The Answer to the Santa Claus Dilemma

source: Kevin Dooley

source: Kevin Dooley

When I  had my daughter, my husband and I decided there would be no Santa in our Christmas celebration. Neither of us had believed in Santa and I just didn’t want it mixing up our Jesus-is-born holiday.

I was pretty strict about it and basically didn’t say the word “Santa” for two years. Even when my daughter would point out Santa hats on people we’d say, “Oh, look! They have a Christmas hat!”. We didn’t even listen to “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” because I just didn’t want those words in her mind (“He sees you when you’re sleeping…he knows when you’re awake…”).

On my daughter’s 2nd Christmas, she saw a tall traditional, velvet-y, fur clad Santa statute at a store and pointed at it yelling, “Noah!!” As in “and the ark”. Yeah, I did a good job shielding her.

As she got a little older and we let her see Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and read The Night Before Christmas, we continued to push Santa as a fun, fictional character similar to Rudolph or Frosty or even Mickey Mouse.

One day on the way home from church when she was 3 she said to me, “I can’t wait for Christmas!”.

I said, “Me, too, baby! What made you say that?”

She replied, “Santa is going to come down our chimney and give us presents!”

I whipped around in my seat and said, “Who told you that?!”

She said, “My teacher at church said Santa comes down your chimney and gives you presents.”

I was dumbfounded. I looked at my husband with wide eyes and then back to my daughter and said, “That’s not true.”

I went on to explain who-knows-what about Santa but could not believe that in one second my daughter completely bought into the Santa story with a simple push from her teacher! I’m not blaming the teacher at all–she probably just said, “What’s Santa bringing you?” and got started on a conversation that my little girl had never heard before!

After this conversation, we started talking about the real Saint Nicholas and how his story morphed through the years. We’ve watched Veggie Tales’ Saint Nicholas and probably even read a book or two about the real guy. My kids (now 8 and 6) don’t believe in Santa and honestly are a little confused at kids who do.

I tell you this whole story (because I felt like I finally needed to get it out into the internet) but also because I’m not exactly sure the best way to tell your kids about Santa. My father-in-law says “for every mile of road, there are two miles of ditch”. And I think that’s how the Santa debate has been. There’s the group of people who pull off elaborate stunts to perpetuate a lie about a jolly man who comes down your chimney and the others who equate him to Satan.

Where is the balance and the real education–not skewed by tradition and personal feelings?

I think I found it.

Does that sound like crazy hyperbole? (I’VE FOUND THE ANSWER TO THE SANTA DILEMMA!!!)

If you’ve been around me for any amount of time you know I love What’s in the Bible?. They produce the most amazing (hilarious) DVDs that walk kids straight through the story of the whole Bible with real and rich details. It’s like a Bible college lesson rolled into a bite-sized piece for a kid.

Anywhoo, their Christmas DVD, Why Do We Call it Christmas? does the same thing with Christmas–addresses all the traditions and their histories. This year, Phil Vischer (creator of WITB and Veggie Tales) released a new picture book called, Why Do We Call It Christmas?.

why do we call it christmas book review 2

At first, I thought it was going to be a simple paper-and-ink version of the DVD. In fact, it’s quite different and really really good.

In the book, Buck Denver (famous news anchor and star of all the What’s in the Bible? DVDs) is confused about Christmas because it seems to be two different holidays–the Jesus holiday at church and the Santa holiday at stores.

Buck’s friend, Sunday School Lady uses her magic flannelgraph (see how funny this is?!) to explain the word “Christmas”. She then begins the story of “Saint Nick” and how the Catholic Church gives certain people their own special day, like Saint Nicholas Day.

She then explains that Saint Nicholas Day is on December 6 and since Christmas is on December 25 and other churches didn’t always celebrate these special saint days–but they liked the traditions of them (hello! gifts left in stockings!) they just combined the two days. And bad-a-bing bad-a-boom we have our American Christmas traditions.

