The day after Thanksgiving you will almost always find me putting the finishing touches on my countdown to Christmas.
December 1st always comes so quickly and without a little preparation, I can feel overwhelmed with the season of Elf chaos, advent calendars, Christmas parties and endless days of baking.
Some of you over achievers (yes you whose Elf has already made a grand appearance) may have already started but the week between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a slow transition into the holiday for me and I enjoy these extra few days of preparation.
This past week I spent some time thinking about the days leading up to Christmas. One of my favorite traditions is our advent calendar which incorporates our December Bucket List activities, service for others, scripture reading, and a few special treats each day.
As I have told you before in regards to doing Bucket Lists with your family, these are not meant to be stressful and I don’t think the 25 days leading up to Christmas should be either.
I think a more thoughtful approach is to make a plan, keep it simple and make sure you are enjoying the moments and not stressing about the perfection of it all.
As a self proclaimed perfectionist attempting recovery all the time, I know this can be a challenge but I promise you by slowing down and focusing on the time together it trumps a perfect and overfilled calendar.
Does the idea of doing something everyday for the next 25 days stress you out? Then don’t. If the idea makes your holiday heart happy, then dance! If you can’t do an activity one day, relax, you can always do it on another day or skip it completely. The days leading up to Christmas should be fun and memorable, not crazy and stressful.
Remember, I am always focused on creating moments that matter.
If you are looking for some ideas, I am going to share my calendar for next month but I encourage you to make your own that fits your family and your capacity at this moment in time.
When selecting things to do for the 25 days, I wanted to focus on serving others, sharing the celebration of Jesus’s birthday and making memories as a family so you will find the most of our activities are based on these categories.
Let’s make this holiday season magical not only for our kids but for us. Let’s say no to the things we know we can’t take on and yes to the things that really matter.
For our countdown to Christmas, we use a ladder that has stockings for each day so I fill the stockings with something that my kids can find in the stocking. I bought the calendar at Pottery Barn years ago and unfortunately it's no longer in production. Below I share the activity and then what I put in the stocking for each day.
1. Grinch Day | Grinch Lolli Pops
You know I love to celebrate randomly and this is one of my favorite traditions! National Grinch Day is so much fun!! We throw a grinch theme party and it's a wonderful reminder that "maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more."
Want to order the cutest Grinch Pajamas from Hanna Anderson? You can find them here. Or I ordered these green striped pajamas for the boys this year. We are going to make Grinch cookies, popcorn and jello! I just add a little green food coloring to everything and I also love these jumbo heart sprinkles!
2. Letters to Santa | Christmas Pens
If you want a cute template to write a letter to Santa, make sure to take a peek at my Letters to Santa which includes a letter from Santa that you can personalize and two templates that you can write a letter to Santa!
3. Candy Cane Lane | Candy Canes
“Candy Cane Lane” is where you take candy canes and put them all over your neighborhood. We place them in mailboxes, hand them to people as we walk by, or leave by the doorstep. It’s fun to spend the afternoon walking the neighborhood and sharing joy! I have a friend who does something similar with her boys except she does it at the kids school. They race to put candy canes on all of the teachers cars! This would be a fun activity too!
4. National Cookie Day | Apron + Chef Hats
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making cookies! I purchased these child size aprons and chef hats for a fun day in the kitchen!
5. Recycle + Donate Toys | Christmas Bag
I love to clean out clothes and toys before Santa brings new ones! Plus this is a great activity for me to teach my kids how blessed they are and how they can bless someone that is less fortunate than themselves. I get a large Christmas gift sack, each child fills one up, and then we donate to a local shelter. I love the Christmas sacks because they are cuter than trash bags and make filling them a little more fun and festive!
6. Chocolate Pancakes | Mini Nutella Jars
I make pancakes every Sunday but the first Sunday in December I make chocolate pancakes with all the extra toppings! Target has the cutest mini nutella jars this year and I picked up a few to add to the stocking and to use for our special pancakes!
7. Family Home Evening “Light the World” | Candle
On Monday evenings all through the year, we set aside time for 'family home evening.' It's a dedicated time to spend time as a family each week. I don't always have a plan during the year but at Christmas I like to make them a little more special. I share a lesson about how Christ is the light of the world and we have a candlelight dinner at home! Always a hit with my kiddos!
8. National Chocolate Brownie Day | Baking Spatula
Brownies are my go to dessert and you know I love any reason to celebrate so this is always at the top of my list. Plus it's a great excuse to share a treat with a friend and take a break from Christmas cookies for a day.
9. National Christmas Card Day | Christmas Stickers
I love to be very intentional about what brings me joy during the holidays and for whatever reason, sending holiday cards doesn't light me up so I don't do them. But we do send a few cards and photos of the kids to grandparents that don't live near us, to my son's birth mom and a few others so on Christmas Card Day we celebrate by making our own and prepping to send these special cards!
