Our family used an Advent calendar this year that was activity-based. It was a good idea, but turned out to be WAY more work for me. I am sure I will re-think this in the future. And because Aaron had to work much longer than we anticipated, several of the activities just did not happen. Here is the list of what we TRIED to do:
1. Christmas concert and laser light show at Monserrate
2. Celebrate 40 years of Dad with French Onion soup and chocolate cake
4. Family crafting: golden snitches and gratitude wreaths
5. Light a fire, toast almonds, and read Christmas books
6. Play guitar and sing carols together by the tree.
7. Noche de las Velitas
8. City Ice Skating followed by homemade pizza and The Christmas Story
9. Watch Elf and eat popcorn and hot chocolate.
10. Cascanueses (Nutcracker) with Elizabeth and Neil
11. Make treats for teachers and Alex, the doorman
12. Hand and foot rubs with peppermint lotion
13. Paint your nose RED. Eat RED pasta and RED smoothies and watch Rudolf
14. Cut out snowflakes and write a family Christmas letter
15. School Christmas Show
16. Christmas shopping (Elizabeth, Neil, Rebecca, Family Gift) Be creative, resourceful, and thoughtful.
17. Picnic and park play
18. Unplug all day (except Christmas lights) and read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
19. Leave the city for a nature hike in Suesca
20. Go look at lights at the Botanical Garden
21. Movie Matinee Day
22. Decorate cookies
23. Bowling and ice cream
24. Church. Fondue and Vegetable Soup. Neil and Elizabeth. Luke.
25. Gifts. Singing. Christmas Dinner. Games and puzzles. Read.
On December 7 we celebrated Noche de las Velitas. It was a good decision to stay home this year. We invited friends over and enjoyed chili, warm wine, and spiced panela. We lit many, many candles and burnt little pieces of paper with wishes for the Virgin to catch on her way by. Lovely. Abby even convinced several of her little neighbor friends to go door to door caroling (a tradition in the US that she misses very much).
When Aaron was gone for the weekend, Elizabeth and Neil met me and we enjoyed one of the best performance of "The Nutcracker" that I have ever seen. They even gave us free cupcakes, chocolate, and coffee during the breaks.
We enjoyed a lot of city family field trips, including a sand castle display that blew us all away. This is the sand castle "pesebre." (probably 12 feet tall)
And then there were the Novenas. This is a Colombian tradition that we have come to love very much, and plan to try to continue when we are in the states. These nine nights before Christmas (Dec 16-24) include gatherings with friends or family, traditional prayers, carols, yummy snacks, and a bit of the Christmas story.
One of these nights we spend with the parents and classmates of Andy. It was a lovely, fun, evening which included playing in the rain, dancing the merengue, and lots of yummy food.
Another quieter night was spent here at our house with our friends saying prayers and singing together.
Christmas Eve Novena involved the kids getting dressed up and going door to door looking for "room at the inn." Abby was a sheep and loved the drama of it all. They finally ended at the stable where there were songs and prayers read and sung by children and adults alike. It was very moving.
(my friend Elizabeth wrote about Novenas here).
On Christmas day we enjoyed more home made gifts than ever before, treasures sent from our church, family, and friends at home, and a special serenade that made Aaron very, very happy.