So. If you’re familiar with the Santa story, this might not seem like new information. It’s not the Santa-background that’s so great in this book. I know lots of people that celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. I’ve read all the books that tell Saint Nicholas’ true story. Instead, this book gives the explanation of WHY we celebrate Santa and Jesus on the same day. I love the clear delineation of the two celebrations.

When I finished reading the book, it was like a breathed a sigh of relief. There was no dancing around the story, or trying to walk on eggshells about should-you-or-shouldn’t-you believe in Santa. It is simply the story of how the Santa legend has arrived to 2014. Period.

why do we call it christmas book review 1

I think it’s so important to teach kids truth–in all circumstances. Not showing them too much, or inappropriate themes. But truth. This book will help you do just that–whether Santa is a part of your celebration or not.

If your kids have been confused about Santa–maybe they don’t believe and don’t know why he’s not included in your celebration, or they aren’t sure what to say to their friends, or maybe they do believe and you want to tell them the truth, or maybe they believe and you just want them to know where Santa’s story all began–this book covers all those bases.

Grab this book today and read it before Christmas gets here! (And while you’re over there, get the DVD, too!) What’s in the Bible? has a special coupon code: SNOW30 which takes 30% off any orders over $30 (expires 12/15)! Plus, there’s some GREAT DVD sales going on, too. Go get ‘em, friends!


Scripted Simplicity

@oohamanda instagram

@oohamanda instagram

Tonight, as I walked down the stairs from tucking the kids in, it was so lovely seeing our little Truth in the Tinsel tree (a mini white tree I bought 50% off after Christmas a few years ago), the lighted garland on the banister and our big live tree downstairs. It’s magical seeing the twinkling lights and the meaningful ornaments.

I know this feels like a stretch but I really feel like the decorations help me worship and stay focused on Jesus at Christmas. I mean, yeah, the Mickey Mouse ornaments on the tree are for the kids and the stocking holders I found at Pottery Barn for $5 each are there because they are just pretty.

But there’s something about transforming your whole house into something decidedly other. Even for the kids’ birthdays we don’t decorate the way we do at Christmas.  Christmas has this yes, weird and American and commercial thing of Christmas decorations, but somehow, in some way, in my little heart–I feel like it’s part of the big birthday, the big thank-you, the big celebration of Jesus!

My new friend Rachelle from Scripted Simplicity thinks so, too! When her little girl came home to them by adoption, Rachelle wanted a piece of decor in their home that would showcase a Scripture about adoption and God’s great plan for her daughter. She couldn’t find what she wanted so she and her husband created one together.

Now, she makes wedding, Scripture and holiday art. I love all her Christmas pieces because they push me to worship!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.21.47 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.22.00 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.22.15 PM

She’s also got a new line of Christmas gift tag ornaments that are just super adorable. (I had to add that Georgia tag in…)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.22.50 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.23.05 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.23.13 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-04 at 5.48.21 PM


Rachelle says, “my prayer is that Scripted Simplicity will bring beauty & warmth to your home while reminding you that the plans for your life are scripted by The Giver of all good things whose desires for you are simply that you seek Him with your whole heart. ” Isn’t that what we want for our own kids at Christmas and all year long? I want my kids to seek God with their whole heart and recognize that He is The Giver of all good things–especially the best present of all, Jesus!

scripted simplicity

So, wanna add a beautiful Scripted Simplicity piece to your Christmas celebration this year? Rachelle is also a giver of good things because she is giving away a 16×11 “Wonderful Counselor” piece to one of you!! It is a GORGEOUS piece (I know, because I have one on my mantel right now!) and the perfect addition to our Day 2 Crown ornament, no?

Plus, she has a 20% off gift code for YOU! Head over to her shop and enter code TINSEL20.

