Celebrating Advent (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 23, 2007 6:50 pm

+ Celebrating the Advent can be a nice way to bring religion back into your Christmas.

+ But for those families and individuals who want to celebrate a deeper meaning of Christmas without religion, Advent celebrations can serve to remind us that the Holidays are also about peace, love and joy.

+ Finally, a tradition of celebrating Advent also helps excited children count down to Christmas, and prolongs the Holiday fun for them a bit.


In the Christian tradition, Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve. This year it will begin on Sunday, December 1st. It can be celebrated in many ways, but the most traditional method is by lighting a symbolic candle every Sunday, and a fifth candle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to symbolize Christ’s birth. The candles are usually arranged inside a wreath, which symbolizes “eternity.”

I was not brought up in a religious household, so it is more of a struggle for me to find meaning in my Christmas celebration than for someone from a deeply religious background.

I think my children and I might, for the first time, make an Advent Wreath this year and light the Sunday candles, giving each one a meaning that we can talk about such as peace, love, joy, giving (in the spiritual sense of course!) and family. Think about what meanings you want Christmas to have (this should be easy if you made your list!) and choose your candle symbols accordingly.

Here are some other advent ideas:

1) Traditional Advent Calender:

Probably the most common way to count down to Christmas. These usually always begin on December 1st and end on the 24th or 25th, regardless of when Advent really begins. They are usually made of cardboard with a little door that can be opened on each day. The doors contain pictures, chocolates, or small gifts. They can be very simple and inexpensive, or fancy and pricey… or you could even make one yourself.

(As a child I was a trendsetter among my friends who had never seen such a thing. My English parents wanted me to have one every year and my Grandmother used to send one over to us from England. They have now become pretty common here in the US!)2) Playmobil Toys Advent Calender:

I discovered this last year and it is quite clever, especially if you have a child who likes Playmobil toys (high-quality German-made playsets). These run between $25 and $50 and come in a Christmas-Santa theme, or other themes such as Unicorns or Knights. They are a little expensive, but your child will end up with a high-quality, fun toy…not junk.

The calendar consists of 25 little boxes each containing a small play figure or accessory. There is also a cardboard backdrop so children can gradually arrange a whole scene as they open more and more boxes. You could even get really fancy and give a playset of the same theme as a Christmas gift, that way the advent pieces become extra play pieces for the Christmas playset. This is what I did, and my children still enjoy playing with these advent/christmas playsets.

Warning: Playmobil toys require a lot of grownup assembly. So if you decide to try this, don’t expect to open it up late at night on November 30th just before going to bed! Allow yourself at least an hour to sit down and put it all together. Also, there are lots of tiny pieces so keep away from babies and vacuum cleaners!

3) Advent Garlands or Envelopes (containing ideas, not stuff!):

I found the links to these great ideas on Christine’s blog, Hogue Chronicle. Instead of accumulating more “stuff,” why not give children a daily activity idea that can be done as a family!

Christine links to two methods: the first, and most time consuming is the Advent Garland from Stepping on Legos (who found the ideas at other blogs etc. etc. – isn’t the internet great?). Her little handmade felt advent pouches and stockings are absolutely adorable. Not being very crafty however, I would probably opt for Christine’s second idea: pretty Advent Envelopes made from origami paper (idea from Kiddley).

4) Advent Spiral:I am not a Waldorf specialist (my kids are in Montessori), but I do know that part of the Waldorf tradition is that of the Advent Spiral. I have not personally seen a Waldorf Advent Spiral, but my understanding is that it involves a spiral path of evergreen boughs with a candle in the middle. The children walk along the spiral towards the middle and light their candles from the main, central one. This can also be recreated in miniature on a nature table or shelf with greenery and candles.

If you prefer, wooden advent spirals are available from certain “Unplugged Toy Stores” (I found them at Willow Tree Toys, Three Sisters Toys, A Toy Garden, and The Wooden Wagon) but they tend to be quite expensive and I imagine it would be very easy to make your own. These spirals can also be used for birthdays and other holiday celebrations.

More information about the Waldorf Advent Spiral ritual:

Waldorf Without Walls
Open Waldorf

5) An Advent Stick:

This is another Kiddley idea that I found via The Rowdy Pea. This is simply a stick onto which you tie little tissue paper packages. Children start at the bottom of the stick and work their way up to the top. The packages at the bottom contain something from each of the four earthly natural kingdoms (6 in each).

At the bottom is Earth (stone, crystal, bead, etc.), then Plant (lavender sachet, acorn, paper, etc.), Animal (bone, feather, felt animal, etc.) then Human (felt angel, gingerbread man, felt doll, etc.)…and finally the last package(Christmas Day) contains something “Heavenly.” (Kiddley put in a little felt and bead baby in a walnut shell). I love how this advent idea ties into nature and seasons!

6) Advent Puzzle:

I found this unique wooden puzzle on one of my favorite online toy stores, A Toy Garden. Every day you give your child a new piece to put in the puzzle. The pieces can be moved around until at the end, when all pieces are in, there is only one correct spot for each piece. Sounds fun, and can be reused year after year!

6) Unplug Your TV:

Or, you could decide to try unplugging your TV for the Advent like Christine and her family (Hogue Chronicle). Wouldn’t that give you a lot more time for some of these fun family Advent ideas?


Be sure to visit Uncommon Grace for more great Advent Ideas in her Celebrating Advent Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 posts. (Thanks again to Amanda – The Rowdy Pea – for linking to Uncommon Grace!).Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts by clicking here.

5 Responses to “Celebrating Advent (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)”

  1. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this wonderful post- you’ve listed so many great ideas! I haven’t had an Advent calendar since I was a child, so I’m determined to get one in some form for CJ. Now to decide which one…:o)

  2. courtcourt says:

    Thanks for the tip on Playmobil Advent calendars. I didn’t even know they made them! I’ve been wanting to do Advent for the first time this year with my daughter, and have been looking for something appropriate. This is perfect!

  3. Christine says:

    I wasn’t brought in a religious home, either. I became a Christian in Sept of 2000 and I, too, struggled with “making” Christmas more “religious”. At the time, all my DH and I did was on Christmas Eve, read the Nativity story, drink hot cocoa, and sing Christmas songs – all with lights dimmed and a fire going. My kids remembered that simple evening all year long.

    With the TV unplugged this year, I’m running with the idea of the advent activities! I pray that the meaning of Christmas and the family togetherness will overshadow toys and be a Christmas they’ll never forget!! :D

    P.S. I am loving visiting your blog and you now on my “Daily Reads” list! You continue ti insoire me everyday! :)

  4. Andamom says:

    I’ve got another idea for the countdown until Christmas (or any holiday) — I’ve got to get started on detailing it… (I’m being coy — but you’ll definitely approve!)

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