels just right.

Letting go of the unwrapping a book each night feels kind of big, like letting go of little boys’ hands in parking lots and realizing your daughter is now taller than you. But it’s time. I’ve passed the wrap-a-book tradition on to others, to family and friends, who will use the tradition with their own families for as long it works.

I’m looking forward to expanding our Christmas reading, to experiencing the holiday season as a family, to serving others, to being part of our community, to celebrating our traditions as they come… and go.


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A Slower, More Mindful Holiday

A Slower, More Mindful Holiday

A Slower, More Mindful Holiday

We put up the tree yesterday, after cutting it down at our favorite tree farm in Ohio. The boys helped decorate it, and I taught them the importance of wrapping the metal hook around the branch on live trees. I gave thanks that they handled the shatter-proof ornaments while I tended to the more delicate ones; I lost count as to how many they dropped or knocked off the tree when they didn’t wrap the hook just so.

I found a few more ornaments to hang up today, but didn’t quite get to placing them on the tree. I spent a majority of the day picking through boxes, setting decorations in various places, and moving them around the house. I still have a few pieces to put out tomorrow… or the next day.

Or whenever I get to it.

You see, I did no decorating on Friday, my usual decorating day, other than putting out our vintage ceramic Christmas trees. We visited with family, ate some more turkey, and enjoyed a lazy date night together. I did pull all the fall stuff down, but didn’t throw myself into a frenzied decorating spree. On Saturday, we attended a fun bowling birthday party, and then cut the tree. In addition to decorating the tree with the boys, I worked on putting a few other small pieces out, but I didn’t push myself.

This is new, this slower approach to getting the house—and the family—ready for Christmas.


Normally, I would turn the house upside down in one day, decking the halls at break-neck speed. In past years, I’ve ended up dizzy or sick because I forget to eat while I’m in the midst of decorating. I also get snippy and totally no fun, which makes for great holiday memories, let me tell you.

I’m not sure I came into this year with a conscious decision to do it differently, to slow down and let the process unfold at its own pace, but here we are. I try to approach some things in my life with a more mindful, slow approach nowadays, finding it better for my physical and mental health—and better for my family as a whole. While one of my sons presents the same Type A personality as I, the other half of the household presents a much more laid back attitude and my constant go-go-go sometimes rubs them the wrong way.

It’s also kind of exhausting to approach everything in life this way. I spent most of last year in a frenzy, and it still took me until the middle of this year to recognize and respect the need for change. I’ve slowed things down in many areas of my life, and the results seem positive for the lot of us. I still approach things as a Type A person, hitting deadlines and expecting too much of myself probably, but at a slower pace. One with a little more grace built in so I don’t constantly feel like I’m failing before I even start.

This slow down let me approach decorating a little more mindfully this year. I made piles as I unpacked the boxes: a pile for items I knew I’d use, a pile for items I thought I might sell since I knew I wouldn’t use them, and a pile for old, worn out decorations no one could or would want to use.

I mentioned this new approach to my husband as we stood in the middle of the living room last night.

“I like it,” he said. Before I could open my mouth to play it down, he continued, “I mean it.”

I know he did; he meant it on many levels. If it’s felt this nice to me to slow down and enjoy the process, I imagine it feels all the more lovely to not watch me spin myself into a tornado of Christmas, destroying the holiday joy of all in my path. I think maybe I’ll make this approach a new holiday tradition.