Use the widget below to be entered to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Early Black Friday Advent Calendar DEAL

You guys! Look at this! Dayspring is having a pre-Black Friday sale this week with 8 special deals and one of them is this ADORABLE Peanuts Felt Advent Calendar! You know I love advent calendars of all kinds and even though you can’t attach the Truth in the Tinsel clues to this one, I still snagged one for myself the kids!
Peanuts Christmas - Story of Christmas - Felt Advent Calendar

I think this is a perfect pre-Christmas gift for your family (that’s a thing, right?). Or a sweet family gift (your sister’s family? the neighbors across the street? the mama you talk to during basketball practice every week?) because you could couple it with the Charlie Brown DVD or even better–a copy of Truth in the Tinsel! *wink*

Click here to see all the Pre-Black Friday deals from Dayspring! Or go ahead and buy the Peanuts calendar now!

Truth in the Tinsel Swap Party Prizes!

I wanted the Atlanta Area Truth in the Tinsel Swap Party to feel like a Girl’s Night Out instead of a oh-brother-we’ve-got-a-lot-of-work-to-do-to-get-ready-for-Christmas. The first thing to consider was decorations. We didn’t pull out all the Christmas decorations because it was hosted at my mom’s church (she’s a Children’s Pastor) and her Children’s Church room is pretty cool looking. It didn’t need a lot of frou-frou. But it did need a little tinsel, am I right?!

tnt decor collage

I brought all the ornaments my kids have made over the years and spread them out on the tables along with mason jars filled with snowy-looking epsom salt and candles! (How smart is that?!)

Then, at each seat there was a green and white Truth in the Tinsel bag!

tnt swap party swag bag

Eek! How much to you love that?!! These were to collect all the crafts in but they also contained a few little gifts for the guests! Inside was the most fun little paper garlands from Dayspring…

dayspring paper chain collage

Yancy’s Have a Fancy Yancy Christmas CD

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 7.11.44 AM

and the Why Do We Call It Christmas DVD!

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 7.20.07 AM

Y’all. That was worth the drive through Atlanta right there!

Well, we weren’t finished! We also had a fun little craft station. Like a craft for mamas to make! No kids allowed! My friend, blogger, crafter, shop-owner, teacher and all-around super mama, Charity from The Heartfelt Home led the ladies in making this adorable button Christmas tree. (Thank you, Pinterest!)

tnt swap party button tree

Everyone culled through the buttons and made their own sweet trees to frame and take home. (Talk about an easy craft, y’all. All you need is a 5×8 of burlap, a bunch of leftover buttons and some craft glue!)

tnt swap party craft

We even had a photo booth! (And now that I’m looking at all the pictures, I realize my kids took more pictures than anyone and I didn’t get a picture with enough of y’all!)

photo booth collage tnt swap

And of course, there was food. I catered from Chipotle because you can make tacos, burritos, burrito bowls or salads. It’s kinda easy for everyone. (Also? Yummy leftovers.) And my sisterchicks and my dad did homemade Christmas food. We’re talking Christmas food like Hello Dolly Bars, Christmas Crack, fudge and my dad’s German Chocolate cake. Yeow.

tnt swap party food

Let’s pause on the food so I can tell you what typical crazy went down—> So, 30 minutes before the event started, I sent my ever-helpful husband to the restaurant to pick everything up. He called me a few minutes later and said, “Am I at the right location? They don’t have your order.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Sure enough, he was at the wrong location–at no fault of his own–there are 2 locations of equal distance to the church and we had talked about using both of them. I never told him where to go!

My sweet husband had to drive to the other location, pick up the food and arrived about 20 minutes late. He was more stressed than anyone about it! Oops.

OK. Back to the event….

After we were full up of guac and tacos, I got on the stage to speak.

tnt swap party 1

I told my story of going from Children’s Pastor of hundreds of kids to mom of 1, and how I felt lost and far away from God’s will for my life. And then how God used something so seemingly insignificant like a daily craft with my almost 1 year old to plant the fledgling seeds of the Truth in the Tinsel book and experience in my heart. And then how over 30,000 families have used the book in their homes and their Christmas celebrations. And how my heart is flattened at the thought of God allowing me to be a part of His story.

tnt swap party 3

We also talked about the unique, precious and huge opportunity we have as mothers to lead our children from darkness into Jesus’ magnificent, purifying, everlasting Light! How throughout the ages, God has been taking Light to dispel darkness and wants to do so in the lives and heats’ of our kids. How Christmas is really the celebration of the Light coming to our dark world and casting out sour sin so we could be in relationship with HIm.

