As Evangelical Christians and as parents, my husband and I wanted to make sure to give our kids a foundation of understanding what Christmas is all about… beyond the trees, lights, gifts, Santa, etc (there are places for those, but we don’t make any of them the center of our celebration). So, starting when our twin daughters were almost 2 years old, we created 25 daily Scripture readings to help them understand the background of the Bible before Jesus came. We wanted them to have an understanding of how the world was before the great moment of wonder — the incarnation — happened, so they’d gain a better understanding of why this is such an important event.
In the following years, we added ornaments that the kids put onto a small tree. These ornaments are simple but are connected to the Scripture we read — for example a whale, an apple, a red ribbon, etc. They *love* touching little tangible objects — they’ll often come up to the tree, touch an ornament from a past day and explain it’s significance. We also added some chocolate, because a little incentive to do an activity every day doesn’t hurt. 😉 This year, due to how much both girls and I love LEGO we’re also adding a daily mini-build.
This activity has grown with us over the years and I think it should be applicable to kids from around age 2 (for eager listeners) through elementary school.
You can find a free printable file that has directions, a verse list, printable verse cards, suggestions for ornaments, and pictures (so you can play match/memory, or substitute an image if you can’t find an ornament). You can present these in many different ways — the photos below show some of our past efforts.
What Else You’ll Need
You can do this activity with just the Scriptures (read them from the cards or from your Bible). If you want to do the ornaments, you’ll need to find or make them. Suggestions are in the free printable file linked above. I suggest you work a week ahead. Don’t be afraid to substitute a picture or pull out coloring pages when needed. It took about 3 seasons for me to find or make actual ornaments for everything (perhaps because I’m cheap! I didn’t want to spend more than $2 on any ornament!).
We also use a typical Christmas-countdown-calendar with chocolates. Ours comes from IKEA. It’s not necessary, and you could always substitute something small like an M&M.
Since this is the first year to make the LEGO mini builds and since sourcing all the bricks took me a long time — I’m not undertaking the herculean effort to show you how to build them. However, there are a few rough photos of my work-in-progress here.
We do another activity like this for Easter – also with Scripture cards and ornaments to hang on a twig tree – that covers the life of Jesus. The Christmas verses pretty much take you through the Old Testament and the nativity story.
We saw U2 in the Dallas area on Friday night as part of the 2017 Joshua Tree anniversary tour.
The band used stunning visuals for most of the songs in the concert (those visuals, not shockingly, included some amazing vistas of the American west which has inspired me to travel more). One of the videos that got into my head most was the video for Ultraviolet. The images of the video made me think way too much to actually pay attention to the music. The images were of women, never quite defined how those particular women were selected, but it was a definite women’s empowerment/feminism/ish vibe.
I noticed how the video we saw, deep in the heart of Texas, included Laura Bush, Anne Richards and a few others — and I highly doubted those same women might have appeared in the video in non-Texas cities. So, I did some research and discovered that, nope, those women didn’t show up in at least Seattle and Vancouver. Going through the fan-shot videos of the song, I noticed quite a few differences, in fact. And, I was able to write down each name to look up later. This is my attempt to summarize what I researched about the women who were included in the video.
Names marked * showed up in the Vancouver video but not the one from Houston. Names marked # show up in Houston but not Vancouver. I based this on Houston since that’s the clearest video I found.
Women related to politics & government, in some fashion:
Michelle Obama – former first lady. School lunch re-doer, among other accomplishments.
#Laura Bush – former first lady and advocate for literacy, among other accomplishments.
Angela Davis – former leader of the US Communist Party. Her bio includes plenty of potentially violent interactions, though some people seem to respect her quite a bit.
Angela Merkel – Chancellor of Germany with significant influence over the EU.
#Hillary Clinton – If you don’t know who she is, you’ve been living under at least a dozen rocks for the past 2 decades.
#Sandra Day O’Connor – Supreme Court judge – first female one of those. She was born in Texas, so I might have to see if she was included beyond the lone star state.
#Madeline Albright – first woman US Secretary of State, under Bill Clinton
#Condoleeza Rice – first female African American US Secretary of State, under George Bush
Eileen Johnson Sirleaf – President (or similar title) of Liberia, first female head of state in Africa
Christine Lagarde – leader of the International Monetary Fund
#Eunice Kennedy Shriver – JFK’s sister. Involved with philanthropy, too. She was a pro-life democrat, a fact I honestly didn’t remember.
*Emma Goldman – I’ll put her here since he was mostly a political activist, specifically an advocate for anarchy. She was arrested a lot and was involved (but not tried) in an attempted murder. She was apparently involved in gender-based political anarchism, though I didn’t know that existed. She died in Toronto, which is the only reason I can come up for her being included in the Vancouver version but not ours here in Texas.
*Chrystina Freeland – Canadian Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs, appointed in 2017. Prior to that she was a journalist.
*Mary Robinson – President of Ireland in the ’90s. Since then, she’s been involved with human rights.
*Agnes Campbell Macphail – Canada’s 1st women in Parliament. She was a progressive.
