When I was younger, my sister and I used to make a red and green paper chain to count down the days until Christmas. So when I was pregnant with my first child, and I saw a Christmas house with 24 doors to count down the days in December until Christmas, I thought it would be a perfect thing to use with my kids to help them countdown the days until Christmas.
X-man’s first exploration of the Christmas advent house
I usually put a few cinnamon almonds or other small treat in with a folded card that describes a fun activity for the day. My children squeal with delight in anticipation of December 1st and the beginning of the Christmas house fun.
When the Christmas house gets destroyed (notice I did not say “if”- I have three boys, it is inevitable), there are a number of other things we can use to countdown the days of December. We could hang 24 little Christmas socks on a clothesline on a wall. We could put envelopes on a bulletin board. We could make a paper chain with the activities written on it. I have an ornament that is a little green and red box with a lid. I could put the activity card and tiny treats in it each day and hide it in a different spot on the tree and use that day after day.
Here are some ideas for Christmas Countdown Activities:
1. Decorate the windows with Christmas clings or snowflakes
2. Take out, set up, and play with the nativity set
Playing with the nativity set
3. Help with Christmas cards- fill the envelope, stick address labels, stamps, and sticker seals on the envelopes and mail the cards
4. Unwrap a (new or old) Christmas book to read (we do this one a few times during the month)
5. Have a candy cane hunt- eat one and hang the rest on the tree
The End Goal of the Candy Cane Hunt
6. St. Nicholas Day (December 6th)- put chocolate coins in shoes or stockings, read The Legend of St. Nicholas, watch the Veggie Tales St. Nicholas
7. Get and decorate the Christmas tree
8. Make and decorate a Gingerbread House
9. Do a Christmas craft, like: decorate pine cones with glitter to use as a centerpiece or as ornaments, make a wreath or candy cane ornament out of a pipe cleaner and beads, make thumbprint reindeers, or a red and green nature collage (after a red and green nature walk)
10. Make Christmas gifts
11. Write a letter to a missionary or a child in need (through Compassion or other group like that) or a Grandmother or other relative
12. Donate a toy- take the kids to the store to select and purchase a toy to donate
13. Have a Nutcracker Day- watch the ballet (I love- from my childhood- Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Nutcracker Ballet), read the book, crack and eat some nuts
14. Christmas Cookie Baking Day (or other Christmas fun cooking)
Christmas Cookie Time
15. Drink Hot Cocoa with a Candy Cane and Watch a fun Christmas movie- There are many, such as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, or one of the ones on Netflix streaming: Curious George’s A Very Monkey Christmas, Winnie the Pooh A Very Merry Pooh Year, and the myriad Micky Mouse Christmas movies
16. Go Ice Skating (and if I lived in the snow, having a snowball fight and making a snowman would definitely be on my list, but alas, I do not)
17. Christmas concert (or service of some kind; this year our church is putting on a Christmas Concert and my husband is drumming in it, so we are excited to attend)- really, any event (like our annual family Christmas party) that is on the calendar anyway is used as a countdown activity
18. Act out the story of the very first Christmas with costumes (practice for a show to be given on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning)
Acting out the Christmas Story
19. Listen to Focus on the Family Radio Theater’s presentation of A Christmas Carol
20. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights- we have several neighborhoods in our area that go crazy with their decorations, and we enjoy taking an evening drive to take a look
A Holiday Lights Drive
21. Christmas coloring book or sticker book
22. Christmas wrapping party- we turn on Christmas music, give the kids (who are old enough) wrapping paper, tape, scissors and areas that are blocked off from view from the others, and do our wrapping
23. Put together a Christmas Puzzle
24. Community Christmas activities- there is a museum in our area that has a fun Victorian Christmas house display for Christmas, a local garden hosts a holiday open house, there are Christmas Tree lightings, parades, horse drawn carriages, and other fun community events.
When we lived in the South Bay, a church set up Bethlehem on their grounds and it was an amazing production (I miss that!) and there were fun holiday displays in several parks in the area.
The San Francisco Zoo does a display of lights and has holiday festivities every December.
It is important when I plan out our countdown activities that I keep things simple and realistic. There is a lot to do in December and I need to not burden myself with unrealistic expectations. So, being non-crafty, I don’t plan to do too many crafts each December (though I do try to make sure that what do is beautiful and so we can use it year after year). I also don’t try to hit too many community events in a single December. One or two is plenty. I always try to use whatever it is we’ll be doing anyway. If I need to make Christmas cookies or gingerbread cakes or fudge for gifts or a party, that goes on the list. That way, I can make things special for the kids and I keep things simple for me.
In the end, my goal with Christmas Countdown activities is joyful, meaningful family fun to build memories and point to how special that very first Christmas Gift really was. It changes how we live. It is so much more than we deserve. It gives us abundant life and joy.
Merry Christmas, Everybody!