The shoes keep getting bigger but the Advent traditions continue. Saint Nicholas Day 2022 was the same as it has been for years– well except maybe a little less enthusiasm at the chocolate coins (teens though) and the shoes just keep getting bigger. As I reflected on years past I wanted to share some about what we do as I get so many DMs and questions from other mamas. The seasons have changed since we first started these traditions with our littlest in diapers but we continue to make it a part of our family’s Advent rhythms.

Here are a few reasons we keep these traditions going even in a home becoming full of deep sighing teens:

*Traditions give kids a sense of belonging and lets them know they are part of a family system and community. If we give up just because their responses sometimes are not as enthusiastic as they once were, we are choosing to believe it is about entertaining the kids- it is not- for us it is about pointing to Jesus in the season and building family memories together. We also know that while teens may roll their eyes at times they actually deeply desire to feel connected at home and a part of a family.

We do modify and change things as our family grows though. I no longer plan activities each day because our family rhythms and activity are just different now. Instead we focus on the activities and outings where we can learn together, have fun, build memories, and point to worship.

A few questions from Instagram:

How do you implement traditions for kids under 5 (I can’t keep my head on straight most days)?

First, I really want to say and I MEAN IT- if this is not important or life giving for you do not feel any mom guilt about it. I used to try to bake all the things and add in things I saw other moms doing and while they were lovely ideas I felt drained and actually resentful so I scaled back. I outsource some thing for sure (um I only bake ONE type of cookie) and we keep the traditions that matter to us.

Motherhood is a journey of so many different seasons so stay connected to what you can and cannot do and what feel aligned to your season, your gifts, & your energy- that is key. When our girls were under 5 we started these traditions and it was simple; a sweet treat (our favorite is the fair trade cocoa from Trader Joes and cookies), lighting the candles, and reading parts of scripture each night. You can get a similar candle wreath here. We now let kids take turns in the daily lighting of the candles (word to the wise to wait until they are old enough as toddler Evy once singed her bangs off- not my best mam moment). We gather everyone and turn off the lights and starting singing O Come All Ye Faithful while lighting the candles. We then read the story, each day you open a different door in our Advent book (this is the book we use). We also have a tree from East Africa and hand made ornaments I made way back and in the readings there are clues to the ornaments. The kids take turns guessing what the ornament is and hanging then on the tree.

And do your kids actually remember things from when they were little?

YES! If I forget something they remind me and our teenager knows every single ornament and guesses them if the other kids forget. Every year we repeat certain activities and they remember and we reflect on the differences- for example they love the $5 to bless someone anonymously but now laugh at the little storybook we used to read but they still get it out on that night. We used to live in Andersonville and participate in all the Santa Lucia festivities but we still celebrate that day by reflecting on the history and we love some Swedish vibes. We always try to find a live nativity near us and also “surprise” the kids with a trip downtown for an overnight at a hotel to see Chicago at Christmas.

Some of the traditions change over time but the spirit remains the same. We keep these traditions because it is not about merely entertaining them but helping us all reflect on Advent; the light of Christ coming into the darkness and how that changed the world and us. When our kids think of Christmas and Advent when they are older I hope and pray they have found memories; even if they now think some of it is cheesy, of time spent together around candles reflecting and celebrating.

Happy Advent friends & please sharer your traditions.

also, let’s keep it real- this was the face when I asked for a picture of them.
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