So this year I'm being very choosy about where I spend those $5 or $10, and I'm going to focus on all of the free activities, some that we've done before and maybe some that we haven't.
- Make an Advent Jesse Tree. Use Ann's free devotional. Make a paper tree - I used a big sheet of brown packing paper, use a little Christmas tree, use a branch from the burn pile. Your kids will love it, I promise.
- A Christmas nature walk. We're planning to do this with our nature club (if anyone else is willing to part with some time this month to join us.) We'll be looking for holly, mistletoe, fir trees and other things that remind us of the season. And I'm hoping that we might find a nice location where we might even be able to collect and bring some of our finds home.
- Christmas parades. Sure the big city ones are nice, but there's something about a small town atmosphere - and the ability to actually see the parade, that's left us happier with the smaller ones around.
- A living nativity. I think that most areas have these if you look for them. Our area actually has drive through nativities as well as two walk-through-Bethlehem events. One of them is new this year and much closer than the other one. We thought we were going to miss the one we've been going to because the children have choir performances both nights, so I'm glad to have found another one. They are all free church-sponsored events and one of the highlights of Christmas for my kids.
- Surprise Pajama Christmas Lights. Instead of just driving past neighborhood light displays, put your kids to bed a little early, if possible, then, after everyone's in bed, but before they have a chance to fall asleep, yell, "Christmas lights! Christmas lights!" and pile into the van for a tour of the best neighborhoods. Travel mugs of hot chocolate are a nice touch.
- Christmas Carolling. This is becoming a lost art. I think people are just too busy to organize it. If you can grab some friends, do, but we usually just go as a family. One year we just stopped at a small neighborhood we were driving past on the way home from practice and sang at about ten houses, another year we chose a few friends to serenade as part of our pajama Christmas light run, and another year we shared a short Christmas program version of Bible verses and carols with our closest neighbors around us on every side.
- Christmas Books. We have a couple of boxes of these in the attic that we swap out with regular books. We like to read longer books together as well as storybooks. This year, Brian's reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe at bedtime. I know Father Christmas makes an appearance, but I'm still not sure it qualifies as a Christmas book, but it's making them happy. But we've enjoyed The Bird's Christmas Carol, A Christmas Carol, and many other longer holiday stories. Don't forget Christmas books on tape or CD from the library. We'll be listening to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on our Christmas trip this year - can you believe I've never read that?!
- Christmas Movies. We have a bit of a movie collection, so we have lots to choose from. I like to watch as many as possible during the season. Sing a long videos are a great way to learn Christmas songs and carols. Don't have a collection? Your library probably does. If you don't have tv or cable. Hulu has a bunch of movies online. The Hallmark channel posts free holiday movies at Christmastime too. And YouTube? You never know what you'll find there, but making Christmas playlists of music videos is really fun.
That should get you started, but don't forget simple Christmas crafts, baking, church Christmas programs and candlelight Christmas Eve services. Simple activities with nativities. I'll share some more ideas sometime. Click on the Christmas label for other Christmas ideas, 'kay?