How to Use an Advent Calendar

We all struggle with it, don’t we? We want and need to keep our family’s focus on the true meaning of the Christmas holiday—the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus—but it’s so easy for the message to be lost in the hustle and chaos of the season. As we count down the days to Christmas, a great way to keep the focus on Jesus is to use a time-honored tradition—the advent calendar.

What is an advent calendar? The word advent literally means arrival or appearance, and we celebrate Advent—the first Christian season—to commemorate the most important arrival in history, the appearance of our Savior, the birth of Jesus. And an Advent calendar gives us a tool to help us count down each day in the season, building in anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth!

How does an advent calendar work? While the date for Advent Sunday varies each year—Advent begins on November 30th —(November 26 in 2016), most Advent calendars begin on December 1 and continue for 24 days­. One window, page, or entry is designated for each day through Christmas Eve. Daily entries help tell the story, many with a devotion or Scripture to reinforce the true meaning of Christmas for the whole family.

How to use an advent calendar? Amid the busyness of the season, it can be difficult to remember to stop—take a break from shopping, decorating, and baking for some time together to reflect upon the true reason we celebrate this season. This time is important, so cherish these moments together. Enjoy your family’s advent traditions (or start fresh this year!) with some simple steps.

First choose an advent calendar you love. The simplest can be posted on the wall, the fridge, or anywhere in your home; others range from tabletop devotionals to themed and decorative choices. Some families make an advent calendar to suit their taste, which brings a personalized touch to the celebrations. Whether your family chooses a traditional advent calendar or a modern themed advent calendar, the time spent together will add excitement and discovery to your Christmas celebrations.

Choose a time each day to connect spend time as a family around the calendar. Hit “pause” on the chaos of the day, and slow down to connect around a devotion or a bit of the Nativity story together.

Personalize your Advent celebration with traditions that are meaningful to your family. Some families celebrate with a sweet treat or a small gift each day, or by lighting a candle each Sunday. When searching for advent calendar ideas, consider what else could make the time extra special for you and your loved ones? Why not ask everyone to reflect on and discuss the day’s devotion, write a sentence or two each in a shared journal, or jot down something they found meaningful on slips of paper, placing each in a beautiful container to be shared later or looked back on next year (and the year after that…). These thoughts will become treasured parts of your annual advent celebration.

The last, most important step—prioritize the time each day! Keep your commitment to come together each day to remember and celebrate the reason for the season.

Advent Books and Activities

Want even more ideas to make your family’s celebration of the Advent season extra special? Check out Ann Voskamp’s book The Greatest Gift, which retraces the story of mankind beginning with Jesse, the father of David—each day pointing to the promise of the coming Savior. In Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, Voskamp expands on the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree with devotions and activities to help children and families connect with the daily Advent theme. Pair with The Greatest Gift Paper Ornament Set or Sculpted Ornament Set to bring the celebration to your family’s Christmas tree (or maybe even deliver an ornament each day to a dear friend or loved one).

Have a blessed Christmas!

Looking for more inspiration for the Advent season? Check out these related articles:

Advent - A Season of Hope, Love, Peace & Joy

Discovering the Advent Season

Simple Advent Activities for Your Family

Also, feel free to browse our entire Devotional Library and be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter to receive free articles, updates from our Ecard Studio as well as exclusive deals.

Prepare your family for Christmas by hitting pause and connecting with Jesus each day.
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