20 Best Tips

Christmas and Advent Resources for Families

Christmas and Advent resources for families

Each year, our family tries to get as much out of the Advent season leading up to Christmas ~ and focus on the REAL reason for the season. There are SO many fabulous Christmas and Advent resources available for families so they can learn more about the birth of Jesus and have fun together at the same time. Over the years we’ve found some great resources {and are always adding new things} to our box to pull out and use together. Here are a few of our favorites divided out by category.

Family Reading

Advent stories for families Jothams Journey

Years ago, we were introduced to the Jotham’s Journey series by Arnold Ytreeide – the four books are Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, Ishtar’s Odyssey, and Bartholomew’s Passage. Each year your family will read a different book in the series in the days leading up to Christmas. Our kids have loved seeing how the stories and characters overlap. The daily readings each end in a cliffhanger, so the kids are always asking for more (and the adults don’t mind listening either! 


Another resource we found two years ago was Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voscamp. The devotional focuses on the Jesse Tree and is such a story of redemption (our redemption!). Even the family tree of Jesus had its share of heartache and brokenness – and yet, we are fully His and made perfect. Really, just thinking about that amazes me each and every time. The 25 daily Advent readings, starting December 1st,  includes a Scripture passage for study, a devotional that is a perfect length (so kids stay focused), questions for discussion, and family activity suggestions. You can learn more about it HERE and find links to go-along resources as well.

Moms can work through their own celebration of Christmas with The Greatest Gift (also by Voscamp). It’s a great book to add to your shelf and pull out each Christmas with a cup of coffee or tea, curl up, and focus on the meaning of the season.

For Younger Hands {Tots, Preschool and Younger Elementary}


Younger kids can get all crafty thanks to the Truth in the Tinsel ebook {now also available in Spanish and with a handy ornament coloring pdf!!}. Truth in the Tinsel shares 24 activities {one for each day in the month of December}, but also offers alternate schedules in case 24 seems too overwhelming for you to do {ahem…which is entirely possible and okay if it is!}. 

For Elementary Ages


The folks at What’s in the Bible have a fabulous study called Everyday Emmanuel that you can use along with Why Do We Call it Christmas? with all your kids. The advent study is a pdf download that goes along with the dvd and includes a countdown to Christmas calendar, weekly advent devotionals and ornament activities, a question and discussion guide, family activity ideas as well as additional resources.– much fun! Our family has LOVED What’s in the Bible and I’m excited these two tie in together. 

For Daily Bible Study with Kids


In past years we have used the Birth of Jesus study from Grapevine and everyone {including Kaleb} could participate. The stick figures are oh-so-easy to draw! We had the Multi-Level Teacher Guide E-book and Student e-book for Multi-Level.



Do you have any special ways that you celebrate Advent together with your family? Any special Christmas and Advent resources you can share?  Leave a comment and share!

Ishtar’s Odyssey – an Advent Story for Families

Many years ago our family was introduced to an Advent series for families when I was literally cornered by a 10 year old boy in church and told about the many adventures of Jotham. He and his family were reading through the book Jotham’s Journey (aff link), and he shared in great detail all that was happening as they were reading. The story pulled him in, and in more recent years the life of Jotham has been something that our family has enjoyed as well.

Advent stories for families by Arnold Ytreeide

The author, Arnold Ytreeide, weaves the lives of four children through his stories: Jotham, Tabitha, Bartholomew, and Ishtar. After Jotham’s Journey (aff link), there were additional stories written about two of the other children, Tabitha and Bartholomew, and finally this year a NEW story has released just in time for the upcoming Advent season: Ishtar’s Odyssey (aff link)! I cannot tell you how excited our family was when the new book arrived!

About Ishtar’s Odyssey

Ishtar's Odyssey

Here is a quick overview of the book from the author:

Ten-year-old Ishtar has a great life.  He’s a Prince of Persia, son of the chief of the Magi (wise men who advise the king), and lives on the top floor of the royal palace.  With his bodyguard, Kazeem, never more than a few paces away, and with all the delicacies of the empire to eat, servants to take care of his every need, and a stream of exotic visitors coming for dinner every night, Ishtar has a great life!