Rosa Parks – she who did not give up her seat on the bus
Melinda Gates – she’s surely done other things, but I suspect she was included for the Gates Foundation
Sojourner Truth – her bio is a lot more interesting than I recall from my elementary school textbooks (I’m sure she came up in some lecture in a college history class, but I honestly don’t recall it). Among other claims, she was the first former slave woman who sued to get her child back (out of slavery). I didn’t realize she became a Seventh-Day Adventist
Poly Styrene – a punk rocker and perhaps a bit of an extremist, depending on your point of view
Pussy Riot – not a reference to the hats worn at January’s Women’s March, but a reference to a band from Russia that was talked about a bit a few years ago
#Rosetta Tharpe – a gospel and blues musician, who was influential in the starting days of rock & roll
Patti Smith – a punk rocker and poet, among other accomplishments
#Frederique Petrides – I was entirely unfamiliar with her. She was one of the first female conductors in the land of classical music
*Joni Mitchell – Canadian musician. Influential woman musician.
*K.D. Lang – another Canadian musician and activist for a variety of feminist, vegetarian, and LGBT causes
Nobel Prize Winners
Wangari Maathai – first female from Africa and first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize, for her efforts in environmentalism and democratic rights
Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani. Youngest-ever Nobel laureate. Advocate of women attending school. The Taliban attempted to murder her but she recovered.
Ellen – talk show host, comedian
Oprah – talk show host
Grace Jones – I know her from being a bad girl in a Bond movie. She was also a model, musician, and actress, somewhat known for her androgonous look
Khalida Popal – Afghanistan soccer player – notable because that country wasn’t really in favor of women playing soccer. Has since fled to safer environments.
Moms Mabley – stand up comedian from the era of the Ed Sullivan show. Edgy comedian for her day, and maybe for today (I don’t know).
These women, generally, were called out in one bunch (there were a few group photos in the montage — one of which was labelled Suffragettes). Only 3 specific names were also included:
Emily Wilding Davidson – British suffrage leader who had some extreme acts, particularly including arson and who died in a confusing way (by being run over by a race horse, during a race — spectators and contemporary commentators couldn’t agree on what happened there)
Edith Margaret Garrund – one of the (or the) first woman jui jitsu instructors. She used her skills to train women to be bodyguards to protect suffragettes (such as others connected to the organization she & Davidson were part of) from going back to jail, connected to an obscure law that allowed British jails to release women who were on a hunger strike, then re-arrest them later.
*Victoria Woodhull – American, ran for president in 1872 (though some people claim she wasn’t really a candidate considering she was too young to actually serve). Spiritualist and newspaper owner, among other businesses. I didn’t catch her name in the names we saw in Texas, but did see her on the Vancouver list. Odd.
Ieshia Evans – the woman in a long dress who was in a famous photo a year or two ago, standing up to some police in riot gear in Baton Rouge, after police shootings in Minneapolis
Saffiyah Khan – a woman caught in a photograph smiling at a protester from a British far-right group, and defending a woman wearing a hijab. Like the prior entry, she seems to be known just for being photographed at the right place and the right time
Connie Mendenda – an AIDS activist from Zambia
Nawal El Saadawi – an activist for various causes from Egypt. She seems to be a doctor who’s fought against FGM, oppressive fundamentalism, and for various feminist causes
Ruth Ellis – I’m not sure if they were referring to a British woman who killed her husband or an American LGTB advocate. I presume the later.
#Marsha P. Johnson – American drag queen and AIDS activist.
#Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook, and the closest this list gets to anything involving technology.
#Lena Dunham – contemporary actress who gained some political notoriety for claiming she’d move to Canada if Hillary wasn’t elected.
Authors or Playwrights (all of whom could be classified under other categories, but writing seems to be their main fame)
Maya Angelou – poet
Virginia Wolfe – who’s afraid of her?
Alice Walker – author of the Color Purple, not without some controversy
Aphra Behm – a playwright with an interesting bio
Simone De Beavoir – writer and philosopher
Begum Rokeya – I had no idea who she was — Bengali writer who advocated for more freedoms for women, particularly Muslim women seeking education
*bell hooks – A pen name that she wants spelled lower case. Feminist and intersectionalist feminist author.
*Caitlin Moran – British journalist who I’d put into the “very feminist” camp, though that’s not really a thing. She advocates for girls to not read any books written by men early in their lives, or perhaps ever
Groups of people, not identified individually
Match Girls Strike – strike in London in the 1880s for better working conditions
Sari Squad – group of mostly Asian women who defended London multicultural clubs in the 1980s. Resisted attacks against foreigners.
Women of Iceland 1975 – a women’s strike demanding better pay and treatment of women in the workforce
Women’s Land Army – British civilian organization where women worked in Ag so men could go to war
Women’s Army Corps – branch of the US Army, from WWII onwards a few decades
Women’s Airforce Service Pilots – just what their name implies. American. WWII era, primarily
Suffragettes – I couldn’t identify anything about the particular image shown, but the group was included generally
So, there you go. I’ll leave it to you to consider the impact of these people.
St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland, gold (not cliche gold/leprechauns, but golden beads!), gardening, and (when all else fails) green will be themes for us during early March. I don’t work themes into all of our activities, but they do give me a way to organize my thoughts.
I created a set of small printable 3-part cards for common (and a few not-so-common but beautiful) wildflowers of Central Texas.
It’s a very simple file — print 2 copies of the flower pages to use as 3-part cards or to play match or memory with younger kids. If your kids are just starting at identifying flowers, you might start with just the first page of photos (those are the easiest and most common in my experience).