Advent is the four-week preparatory season leading up to Christmas, celebrated by Orthodox and Catholic Christians and some protestants. Using an Advent calendar and Advent wreath, families mark the days till the Feast of Christmas, followed by the Octave of Christmas and Epiphany (Twelfth Night, Three Kings Day). Here are Christmas countdown activities for children, with an Advent flavor. Make one of these homemade Advent calendars. There’s one Advent calendar with pockets and another lift-the-flap Advent calendar. Use this 30-day holiday calendar to plan your Christmas and keep children productively occupied till Santa arrives! This list includes feast days and holy days from the Catholic liturgical calendar. Fill in activities around those days.
First Sunday of Advent–light one candle on Advent wreath. Set up Christmas tree.
Dec. 5 Set out shoes for Saint Nicholas to fill (parents add little gifts–books, candy, crayons)
Dec. 6 Feast of Saint Nicholas–Make St. Nick cookies. Skewer on a toothpick: Oreo cookie (belt of coat), large strawberry with point cut off (body) large white marshmallow (face), banana slice (fur of hat) small strawberry with point up (hat), small white marshmallow (tassel). Attach mini M&Ms for for buttons, eyes and nose.
Dec. 8 Feast of the Immaculate Conception (holy day of obligation) Make a free printable nativity scene or set up your manger scene.
Dec. 9 Feast of Blessed Juan Diego. Print images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and have children trace on T-shirts using permanent markers.
Second Sunday of Advent (Gaudette or Joy Sunday, light blue and rose-colored candle) Make stained glass window suncatchers. Cut two identical snowflakes using free printable snowflake patterns and glue pieces of tissue paper over holes on one and cover with the other. Hang in the window. These make good rainy day activities.
Dec. 12 Feast of St. Lucia: Read story of St. Lucy and then have someone dress up like her. Use artificial wreath and electric candles for halo. Bake cinnamon rolls, make hot cocoa and deliver to neighbors or arrange to bring breakfast to a nursing home.
Dec. 13 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Watch The Lady of the Roses video then make tissue paper roses and bring them to an older person. Here are folded tissue paper rose crafts and here are cut paper rose crafts. Hint, Grandma would love these craft activities as Christmas presents. Have Mexican-themed party for Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Third Sunday of Advent. Light three candles on Advent wreath. Make a Mexican ojo de dios (Eye of God). Make a cross of two twigs and wrap colored yarn around the cross. Hang on Christmas tree.
Dec. 17-23 Pray the Magnificat O Antiphons. Use the free printable coloring pages to make a holiday banner.
Fourth Sunday of Advent. Make breakfast in bed for your parents. Play outside in the snow and warm up with a cocoa and Christmas stories party.
Dec. 24 Christmas Eve. Hang stockings and watch Christmas cartoons. Or enjoy “A Christmas Carol” (1984, George C. Scott)
Dec. 25 Feast of Christmas
Dec. 26 Boxing Day. Donate gentle used coats, hats, boots and gloves to rescue mission, jail or shelter.
Dec. 27 Feast of the Holy Innocents Collect gently used toys and donate to mission or shelter.
Jan. 6 Epiphany: Make King Cake and hide the baby Jesus. Finder is the king or queen for the day!
Here are other holiday activities for children to have fun anticipating Christmas while practicing an attitude of giving.
Go Christmas caroling at the VFW, American Legion or senior home.
Visit elderly in nursing home.
Buy a Christmas ornaments kit and have a decoration making party.
Write Christmas letters.
Make Christmas cards.
Address cards and mail cards.
Cut down your Christmas tree.
Christmas shop for loved ones. Have a Dollar Store Christmas in lean year. Give each child a dollar and have them buy gifts for each other.
Deliver food baskets to those in need.
Collect canned goods for food pantry. Make a big tower!
Bring Giving Tree gift to church
Shovel for a disabled neighbor.
Make grandparent gifts.
Buy gift exchange presents for party.
Go on a holiday light tour in your PJs
Go to family Christmas party.
Enjoy school Christmas party.
Make a gingerbread house.
Dress children up for Christmas pageant.
Do Christmas play or concert at school
Go to see Christmas play or ballet (Nutcracker).
Do breakfast with Santa. Get pictures taken with Santa.
Help decorate church
Make a snowman to greet holiday visitors
Deliver cookies to neighbors (start a fun tradition or maybe a cookie exchange)
Read the Legend of the Candy Cane and make candy cake cookies.
Read the Legend of the poinsettia. Make poinsettia cards by drawing flower outline and filling in with tissue paper. Cut paper in one-inch squares. Stick to the end of a pencil, dip in glue and stick to card. Place pieces next to each other for 3D look.