When I shared last year that our family does an Advent calendar opening a book a day, I received a lot of emails asking “how did you afford to do that? It’s a lot of money to start that tradition!” And they are absolutely right, if you went out and bought 28 books it could cost you hundreds of dollars, which runs counter to the spiritual work of Advent to orient our hearts towards Christ, rather than capitalism, consumerism and comparison. I thought this year I would share how we started and built this tradition over several years in a budget conscious way.
We started this tradition when our kids were tiny toddlers. They had a shorter concept of time and developmentally couldn’t manage a 28 day countdown. It was too much for us as parents of itty bitties, but it was also too much for them. So we started with a 10 day countdown, condensing the teachings of the Advent season into a little over a week. That meant that in the beginning rather than sourcing 28 books we only had to locate 10 books. As they grew bigger and their attention longer we added days, working our way up to 12 days one year, then two weeks and so on until it was workable for us to do 28 days. And as our lives get busier, we may shrink it down to two weeks or 12 days again. The days are not the point, the focused attention to shaping faith in a way that fits your family is the point. So start small and stay flexible.
Use Your Local Library
In the beginning we bought a few books (2-3 or so) but we also utilized the library. If you are going to wrap your books, only to unwrap them in a few days, use what your library has and return them when you are done. This is also a great way to test books out to see which ones will become family classics before you make a purchase. When your kids get older, you can still use this trick for a 28 day Advent calendar, just place the library books at the start of the countdown so they can be returned before or on their due day.
Used Books Stores
Another trick I used as we built our library is utilizing used books stores to buy the books I was looking for. Often books are barely worn or even new and half or more of the retail price. I keep a list of books I am on the lookout for with me year round when I browse (in person or online). In addition to used bookstores, when we moved to a 28 day countdown at least one day is a set of Christmas coloring books from the dollar store. They break things up, keep the kids engaged and give them something to do with their hands while we read each evening.
Book Swap with a Friend
Like the library, another family that’s interested in doing the same tradition can be a great source for books. Either work out with another family to swap books half way through or ask around among parents of older kids who may be looking for someone to pass down their own Christmas books to. We have swapped, shared, passed on and traded with other families and its always a fun way to expand our repertoire of Christmas books.
Remember Its a Tradition
So often as a young mom I thought I had to have everything fully formed and perfect from the start. But that’s not true. The power of tradition is that it gives us a base from which to form memories. You can add a book or two a year and over the course of your family’s years build a lovely collection. You don’t have to build it at all with the library or you can keep it small and simple. It’s up to you, but remember you get to shape the tradition you want for the holiday that you want. In the end its about passing on the stories of faith and connecting with one another.
In the end, its about building a tradition that works for you and your family in terms of time, energy and budget. If you are interested in which Christmas books our family loves you can see our list from last year and our list from this year.
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