At this time of year, I start thinking about a tradition my kids enjoy: the Advent Calendar. My aunt Kari gave me this idea when I had only one child, and we've been doing it (almost) every year since.
There are lots of different ways to countdown to Christmas, but this is one we really enjoy, and since it takes some planning, I usually start mid-November!
It's a Christmas Activity list! For 24 days, we have a different activity marked on the calendar. Some of them are big, some are small, some are just little gifts, or even a piece of candy. Here are some of my suggestions:
attend a local Christmas parade
watch a Christmas movie
make Christmas cookies
have a gift-wrap night
drive around and look at Christmas lights
have a gift-making day
learn a new Christmas carol
little gifts might include:
a new mug for hot chocolate
Christmas socks or earrings
a new oranment
To begin, simply sit down with pen and paper, and number 1-24. Begin filling in dates that already have plans. It's really easy, because you can incorporate some annual traditions, church activities, and other pre-planned events. For instance, our church has a Christmas banquet each year, so that automatically goes on the advent calendar. Then consider which days need a little easy activity, or no activity at all (!), and fill those in. You can even leave a few blank and fill them in as new ideas arise, or invitations come in the mail, etc.
I've used many types of calendars over the years. Several times we made a Christmas tree out of posterboard and attached little circle ornaments on with the activity on the back of each one, and a number on the front. There have been many variations on this theme. Find some ideas here and here. Here is a cute one that I've made, but I can't find the photos to share with you!
Each morning, the kids take turns discovering that day's activity. It's a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season, and build up the excitement until the big day!