Truth in the Tinsel isn’t a craft or a fun thing to do at Christmas–it’s a way to introduce your children to Jesus and His Light!

Whew! It gets me excited every time. OK. Let’s get back to the party…

tnt swap party 2

After a little talking and praying we played a game with a plate on our heads. Oh, yes we did!

And it was hilarious!

Then, it was time for door prizes! Y’all. I am OVERWHELMED by the amount of awesome friends who gave stuff away! I don’t have pictures of everything (for which I aplogize–next time I need to hire a photographer to capture more of the fun!) so, I’ll snag some pictures of their respective websites, ok?

First of all, Charity from The Heartfelt Home gave away a gorgeous print from her shop plus two vintage silverware Redeemed Ware bracelets. How much do you love those?!

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 6.40.12 AM

Dayspring sent some of their newest jewelry line called, Everlasting Light. And I could NOT be more excited about it because it is exactly what I’ve been loving and talking about with Jesus being the Light at Christmas!

Just look at these necklaces—>

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 6.44.31 AM

This layered shimmer necklace is my favorite one. And the verse engraved on the back is Isaiah 60:20, “The Lord will be your everlasting light.”  Isn’t that awesome?

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 6.45.11 AM

This North Star pendant is beautiful, too and has Isaiah 60:1 engraved on the back, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”. What a gorgeous reminder to hang around your neck this Christmas!

Don’t you wish you’d been there?!!

But wait! We’re not done!

One of my fellow-volunteers and friends at church has a super creative wife who owns OneTwentyOne Designs and makes the most ADORABLE bags and baby items and dish towels and more. She sent us the cutest tote bags you’ve ever seen, some pillows and an amazing dishtowel that hooks to your stove (you know what I’m talking about? It’s genius. And adorbs.)

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 6.56.47 AM

Plus, What’s in the Bible sent Phil Vischer’s new Why Do We Call It Christmas book:

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 7.01.11 AM


And Yancy sent t-shirts, CDs and devotional books:

yancy collage


tnt swap party 4

(This is my friend, Jen from church. She’s showing how much fun we had!)

But I guess you’re wondering about the crafts? Like the whole reason we got together, right?! I almost forgot about that part!

When everyone arrived with their 22 craft supply baggies in hand, they laid them out on the appropriate spot on these tables. At the end of the night, they walked through (with their new bags) and put one of each into their bag! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

tnt swap party bags

Thank you to my mom for hosting the event, to my sisterchicks–Staci, Mandi and Kristen, my friends Vanessa and Cassie, to my dad and husband for helping out at the party and to Lydia, Asa and Megan for being the best bag-stuffers & helpers ever. I couldn’t have done it without you–nor would I have wanted to!

Oh, and click over to read about the details (and my best tips) of planning a swap party! It’s not too late to plan your own Swap Party!

But right now, let’s do a little giveaway of our own! I’ve got a few Truth in the Tinsel bags leftover and a few prizes from our delicious sponsors so, I’m giving away THREE prizes with the following:

1 Truth in the Tinsel bag (no crafts included, sorry!)
1 Fancy Yancy Christmas CD
1 Why Do We Call It Christmas DVD
1 Dayspring Christmas Paper Garland (pattern varies)

And one SUPER SPECIAL winner will receive all the yumminess above PLUS this super cute bag from OneTwentyOne Designs!


That’s FOUR WINNERS! Go forth and enter!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Decorating for Christmas (Giveaway & Coupon!)

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and // + a coupon code

One of my favorite things about Christmas (and Truth in the Tinsel) is that we have reminders of Jesus’ birth hanging out where we can see them! Our house is covered from head to toe in special decor that helps us remember Jesus’ gift to us. Even in my non-Christmasy life, I like to have God’s Word in front of our eyes everyday.