Of course, he does have to attend lessons all day long — languages, mathematics, politics, history, and so on.  It’s during his astronomy lesson one night that Ishtar sees something strange — a new star in the sky that no one has ever seen before.  His father and the other magi get all excited, and Ishtar doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.  He also doesn’t understand that his life is about to change drastically.

Soon Ishtar finds himself amongst a caravan of smelly camels, walking in the heat and dust of the desert, with little to eat, little to drink, and having to learn all sorts of new lessons.  His new tutor is the wilderness, and his new lessons are in survival.

Daily Readings

Ishtar's Odyssey advent book for families {%{% Homeschool Creations 2015

Ishtar’s Odyssey (aff link) is divided into daily readings for each of the days of Advent, leading up to Christmas morning. There is an Advent chart in the back of the book giving the Sunday on which Advent begins (through the year 2081…so you should be good!). This year Advent begins on November 29th, so the first reading would begin that day.

Because Christmas falls on different days of the week, the readings in the final week are much shorter so multiple days can be read together, allowing the last story to be read Christmas morning.

Time for Reflection

Ishtar's Odyssey advent book for families {%{% Homeschool Creations 2015-2-2

The daily readings take between 10-15 minutes to read, and a discussion and application section is at the end of each of the daily readings (see example above). I love that this is included because Advent is intended to be a time for pausing and reflecting – something each chapter gives you a chance to do as a family.

Bring the Book to Life!

Ishtar's Odyssey advent book for families {%{% Homeschool Creations 2015-4-2

Ishtar’s Odyssey (aff link) also includes explanations of different Persian foods – which would be SO much fun to tie in with the readings! Children can experience a little taste of what Ishtar might have eaten and in doing so – create a lasting memory of their Advent learning.

A Little More about the Jotham’s Journey Series

One thing our kids groan about with each book are the chapter endings. Somehow each chapter manages to leave you on the edge of your seat, wanting to read more (and that’s a GOOD thing). There have been days when we’ve read an extra chapter (or two) because we didn’t want to stop!

Even though each of the children in the story ultimately end up in the same place, their paths are all different. There are similar scenes in the various books as the characters meet one another at separate times, and it is much fun to see a character from a different perspective.

Overall, these are books that you will want to cycle through and re-read over the years. We’ve read the first three books in the series (two of them twice), and the kids cannot wait to start Ishtar’s Odyssey this year!

There are a few parts of the story that can get a little intense for younger children, but when our youngest was reading along, I just modified the story a bit so it wouldn’t be quite as overwhelming for him. You may want to pre-read each chapter and decide for your family. The Amazon recommended ages are 8 and up, but we have read these with our youngest (so around age 5).

Purchase the Jotham’s Journey Series

Your family can start the Jotham’s Journey Advent series with any of the characters (although I would recommend Jotham first!). These are four stories that your family will be re-reading for years to come and establish a wonderful Advent tradition: Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, Bartholomew’s Passage, and Ishtar’s Odyssey.


Win a Copy of Ishtar’s Odyssey

Kregel Publications has generously offered to give away FOUR copies of the book Ishtar’s Odyssey by Arnold Ytreeide – so four winners!! Yay!!

Giveaway is open to those with a  US address and will run through Monday, November 16, 2015 at 11:59pm. Winners will be chosen and verified via Rafflecopter and have 48 hours to respond to email or another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This book and giveaway items were provided to me at no charge by Kregel Publications. All opinions expressed in the post are solely mine.

Family Advent Devotional – Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift family advent devotional

There are few holidays in our home that we really make a big deal about, mainly because we want the focus of them to point to the real reason we celebrate those days. More than anything, I hope our kids leave our home with a deep understanding of how the story of Jesus isn’t just focused on one small chunk of the Bible – it is one that was hundreds of years and stories in the making! And the result of that incredible story is the incredible love of Jesus for them.

