Our kids are in the glory years of Advent anticipation. Catie is in high school, our twins, Sam and Elisabeth, are in middle school, and Nate is in elementary school. Everyone is old enough to remember this season of gifts and miracles, but also too excited to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. A little maturity and a lot of wonder, that’s Advent around our house.
Over the years, we’ve created a few cherished traditions. We read the Christmas story from Luke . . . put lights on our house the day after Thanksgiving . . . eat tamales, egg rolls, and mini quiche before church on Christmas Eve . . . fill balloons with Jolly Ranchers as to count down the days of Advent . . . and buy matching Christmas pjs for everyone.
These rituals have become our kids’ treasured memories. I love that the traditions we started more than a decade ago will outlast our little family. Generations unborn will be eating cheddar & bacon quiche on Christmas Eve, hearing the stories from our kids about how this is what “our family has always done.”
But there’s one tradition that has become our most treasured: the kids love to make gifts for each other. This favorite practice started during their preschool years, when Christmas break was day after tedious day of being cooped up in the house. To squelch the kids’ fighting, and to put on an end to them lusting after everything in the Target catalog, we got crafty.
It started when our oldest daughter found an old shoebox and made a it into a bed for her little sister’s stuffed elephants. This inspired the little sister to write (and illustrate) a little book for her little brother. Our middle son found old jars in the recycling and decorated them as a place for his little brother to keep his Nerf bullets. Our littlest son made a coupon book with certificates that officially gifted all his video game time to his brother.
Now that our kids are older, they are even better at making gifts for each other. Elisabeth makes “kits” for everyone, filled with everything they need for a “Beautiful Bath” (bath salts, homemade brownies, candles) or a “Movie Night” (popcorn, DVD, and a certificate that she’ll do everyone’s chores).
Sam loves to disappear into the garage to cut wood panels, and then paint them with encouraging phrases. They look great and are a wonderful reminder of what we should be doing. (His favorite is the simple message: “PRAY.”)
Nate still makes “passbooks” with coupons for what other people need. He gives me passes that he’ll clean the kitchen and do the laundry. He gives his sisters gift certificates to take them to the movies. And, yes, he still gives his brother coupons for his video game time—which his brother gleefully redeems.
Catie can make actual, nice gifts now. She has created pottery that we use every day and painted pictures that are pretty enough to hang on the wall. She’s also our resident bulk baker of buttery chocolate chip cookies.
I love this crafting/giving part of our Advent tradition. These gifts scratch the we-should-be-giving-gifts itch—but in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re just exchanging gift cards for junk we don’t need.
Try this tradition in your family. Your kids will discover new talents and have fun crafting up Pinterest-worthy projects.
And, bonus, they’re also learning to give goodies to the most important people in their lives: their family.
Christina Hergenrader lives near Houston with her family of crafty gift-makers. She’s the author of Family Trees & Olive Branches, a guide to creating moments of grace in your family. It’s full of practical suggestions for helping the generations of your family get along with each other.
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