I want Scriptures to be a part of our home just like Deuteronomy says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

(Don’t you just see Truth in the Tinsel fitting perfectly in this verse?!)

I have some Naptime Diaries, Red Letter WordsAMEN Designs and Hope Ink Scripture prints in my own home. (I’ve even got a few I made on my own!) And I am always on the lookout for new cute prints to display. I’ve recently been introduced to Lamplights’ shop. It was founded by two women who desired to follow Deuteronomy 6 and display God’s Word so it would sink deep into families’ hearts. I love this!

They have some beautiful Christmas carol prints. I pinned this one weeks ago. Isn’t it lovely?

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and // + a coupon code

Wouldn’t this one be lovely for Day 11?

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and // + a coupon code

They have created over 60 gorgeous prints I want to hang in my home all year long! Don’t you love this idea of putting these prints in an old window frame?

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and // + a coupon code

I’m joining Jenn from Applegate Summers and Danielle from This Life I Live to give away two Lamplights prints (your choice!) to THREE different winners! How fun is that?! Sounds like  Christmas gift to me!

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and{wanna pin this image to spread the Christmasy word?}

Oh, and speaking of gifts, Lamplights is offering 10% off their shop with code ADVENT2013 (expires 12/12).

Go ahead and enter using the Rafflecopter widget below…

a Rafflecopter giveaway


An Advent Calendar for You!

Get the Redeemed Countdown Calendar from Dayspring for 50% off at

Click over to my personal blog, ohAmanda, for an amazing discount on this beautiful Advent Calendar from Dayspring! Perfect for incorporating into your Truth in the Tinsel celebration or giving as a gift—or both!

Save Your Truth in the Tinsel Ornaments

truth tinsel paper coterie

Last year, when it was time to clean up the Truth in the Tinsel ornaments, I got a little sad. Those ornaments were more than ornaments–they were 24 days (ok, probably more like 19 days…) of memories with my kids! I wanted to be like Mary and treasure up all these things in my heart!

Lots of people on our Facebook page said the same thing, “What should we do with our ornaments?!”

I didn’t keep Lydia’s first ornaments from when she was 1. *sniff* And I so wish I had! But I do have them from when she was 2 and she loves loves loves to look at them. It’s amazing at how much I remember holding those little memories in my hand.

However, do you really want a box of ornaments every single year for each of your kids? Yowza. That could be an episode of Hoarders waiting to happen.

Then. I had an idea.

I have some beautiful (and I mean beautiful) photo memory keepers from Paper Coterie. One is for Asa’s baby stuff, one is for all our ticket stubs to local events and special activities. The other is all of our souvenirs from our last Disney vacation.

These boxes are gorgeous to display and super fun to look through.


I made a Truth in the Tinsel Memory Keeper this year and look how awesome it is!

truth tinsel paper coterie memory keeper cover

truth tinsel paper coterie memory keeper cover

truth tinsel paper coterie memory keeper

I could not love it more. I just couldn’t!

{2014 Update: Sadly, Paper Coterie is out of business! *sniff* BUT, I have found a few comparable items. Nations Photo Lab has some pretty cute boxes that come up to a 10×10 size!}

Then, I had another idea. Say you don’t want to keep the ornaments. You could make a photo book from Shutterfly or Snapfish or any photo site including close up pictures of the ornaments, Scripture references, memories from the craft-making time or additional pictures of your kiddos crafting.

Here’s a few pages of the book I’m working on right now…

How much do you love that?!

How are you preserving your Truth in the Tinsel memories?

O Little Town of Bethlehem

abide with us print from

Do you know the lyrics to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”? It seems funny that there is an entire song dedicated to a place in the Bible. The detail of Bethlehem (and day 13 of Truth in the Tinsel) seems more geography than theology.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

However, the Christmas story taking place in Bethlehem is not a geographical detail but a gorgeous reminder and picture of the miracle of Jesus coming to earth as Emmanuel, “God with us”.

