Starting a New Advent Tradition

As a mom, I answer roughly 2,387 questions a day from my three kids. A good half of those come from my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter who is in that stage where she parrots everything back to me in question form. “What you doing mom?” “Emptying the dishwasher Kenzie.” This is promptly replied to with, “Emptying the dishwasher?”

Lately, when thinking about topics I want to talk to my kids about, I realized that I ask a lot of questions, too. I just keep them in my head. The questions run something like this: What is the main point I am trying to convey? How can I explain this so they will understand why we’re talking about it? How can I keep their attention without them growing bored (or pinching their brother…I am talking to you, my middle son!).

I have struggled in past years attempting to keep Christ as the focus of Christmas while still enjoying “commercial Christmas.” Do my kids get presents? Absolutely! Do we watch the classic “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” Christmas special? Oh yes. Over and over and over again. But after gifts are opened, cookies devoured, Christmas music overplayed, and Christmas cards fill every corner of the house, I want my kids to remember that Christmas truly celebrates the birth of Jesus.

In the past, we had continued my parents’ tradition of hanging up a family Advent calendar and counting down the days until Christmas. There would usually be a little treat to eat or a note explaining a special activity for the day (like “get out the Christmas books” or “Deliver cookies to the neighbors”). We look forward to this each year, so we’re going to continue this tradition, but this year we have also decided to start a new tradition. We want to focus more of our attention on Christ by taking time each week to talk about the Advent season.

Today most Christians recognize Advent as the last four Sundays leading up to Christmas, beginning on the Sunday that falls between November 27 and December 3. We plan to start our new tradition by explaining to our kids why we’re celebrating Advent, saying something like, “As a family, we have decided to take time each week to slow down and focus on our Savior.”  I also plan on taking advantage of some of the free resources that are available online, like this one from Focus on the Family. This is a favorite for me because it’s broken down into nightly readings and discussions, all geared towards younger children. For many families it works well to have discussions each night after dinner or right before bed.

To celebrate traditional Advent, you’ll need an Advent wreath, with five taper candles or votives and a wreath or greenery that your kids gather from outside. Together, assemble your wreath and then set your candleholders or votive candles in a circle around it with the white candle in the center. When it comes time to start talking, if you’re like me you’ll want an outline in front of you. This article, which I plan to use, includes a guide for scripture reading and family discussion, as well as an activity for each of the four weeks of Advent.

With a new tradition upon us, not only am I looking forward to spending this time with my kids celebrating the holiday season and counting down the days until Christmas and Jesus’ birth, but I’m also looking forward to the time spent celebrating Advent and anticipating the second coming of Jesus. I know there will be silly moments, off-topic tangents, and general goofing around, but my goal this year is for us to start a new tradition of slowing down and taking time to have teachable “God moments” and talking about why Advent is important. When Christmas is over, I want this to be what my kids remember. But parents, be prepared, your kids will most certainly have more questions. Maybe even 2,387.

NOTE: This year the Alumni Association produced a collection of Alumni Advent Readings, written by association members exclusively for association members, designed to encourage alums as they live out the TWU Alumni Way value Follow Christ. Just another perk of being a member of the Alumni Association.

Jana (Bergen) Huntsinger (’03) lives in Grass Valley, CA with her husband and three kids.  She blogs at