Whether it be by candlelight at night or circled around the school table in the morning,  celebrating Advent is a constant for our family in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent is a time of reflection and this year our family will be reading Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp to look more deeply at the family tree of Jesus.

In years past we always wait until after Thanksgiving to start with anything Christmas, but this family advent devotional is one that we’re already reading together and using as our morning Bible time. And you all will love it too.

Peek Inside the Book

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift-12

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift focuses on the Jesse Tree and is such a story of redemption (our redemption!). Even the family tree of Jesus had its share of heartache and brokenness – and yet, we are fully His and made perfect. Really, just thinking about that amazes me each and every time.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift-11

The 25 daily Advent readings, starting December 1st,  includes a Scripture passage for study, a devotional that is a perfect length (so kids stay focused), questions for discussion, and family activity suggestions.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift-4

You all – this book is gorgeous. The artwork throughout brings so much to the book, and your kids will be drawn in to each devotional through Ann’s amazing story telling ability.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift coloring pages-1

There are some fun, hands-on features for the book as well. We are setting up a small tree to hang our daily Jesse Tree ornaments. While we read the story for the day, the kids color one of the go-along coloring pages. Each colored stroke helps the themes sink in….

God is with us. Jesus is with us. Jesus stays with us. Always.

This is one Christmas experience your family will never forget — that they will be passing down from your Christmases to their Christmases — because this is the gift we all want.

Come Christmas day — your kids, and your Christmas tree with all 25 ornaments, will be telling the full love story of  Jesus’ coming, right from the very beginning!

What better gift to give the whole family this Christmas  — than the wonder of the full love story of Jesus?

Find  out how to unwrap the Greatest Gift together this Christmas.

Resources for Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

An Advent Giveaway and a FREE Download for You

Today I’m excited to team up with Kerry from How to Homeschool My Child to start Advent off with a giveaway. We’re giving away THREE Christmas and Adent ebooks and also offering a free download for you too!

christmas & advent giveaway  ~  ChristmasCelebrationIdeas.com/giveaway

By the way, if you want to get a copy of any of the books, Kerry has given me a Promo Code to let you save 40% … just for my readers. Use the promo code "dec13" during checkout.

Take a look at these 3 ebooks that help you keep Christ as the focus of Advent and Christmas. I’ve included a little information about each one, but you can click on any image to find out more.

Star of Bethlehem Family Bible Study

Star of Bethlehem Bible Study - What is the star? ~ ChristmasCelebrationIdeas.com

The Star of Bethlehem Family Bible Study (updated 2012) will be great for your family. You can print out as many copies for your "immediate family" as necessary. Pick up a copy of the Star of Bethlehem study…

  • if you want to study Matthew 2 to learn what the Star of Bethlehem is
  • if you have older children and you’re looking for family Bible study
  • if you want to tie together Bible and science
  • if you would like to learn more about astronomy
  • if you would like a BONUS item, the Skies of the Cross Bible Study

Christmas Celebrations: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany 

Christmas Celebrations - Dozens of ideas to put Christ back into Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany ~ ChristmasCelebrationIdeas.com

Your family will find the Christmas Celebrations ebook helpful as well. Kerry updated & expanded this ebook with an additional 30 pages of ideas, adding homeschool tie-ins throughout. You can also see a list of 47 ideas included in Christmas Celebrations, click here.

The Christmas Celebrations ebook would be perfect…

  • if you have young kids or older kids
  • if you want to integrate homeschooling into Christmas (it’s already done for you in this ebook)
  • if you want to learn about the Christian meaning of our Christmas symbols
  • if you want to focus on Christ during Advent
  • if you want to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas or Epiphany

Christmas Around the World Unit Study

christmas around the world unit study   ~   from HowToHomeschoolMyChild.com

The Christmas Around the World Unit Study would be a fun unit study for your family this year. Your family will love studying how other countries celebrate Advent & Christmas. The unit study comes with easy 1-week or 2-week lesson plans ready to go and would be great…

  • if you have elementary or junior high kids
  • if you want to learn more about the history of Christmas
  • if you want to use a scope & sequence to plan your homeschool
  • if you want to make some crafts or cook food from different areas of the world
  • if you want a list of books to read that reflect other countries’ Christmas celebrations

      A Freebie for YOU!!