I mention in the ebook that Bethlehem means “house of bread” and that Jesus describes Himself as the “bread of life” (John 6:35). Did you also know that King David was born in Bethlehem? King David, the shepherd boy, the man after God’s own heart born in Bethlehem where the King of Kings Jesus, the Good Shepherd, God’s own Son would be born. What foreshadowing and fulfillment!

Every detail of the Christmas story seems to be connected with layers of meaning and significance. And I think He gives us these details to further convince us of His love, His miracle and intimate care for us.

One of my favorite Christmas books, Why a Manger? by Bodie Thoene explain that Jesus was born in Bethlehem for another reason: this is where the sacrifical lambs were born and raised. The shepherds who saw the angels and then found Jesus in the manger, were the shepherds who raised lambs to be sacrificed in the temple. So, “where else would ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29) have to be born if not Bethlehem, among the sacred Temple flocks?”

God sent Jesus to be Emmanuel, to abide with us as the Lamb of God, to take away our sins. He was born to die. He came to give us life. Thank you, Jesus, Lamb of God!

My friend, Annie from Be Small Studios recognizes this same wonder of Jesus, King, Bread, Lamb, Emmanuel. She’s created some beautiful paintings (like the one pictured above) based on beloved Christmas carols. Please check out her site!

buy tnt footer

True Love Was Born in a Stable

One of my favorite things about Truth in the Tinsel is that it puts God’s Word as the focus in your home. Every single day you’re reading God’s Word. Every single day you’re talking about God’s Word. Every single day you’re using your hands to create a reminder of God’s Word. Every single day you’re hanging that reminder up for all to see.

God’s Word is hanging in your home.

This is a passion of mine. I believe in putting God’s Word on your walls. I want God’s Word to be all around me. I want it to be easy to “talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. [T0] tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-8)

Dee from Red Letter Words feels the same way. She creates beautiful Scripture art for your home. I’ve admired her work for many years and finally got my own Red Letter Words at the Allume Conference this year.

A few weeks ago, I was perusing Pinterest (totally not wasting time!) when I saw this:

True Love Was Born in a Stable from Red Letter Words

Isn’t that gorgeous? I knew it was Red Letter Words right away (because I recognized its cuteness!) and when I realized she had Christmas art, I got excited. Look at the rest of these:

Matthew 2:2 Red Letter Words

Good Tidings of Great Joy by Red Letter Words

Oh, my goodness! I am in love! Wouldn’t these be gorgeous on your mantle? Hanging right above your stockings? Or as a gift for a friend? Family member? {For yourself?!!}


Elf on the Shelf Alternatives

10 fun Elf on the Shelf Alternatives from

I know people love the Elf on the Shelf. It’s a magical little tradition that gets kids ready for Christmas and apparently, controls their behavior. (It does sound magical, doesn’t it?!) For those who don’t want to incorporate Santa and his elves into their daily December, here’s a few fun alternatives to a Christmas countdown activity.

1. Christmas Mouse

Christmas Mouse from // featured at for an Elf on the Shelf alternative


Is this is the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen?! The Christmas Mouse travels the world and takes a mini-vacation at your house during December. Every day he leaves treasures from his travels.

{please click over to Mini Mocha and see all her gorgeous ideas!}

2. The Christmas Angel

The Christmas Angel from // featured on as an Elf on the Shelf alternative


The Christmas Angel comes with a cute plush angel, a bag of gold dust and a storybook. The story explains how the angel came to Mary and told her she was going to have baby Jesus.  So, like the Elf on the Shelf, when your child wakes up every morning, they look for the angel who has written a message in the gold dust–”hug mom”, “make cookies”, “give a gift”. The idea is to give every day after reading the message from the angel.

3. Book Countdown

25 Jesus Centered Books to Celebrate Advent from // featured on as an Elf on the Shelf alternative


I’m a sucker for a Christmas book. The day after Christmas is my favorite day because Barnes and Noble puts all their Christmas books 50% off! So, grab 25 of your favorite Christmas books, wrap each one individually and every day of December unwrap one and read it together with your kids.

