Saturday, December 5, 2015

Counting Down Christmas

The Christmas season is finally here.  No one looks at me strange anymore when they walk into a room I'm busy in and the air is filled with the familiar tunes of Christmastime!  Our tree was up within a couple days of Thanksgiving and preparations began for the bustling month of December.

One tradition we have in our family is the advent calendar.  Most years we have done it as a Christmas Paper chain... but with a twist.  When my children were still very young I wanted to instill in them the understanding that Christmas wasn't just the gift getting season, as Lucy would say in the Peanuts Classic.  I wanted them to grow with compassion and an eye to help others, big and small. 

Our Christmas chain was set up to have one link tore off each day and on that link would be a task.  I intertwine goodwill tasks with family fun so there is an even balance of both throughout the season. Some goodwill projects: buying a gift for another in need or sending a 'thinking of you' message to someone far away.  Even the animals around the yard were blessed by my children's pre-Christmas activity when the chain told us to make them a special treat (pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed, so easy!).  Some of the chain-links were simple Christmas fun as a family.  My favorite was to go for a walk or drive to look at Christmas lights... preferably while singing carols!  The kids' fave is pizza picnic in front of the Christmas tree!

No matter the activity, it has provided TWO essential elements to every Christmas season: they don't just think of themselves in what could be a very me-centered holiday AND I rarely hear "I'm bored... how much longer till Christmas?"!  Waiting for Christmas is FUN and I am almost bummed when it actually gets here!

Here is a PDF of the count-down calendar we are using this year.  The 'directions' are on page 2 of the document. The chain has become more difficult in recent years because we are not always able to do said activities ON the day and then they pile up and become difficult to enjoy when en-mass.  This year I made a calendar with a list at the bottom so we can pick and choose what works best that day.  The kids (ages 12-17 [still at home]) are having a blast with it! 
Click image to go to PDF

It isn't too late to use the above calendar or make your own on paper-chain OR list form. For a complete list of ideas, click on the image below.  this is the general list I have collected over the years and draw from each November as I make our Christmas Count-down.

To make your own paper chain:
  • start a list of days till Christmas
  • note any events on each of those days which might affect what you can do for advent.  For example, if I know we will be out-and-about late, I will schedule a look at Christmas lights activity that day.
  • begin to filter in the activities you think your family would enjoy on the given days.
  • Cut strips of red and green construction paper across the width about 1" thick
  • in the center of the paper strip, write the day on one side in marker
  • in the center of the opposite side, write the activity in pen
  • attach links with tape or glue stick and re-enforce with a Christmas sticker (optional)  (you can use a stapler but the other method is 'prettier!)
  • hang your chain in a central location
  • take turns each day taking off a link
One year my youngest (age 10 at the time) asked if our count-down chain could be the story of baby Jesus in stead!  We were traveling a lot through Christmas that year for missions work so we were already outward thinking and it was especially perfect since all other typical advent happenings just weren't possible.  This special count-down inspired a advent study on our ministry website you can see by visiting here

click image to go to study

To make this chain, follow the directions for the advent chain above, however, instead of writing the activity, write the scripture passage reference (not the WHOLE passage, just write, for example, Luke 1:26-27) and when that link is pulled, everyone opens their Bibles together and shares the passage.

I pray your Christmas season is filled with joy!

How do you spend the advent season?



  1. Hi Amanda! Visiting as your neighbor from Titus 2 Tuesday. I love the idea of the paper chain advent calendar! Even though my children are grown and gone, I will pass this great idea along to others!