    Free Advent Calendar

    All of my readers are eligible to download a FREE Advent Calendar and FREE Christmas workshop from Kerry by clicking here. Thanks, Kerry!

Enter to Win

This week you can enter to win one of the three Advent ebooks above. There will be three different winners.  Names will be drawn on Saturday, December 7th. Just follow directions in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We’re looking forward to celebrating this Advent season using the Star of Bethlehem Family Bible Study with our girls and would love to have you join us!

Celebrating Advent ~ Our Favorite Advent Resources {so far!}

Over the last several years, we’ve been slowly adding things to do during the advent season. Although Advent started yesterday, we are still pulling together a few things to do with the kids over the next few weeks, all in anticipation of Christmas and the REAL reason for the season. Here are a few of the ways that we celebrate together as a family.

advent resources copy

Each year we’ve had a simple Advent wreath in the center of our dining room table. I arranged {fake} greenery in a basket and added in five candles ~ 4 tapers {3 purple and 1 pink} and then a larger white candle in the center {the Jesus candle}. Each week we light a new candle at night, together as a family. This year we’re also excited to pull out our Advent log ~ it’s sitting in front of our fireplace and has a place for one candle for each night of Advent. We haven’t been able to use it for several years and I will have to share pictures of it soon!

Jotham’s Journey series by Arnold Ytreeide {the three are  Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels and Bartholomew’s Passage}. This year we are starting the series over again with Jotham’s Journey. Each night after dinner we light our Advent candles and sit down together as a family and read one of the passages for the evening. The kids have loved this series {and so have the adults!!} and it is fun because each year the stories all connect with each other.

Birth of Jesus Grapevine

During our Bible time for school, we are going to be using the Birth of Jesus from Grapevine. We loved our Joseph study and the fact that everyone {including Kaleb} could participate. Our Multi-Level Teacher Guide E-book retails for $7.95 and is on sale for $6.95. The Student e-book for Multi-Level retails for $5.95 and is on sale for $4.95.

Truth in the Tinsel Advent

AND this year we’re going to get a little ‘crafty’ thanks to the wonderful Amanda and the Truth in the Tinsel ebook that she released a few days ago!! I’ve been going through the activities and printing things off to do with the kids. I LOVE that it has 24 activities available, but it also offers alternate schedules in case 24 seems too overwhelming for you to do.


Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is a 25 day Advent study that your family will love. Intended for ages 4+, the beautiful illustrations and story will draw you in as you learn more about the lineage of Jesus through the Jesse Tree. The devotional includes links for coloring page downloads and paper ornaments you can use to decorate and remember your study.


That’s what we’ll I’m interested to know how YOU all celebrate Advent ~ or do you? Are there special traditions that you have as a family during this time? Leave a comment and share!

Raising Rock Stars ~ Celebrating Advent

Not too long after Rick and I were married we began celebrating the season of Advent together as a couple. As we’ve added children into the mix, the way we celebrate has changed from year to year, but the main focus is still remembering the Reason for the Season.

In the center of our dining room table we have a simple Advent wreath. I arranged {fake} greenery in a basket and added in five candles ~ 4 tapers {3 purple and 1 pink} and then a larger white candle in the center {the Jesus candle}.

Each night after dinner we sit down as a family and read an Advent devotional together as a family. Last year we read the book Jotham’s Journey together and this year we are working on the second book in the same series, Bartholomew’s Passage by Arnold Ytreeide. Although the stories are geared for kids, I’ll admit that they pull me in just as much and Rick and I enjoy them too!

I’ll be sharing some of our regular weekly Bible things later, but wanted to share about Advent since it just started. Carisa has some Christmas resources too this week, so be sure to visit her at 1+1+1=1 and see some of the other Raising Rock Star posts!