I finally got the Advent calendar put together Friday night. Um, yes, I was 9 days late. We got the Playmobil one again this year, which the boys LOVE, but which takes a good 45 minutes to an hour to put together. It comes with 24 boxes that have to be assembled, then each of the pieces have to be found for each box, and some of those need assembly as well. When the boys woke up Saturday morning, though, and saw that it was ready to go - they were thrilled and it was all worth it! I just wish I had done it on time. I purchased it back in October, but just never had (or took) the time to put it together.
I also just got out the box of Christmas/Advent/winter books that we have. I put them away in mid-January, so it's a nice surprise when I pull them out at the beginning (or a week into) Advent. In years past, I've wrapped them and kept them in a basket - this year I just put them out in the basket. I try to pick up a couple new ones at the after-Christmas sales so there's always at least one new one to enjoy each year.
We have an Advent wreath that I leave on the table throughout Advent. I think I'm on my 3rd right now -- I still haven't found one that I *love*, but this one does the job. The boys like to blow out the candles, so I usually light them multiple times.
Another tradition I like to say we have are Christmas cookies. However, I haven't baked any in 2 (or is it 3?) years. Ouch. I am a good cook and a great baker . . . but I have lost my desire the last few years. I intend to make cookies this year -- I have a wonderful collection of cookie cutters, and everyone loves the Kris Kringle butter cookies my mom and grandmother have made for years. Another favorite cookie are the peanut butter kisses. Perhaps if I plan on just those 2, I can make it happen. The first year B and I were together, I baked 7 different kinds of cookies!
One tradition that won't be lost this year is the luminaria event at the Desert Botanical Gardens. We have attended every year since we moved here, and it is one of my favorite things to do around the holidays. The garden is filled with luminarias and we just wander through in the dark, listening to live music and munching snacks.
Another tradition of ours is decorating our front yard with lights and Christmas decorations. I feel lucky that our section of the street goes ALL out and every house surrounding us fills their yard as well. I love outdoor lights and last night on our way home from dinner we just drove through a bunch of neighborhoods looking at lights. Another of my favorite traditions.
We'll also go to Zoo Lights at the zoo this year, but we usually do that the last possible weekend, which is usually after New Year's. I need to check the schedule to find out the exact date so we don't miss it. We did miss it last year because C and my sister were both very sick last year after Christmas.
Another tradition is that we buy a personalized ornament each year for our tree, as well as ornaments for each boy. And, the boys get new pjs on Christmas Eve.
We go to mass on Christmas Eve. Growing up in the northeast, we always went to midnight mass, which happened at midnight. In the midwest, midnight mass usually happened at 10PM. The last few years we've attended the family mass, which is usually 6PM. We then come home, have a light dinner, open one present from extended family -- then it's bath, pjs, some final pictures, books, prayers and bed.
I am almost done with our long distance gift giving. I shipped so many things direct from the stores that I'm regretting the few things I purchased locally that I need to wrap, box and ship. But, once I get that done, I can focus on the boys and B. If all goes well, I can check that off the list by Wednesday.
What traditions do you have in your family? Post in the comments, or let me know if you make a similar post on your blog!