How do you celebrate advent with your children?
When Bean was around 2 years old, I began to think about what family traditions I would like to introduce for Christmas. Her first two Christmases were magical, but she didn't really have much of a clue what was going on! I knew that, as she got older, she would begin to anticipate Christmas with great excitement, and that now was the time to begin thinking about it.
I wanted to find an alternative to the 'Elf on the Shelf' idea which didn't sit well with my gentle parenting style, and I was inspired by The Imagination Tree's 'Kindness Elves'. You can read all about the concept here, but in short, they are little elves who arrive on the first of December each year, helping to spread kindness and Christmas cheer. So, in the lead up to December that year, I set to work upcycling a couple of tatty old dolls house people into our own little family elves. Here they are!
The first morning that our little elves arrived, when Bean was just 2.5 years old, they left a letter asking to be named. Bean declared them 'Laf' and 'Lof' which I think suits them very well (and, gosh, they couldn't sound more Scandinavian, right?)
On the first of December each year, a little brown door appears somewhere in our home (the first job of the morning is to find it, as it appears in a different spot each year), and for each day of advent the little elves can be found close by, with a little offering for Bean. On Christmas eve they say goodbye, not to return until the following year.
The little elves offerings vary. It can be something as sophisticated as an activity idea, with all the items needed, or as simple as a chocolate coin. Some of them are repeated each year, some are one offs. Every year, we go to the pet shop and buy dog and cat food for our local animal shelter. We also make decorations and home made gifts. One year we took a box of candy canes and left them under the windscreen wipers of some of the cars in our local supermarket car park. Another year we made biscuits for the workmen digging up our road. Laf and Lof sometimes bring theatre tickets or ice skating tickets, a new toothbrush for smiling at strangers, a packet of Christmas cards to write. The possibilities are endless.
Over the years we have tried out a variety of advent calendars, from the traditional card variety, to chocolate, to toy gifts, but it is Laf and Lof who have brought a sense of magic into our home, and who Bean anticipates each morning with excitement and wonder.
Other ways in which we celebrate advent:
1. Meeting Father Christmas
Every year I take Bean to meet Father Christmas. We've been on a steam train; in an ice palace; on a journey through a toy workshop; each experience has been different and special. I know that Bean will look back at these photographs with fond memories.
2. Visit a Christmas market
We live a short drive from the city of Bath which has a beautiful and atmospheric Christmas market. It's lovely to be there just after dark, eating roasted chestnuts and listening to carol singers, amid the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers. We don't usually buy much, just enjoy the lights and the sights.
3. Decorating the house
Children LOVE this! We have a very modest little artificial tree, which is still going strong after 12 years. Bean receives a tree decoration in her stocking each year, and we have quite a collection of homemade decorations too. We make pomanders, and a table centre piece, and hang twinkly lights and tinsel and christmas cards all over the house. We also make a special little display with our Christmas books and homemade nativity scene.
4. Wrapping presents
This is such a simple activity, but one that Bean really enjoys. I've bought a heavy duty sellotape dispenser, and she loves nothing more than being in charge of that. Once finished, I offer her all of the leftover pieces of paper and she will spend hours wrapping little bits and bobs for her 'cuddlies'.