10. Photos with Santa | Piece of Candy
I love looking back at all my photos of the kids and their photos with Santa so this is always part of our countdown to Christmas! This year may be tricky with Covid19 but we are going to try and do something!
11. Christmas Movie Marathon | M&M's + Popcorn
Almost every Friday we eat pizza and watch a movie! But during December we try to squeeze in all of our Christmas favorites! I love to make popcorn and add Christmas M&M's for a special treat.
12. National Gingerbread Day | Candy for Decorating
You can't celebrate National Gingerbread Day with out decorating gingerbread houses! I plan for things to get messy and for the kids to have fun decorating. I always buy a kit from the store because I have absolutely no baking skills.
13. Family Home Evening + National Cocoa Day | Hot Chocolate
Some days you just need to keep it simple so we will do a lesson for Family Home Evening and then I will setup a hot chocolate bar!
14. Starbucks for a Stranger | Starbucks Gift Cards
This is a fun way to serve someone and brighten their day! We head to Starbucks and enjoy a treat together and then we find a special someone to give a gift card too. I love watching my son's face light up and the joy from him and the person receiving the surprise.
15. National Cupcake Day + Birthday Party for Jesus | Sprinkles
This is one of my all time most favorite traditions. Celebrating the true meaning for the season of Christmas. I buy cupcakes and let the kids decorate them and then we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!
16. Afternoon Tea + Share Favorite Christmas Memories | Cookies
Almost every Thursday I have ‘afternoon tea’ with the boys. Its a fun tradition that we started when I first began to homeschool and we all look forward to it every week. We hardly ever drink tea, but drink hot chocolate instead. We sit down with our drinks and a few cookies and talk about the day. I bought Connor a play tea set and he loves to pretend with us. For Christmas tea, we talk about our favorite Christmas memories, I write them down and share my own favorites too!
In my hands on holiday guide I talk about how one way to cultivate celebration with your family is to 'remember'. This is one of the ways to do that so these memories can be moments that matter over and over.
17. Christmas Movie Marathon | Sweet Treat
Can you really ever watch enough Christmas movies?
18. Christmas Lights | Christmas Light Glow Necklaces
We try to visit Christmas lights at least one time during the Christmas season. Each year seems to be a little different on what we actually do so I keep this open and just plan to do something with lights! My kids love the light up necklaces so I always put these in the stocking as their surprise and they can wear them when we go see the lights!
19. Read the Christmas Story | Sweet Treat
The Sunday before Christmas I love to read the Christmas story from the scriptures! This year I may have my oldest help me read but it's fun to get hot chocolate, snuggle by the fire and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
20. National Ugly Sweater Day | Scripture
This year my family decided to they wanted to have an ugly Christmas Sweater competition on Christmas Eve. I have never participated in celebration of this day but we are looking forward to a fun day of getting creative with our Christmas sweaters!
It is also Family Home Evening and the lesson is about "Why we give gifts for Christmas" so I will put a scripture in their stockings that we can read together during FHE.
21. Snow Day + First Day of Winter | Fake Snow
For our annual “snow day” we have an indoor snow ball fight, make a snowman craft and eat snowman pancakes! Even though we live in Texas and don’t get much snow we like to pretend.
22. Feed the Missionaries | Sweet Treat
We try to feed our local missionaries when we can but I always try to have them over during the month of December. I make it a special meal and also setup a hot chocolate bar. I like to put a small gift together for them and have my kids help wrap it. I can't imagine my boys being gone at Christmas but I am grateful for the service of missionaries and hope that if my kids choose to go on a mission they will be loved on big, especially at Christmas, when they are away from home.
23. Christmas Eve Eve | Reindeer Food
We often celebrate with family on Christmas Eve so I like to do our own 'Christmas Eve' traditions the day before. We spend the day making cookies for Santa and we sprinkle Reindeer food on the lawn!
24. Christmas Eve | Scripture
Christmas Eve is typically a busy day for us preparing for Christmas morning and celebrating with family so I keep this day simple with our countdown and put the focus back on the true reason we are celebrating.
25. Christmas Day | Gift for Jesus
On Christmas Day I put a piece of candy or treat of some kind and a blank sheet of paper so everyone can write down a gift for Jesus.
That is our countdown to Christmas friends! If you are looking for a resource that will help you have a more joyful and less stressful holiday season, I wrote my Hands on Guide and Monthly Planner just for you. In it I include printable checklists, including a 25 days to Christmas Countdown, so you can get organized and be ready to soak in the moments that matter this holiday season! It's only $5.00 and will be the best gift you can give yourself this Christmas!
One activity that we won't be doing this year that makes me really sad is volunteering with Lovepacs. Due to Covid19 and our families particular circumstance we have made the hard decision to stay home. But this organization hasn't let the pandemic stop them from feeding thousands of kids. If you want to serve this Christmas, please go to your local chapter and see when they could use your helping hands.
Whether you are dreading the twenty four days leading up to Christmas or soak in all the magic, I hope our countdown to Christmas inspires you to create your own moments that matter. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!