Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hanging the Advent Stockings

I've finally done it. It was down to the wire, as usual, but I did it. I completed the Advent stockings and actually hung them up last night (or was it early this morning??). This little project has been in the works for almost four years now. Four years. But, better late than never, I say.

We've always had an Advent wreath on the table (and will continue to do so), but now that Roo is getting to the age when she is asking "How much longer until Christmas eve?" I thought it was high time I pushed myself to finish this craft. It's the Christmas "countdown" made visible.

I used a variety of winter/Christmas fabrics. I was so pleased to finally use some Superbuzzy fabric that I had been hoarding. I love Superbuzzy, but it can be pricey. When I use their fabric to sew clothes for the children, I always mourn the day when they outgrow the piece I made them (or stain it beyond saving). So to be able to work those particular fabrics into something that will never be outgrown or stained (I hope), but will be brought out year after year for this special time was such a pleasure!

Since this has been a tradition I have been hoping to implement for several years now, I've amassed pages and pages of stocking stuffer thoughts. I love the idea of filling the stockings with ideas for relishing the holiday season. This is certainly not an activity that has to focus on the material goodies stuffed inside (although, there will be some of that here and there). In fact, that is a trend I most definitely do not want to start with my little ones. That whole "expectation" thing is not on our agenda. With 24 stockings and two children, that would be 48 little gifts that I would have to dole out over the next few weeks. So, (ahem), that is not going to happen.

My plan is to use some of the things I would be doing anyway (giving new Christmas pj's, making a gingerbread house) and turning that into the "gift" tucked inside (a scroll tied with ribbon, explaining the special activity of the day. I will try to use as many symbols and drawings as I can since my children are not reading yet). For days when the gift is an actual present instead of an activity, and it is too big to put inside the stocking, then I will put a clue or series of clues in the stocking that will lead to where I've stashed the present. If it is something that I would be spending money or energy on anyway, why not include it as one of the 24 surprises? Plus, the great thing about young children is their genuine excitement over the simplest ideas.

I decided to go with removable tags on the individual stockings, noting the day (1-24). This was partly due to lack of time to sew or embellish each one with a number, and partly due to my urge to change things up year to year (or even within the current year). For instance, I don't always want Day 6 to be a huge stocking. Because what if I don't happen to have something on hand that is appropriately sized for Day 6? I want the freedom to change stocking sizes around to suit what I have planned for that particular day, year to year. Honestly, I am quite sure I will be scrambling a few times the night before, looking for just the right idea for the next day's stocking. So, if I need to change things around, I can.
Today, being December 1st (although the "real" Advent started Sunday), Roo peeped into the first stocking a found a polished stone in the shape of a heart. It symbolizes the love God has for us and the way my sweet little ones make my own heart swell with love.

I will be peppering my posts throughout this month with some of the plethora of ideas swirling inside my head. For the next few days, I have the following planned:

Day 2: Our Book Basket is currently sitting empty. It's time to break out the Winter books! Since we only have our seasonal books out for a short time, it's always a treat to see these old familiar friends again. I will be cutting my fair share of paper snowflakes tonight. When the children come downstairs in the morning, they will check the stocking for Day 2. Inside will be a scroll of paper telling them to look for the clues to the day's special activity (I will draw snowflakes on the paper or maybe I will tuck an actual paper snowflake into the stocking, thus prompting them to look for the snowflake's friends). Looking around, they will see and then follow the trail of snowflakes to the hiding place where I will stash our Winter storybooks. We will then fill our Book Basket with fresh titles and cozy up and read right after breakfast. {This activity falls under the category I talked about above: take something you would ordinarily do (drag the Winter books out of storage and read them) and make IT the stocking stuffer. Of course, adding a little fanfare (the snowflake trail) always helps! It costs nothing to do and makes the ordinary extra-ordinary}.

Day 3: Decorating our own wrapping paper. I have a few potatoes that I will cut into desired designs (here's hoping Roo chooses something simple!) and we will stamp blank paper with our painted potatoes. Even my youngest can participate. There's something so touching about a gift wrapped up in paper designed by sweet little hands.

Day 4: Set up our little snow village on the hearth. My daughter is just like me: she loves to arrange and rearrange things. In this case, it's the village of houses, bridges, barns, and figurines ice-skating and caroling. For me, this is basically a continuation of holiday decorating. But to my daughter, it's an EVENT. She will spend hours setting everything up just so!

That's all I have for tonight. I must get off to the craft room and work on a few presents. But, I have no shortage of ideas related to Advent stockings. So, check back if you're interested in hearing more. If you're not into Advent stockings this year (but you really should consider it for next year or down the road-- it really does help one slow down and savor the joys of this busy season), don't worry. I've got other topics to cover: food, books, and some craftiness.

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