Christmas Activities to Celebrate Advent

Celebrating the Advent Season is one of our favorite times of year!  While our focus is ultimately on the birth of Christ, the month of December is also a time to create traditions with our children that hopefully they will remember and take and someday incorporate into their own families.  We love to cozy up and watch timeless movies, sing songs, and visit familiar attractions.  Here is a list of all of the things we do at Christmastime, I hope you’ll find maybe a new tradition or two you can add to your list!

Serving others in December

While we should be serving every month, the holidays make it easy to serve and give to others through Christmas activities. Here are a few ideas:

  • Go shopping for gloves, hats, and toiletries to donate to the homeless.  Many local ministries use this time to prepare for the colder months.  Contact a local shelter and see what items they need most.  
  • Spend some time after your Advent study to pick out items to donate from the Compassion Catalog or Voice of the Martyrs.  We’ve gifted things like chickens or goats to medical supplies and water filtration systems.  This is another way to show your kids how blessed they are – while they are wishing for the newest video game system, some children just want a bit of food security.
  • Spread Christmas cheer- go caroling with friends.  This is one of the highlights of the season for our kids. Try to find elderly shut-ins or lonely neighbors and make them your first priority.
  • Visit an elderly friend & take them a poinsettia.  The holidays may be fun and enjoyable for your young family, but often for our elderly friends and neighbors, they can be a time of increased loneliness or a painful reminder of days gone by.  Grocery stores and even Walmart sell small poinsettias for around $5.  This is an easy gift to take to an elderly shut-in.  Have the kids make cards and maybe include a bag of cookies or holiday candy.

Fun Family Traditions

Visit the Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo

We love the Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo because it is one of the few zoos that combines admission to the zoo with their Christmas lights. Many other zoos in Ohio charge an additional admission fee. I know this is a post about December, but we actually like to visit the Wildlights during the week before Thanksgiving (usually Tuesday). The crowds are minimal and we can spend a few hours in daylight viewing the animals before darkness descends and the lights come on. If you do choose to visit in December, I recommend trying to be at the zoo by 3 or 4 p.m. If you don’t arrive until dark (between 5:30-6), you’ll be stuck in a long line of traffic and be fighting the crowds for the best views.

Make a Gingerbread House

Every year we build a gingerbread house.  I love the kits they sell at Target.  They seem to be the most complete for the price!  (And yes, I know I could make it from scratch, but we don’t want to make the Christmas season a time of too much misery for Mom! Lol)

Pick a real Christmas Tree

We visit Kleerview Farm in Bellville, Ohio each year to pick out our Christmas Tree. Some years are easier than others, as I refuse to live in the reality that our ceiling is only 9 feet high! Ha!

Some accompanying books to check out that talk about the Christmas tree are A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree, Pick a Pine Tree, Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect, and Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.

Enjoy an evening visiting Christmas at Kingwood Center Gardens

We visit the holiday display and lights each year at Kingwood Center Gardens in Mansfield.  I like to arrive around 5:30, just as it gets dark enough to see the lights.  Don’t forget to tour the Kingwood Mansion.  The displays change each year, making it worth the return visit.  Here’s my full review of Christmas at Kingwood.

If you don’t live in North Central Ohio, I recommend finding another Christmas light display that you can frequent each year as part of your family traditions.

Set out your shoes on the night of December 5th- St Nicholas comes on December 6th

While our family doesn’t recognize Santa Claus, we have started the fun tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas Day.  St. Nicholas was a bishop who was known for his good deeds, especially for the needy and children. He often gave generously and anonymously (without anyone knowing the gifts were from him). In the 800s, he was recognized as a Saint.  

St. Nicholas Day is celebrated in Europe by setting out their shoes on the evening before and also carrots for St. Nick’s horse.  Sound familiar?  You can read more about the tradition HERE.

I have my children set out their shoes on the fireplace, and in the morning they will have a small treat inside of them.  This year it was a pair of fuzzy socks and a KinderJoy egg.  I think next year I may do a $5 gift card for the big kids.  It’s a fun tradition that doesn’t take a lot of money and replaces some of the focus that Santa brings on being good/bad.  This is just for fun!

Have a Winter Solstice Party

We celebrate the longest night of the year by having hot chocolate around the outdoor fireplace. Last year there was snow on our deck, so this required snowboots!! Some picture books to explain the winter solstice to younger children are: Sleep Tight Farm, Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter, Winter is Here, and The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice.