I love this because it gives your kids quality time, you are reading together and it makes for a surprise each day! My friend Jessie from Vanderbilt Wife has a great list of 25 Jesus-centric Christmas books for this tradition!

4. What God Wants for Christmas

What God Wants for Christmas // featured on as an Elf on the Shelf alternative

I got this at a Christian bookstore on an after-Christmas clearance a few years ago. It’s a kit that includes seven boxes which house nativity scene figures. Every night for a week, you pick a new box, read the story and open the box. The last box, you think would be baby Jesus, instead it’s a mirror! The gift God wants is YOU!

I love it because it’s only a 7 day countdown. You can fit 7 days into December for sure! My mom always has the grandkids come over to decorate her Christmas tree. Last year, she did this with them–all seven boxes in one night. The kids really enjoyed it.

5. Mary & Joseph’s Trip to Bethlehem

Place Mary & Joseph far away from your nativity scene & have them travel to the manger during December. A fun alternative to the Elf on the Shelf // Nativity Scene handpainted by moms in Jalisco, Mexico //

our nativity scene from Jalisco, Mexico

I’ve heard about this several places (mainly in fiction books!).  It’s such a simple idea that doesn’t require any crazy set-up or even a big purchase.

If you have a nativity scene, set it all up except for Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Just hide Jesus away and then place Mary and Joseph far far away in another part of the house. Each morning, place Mary and Joseph a little closer to Bethlehem…er, your manger scene. By Christmas Eve, they can set up in the stable and on Christmas Day, place Jesus in the center!

My kids would love to search for Mary and Joseph every day! I think I’m going to do this in December!

6. Cradle to Cross Wreath

Cradle to Cross Wreath from // featured on as an alternative to Elf on the Shelf


This is a meaningful, beautiful piece of art which doubles as a countdown activity. Each day, move the donkey and Mary figure closer to the center of the wreath adding Advent candles as you go. You can extend it (and use it again) during Lent as you get ready for Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross. You have to click over to see all the gorgeous pictures of this wreath!

7. Light ‘Em Up

Light 'em Up from // featured on as an alternative to Elf on the Shelf


You’ve heard of Random Acts of Kindness during the holidays, right? Well, Courtney at Lil Light of Mine gives over 50 fun ideas, printables and more to light up December with kindness!

8. Shepherd’s Pouches

Shepherd's Pouches from // featured on as an alternative to the Elf on the Shelf


I super love this idea. Instead of stockings, hang up small, unadorned pouches. During December, when your children help someone, do chores, are kind, etc. place money in the pouches. On Christmas Eve, take the money from the pouches and use it to buy a gift from Compassion’s gift catalog or give it to someone in need.

This is cool because it gives the same feel as the elf watching your behavior, but with better motivation. Head over to Julie’s blog to read all her wording and ideas on how to implement this with your kids!

9. The Donkey in the Living Room

The Donkey in the Living Room ebook // featured on as an alternative to Elf on the Shelf

source: amazon

This is a sweet little book about all the characters of a traditional nativity scene. For nine days, you giftwrap one of the manger scene figurines (whichever one you have at your house) and set it in a designated spot in your home. When your kids find it, they unwrap it and bring it to you so you can read that character’s story from the ebook. By the end of the story, you’ll have the entire manger scene set up and know a little more about each character! It’s a simple and fun idea–and born from the author’s own traditions as a child! {Oooh, and I just noticed there is a version that includes the nativity scene to match the book!)


Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands // a hands-on Christmas tradition and alternative to Elf on the Shelf

photo by:

You knew I was gonna say that, right? It’s a wonderful and simple idea: read the Christmas story from the Bible, make an ornament to go along with the passage and talk about it with your kids. It includes printables, the words to say and simple tutorials. It doesn’t get much better than that! Get your own copy now!

buy tnt footer

(OK. I’m biased. But really, it’s fun.)

What’s your favorite fun Christmas countdown, activity or tradition for getting kids ready for Christmas?

{elf graphics from zenware designs at mygraphico}