I also enjoyed this article for explaining why as Christians, we don’t worship the solstice, but instead see it as another gift from God. Read: Is the Winter Solstice a Sign from God?

winter solstice party - thinks to do in December

Christmas Eve Eve – our random tradition

Our tradition for Christmas Eve Eve is having dinner at Cracker Barrel and then taking a drive to see the local Christmas lights. The kids love playing checkers by the warm fire, and I get a break from cooking dinner (or cleaning my kitchen) before the crazy of the next few days!  We live near Mansfield, Ohio, if you do, be sure to check out my list of best Christmas lights in Mansfield. 

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

Every family has different traditions for worship and family time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but no matter what we are doing, we always try to attend a Christmas Eve church service and I always make two sweet treats.

For Christmas Morning, I bake monkey bread. This recipe is very similar to the one my grandmother gave me at my wedding shower.

My other favorite thing to make for my family is a Christmas tree pavlova. If you’ve been around awhile, you know that I was an exchange student to Australia and the country has remained a big part of my life. Pavlova is a common dessert “Down Under,” although it originated in New Zealand. This video tutorial is helpful, especially if you haven’t made one before!

Christmas activities - make a Christmas tree pavlova

Our favorite Christmas movies

Part of the fun of the Christmas season is watching movies that we enjoy only a few times a year.  Here are some of our favorites!  I like to watch for deals on these movies on Black Friday or at yard sales throughout the year. They are worth purchasing because streaming services are inconsistent with what movies are available. 

Home Alone 1 & 2

Elf

Holiday Inn (most people aren’t familiar with this one, but it’s somewhat of a prequel to White Christmas).  Bing Crosby!!! ((swwooonn))

White Christmas

The Grinch – We love the 2019 movie by Illumination.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Miracle on 34th Street – I love both the 1947 version and the 1994 version.

Christmas with the Kranks – our older kids get a kick out of this one.

Muppet Family Christmas – This made-for-TV classic is only available on YouTube. Millennial Moms like myself may remember having this recorded on VHS like me. You won’t forget an appearance by Fraggle Rock!

Christmas Vacation – We haven’t let the kids watch this yet, but it’s on my husband’s and I’s watch list, so I included it.

The Holiday – Another one that’s just for Mom & Dad 😉

Our Advent Study – celebrating the coming of Jesus

Each day we sing a Christmas carol or hymn to go along with our Advent Study. I actually made this list last year as a companion to John Piper’s Joy to the World Advent Study.  When something non-traditional is used, I’ve listed the artist.  Some of these may be new to your repertoire and that’s ok!  It’s fun to learn new songs as a family. 

December 1 – O Come, All Ye Faithful & read “To Mark the Start of the Christmas Season” from Every Moment Holy

December 2-  Angels We Have Heard on High

December 3-  Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

December 4 – Is He Worthy? (Andrew Peterson)

December 5-  What Child is This?

December 6 – Good Christian Men, Rejoice

December 7 –  The First Noel

December 8 – Go Tell it on the Mountain

December 9 – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

December 10 –  We Three Kings of Orient Are

December 11 – O Little Town of Bethlehem

December 12 –   O Come O Come Emmanuel & Behold the Lamb of God (Andrew Peterson)

December 13 –  Lo, How a Rose Er Blooming

December 14 – In the Bleak Midwinter (I love the Getty’s version with intro by Alistair Begg)

December 15 – Heirlooms (a classic from Amy Grant

December 16 – God Moves in A Mysterious Way (I like this version)

December 17 – O Holy Night

December 18 – His Mercy is More (Matt Papa)

December 19 – A Mighty Fortress is Our God

December 20 – Silent Night

December 21 – He Who is Mighty (Sovereign Grace Music)

December 22 – Joy to the World

December 23 – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

December 24 – Away in a Manger

December 25 – Angels from the Realms of Glory

We have tried other Advent Studies throughout the years, too! Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski (I love his devotionals for families), was a hit with the kids because it included a fictional story and some crafts! This one does take a little more organization though, and that’s not always my forte in December. Another meaningful Advent Study is Come Let us Adore Him by Paul Tripp. I’d recommend it for families with children aged 7+, or for adults that want to do their own study.

Feel free to download this list of songs & hymns for December:

I hope this helps you think intentionally about how you’ll spend December with your family! It’s easy to get lost in the busyness of the season, but with some planning now, you’ll be ready to celebrate the birth of Christ in the most special way! I pray that your family will be blessed with many happy memories.

Tell me in the comments – what is your favorite Christmas movie? Have you ever been caroling? What is your go-to breakfast meal on Christmas Day?

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Things to do with your family leading up to the Christmas season.  Hymns to sing, books to read, and traditions to create.
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