We’ll start with a family tradition: an advent calendar.
Advent calendars have been around for a long time (up to 200 years), and in their simplest form are just a way of physically counting down the days between December 1st and December 25th. The goal is anticipation and celebration.
In the old times, families might simply draw a chalk mark on the door. Or light a new candle each day. Or hang a new picture. (Wouldn’t homemade sequential artwork be great?!) Today, most calendars involve a treat: 25 pockets, each containing a candy or a small toy.
We Zooks focus our advent calendar on activities. By the end of November, I’ve usually made a list of 25 December activities I would like to do with the children, and I slot them into my schedule. Careful planning is a must!
- Include the special events already slated for the month.
- Don’t schedule a high-maintenance project on an already busy day.
- Make sure to have necessary supplies on hand.
Then I choose a basic presentation method, one of these ideas:
- Cut 25 slips of paper. Number. Place in a bowl.
- Make a paper chain with 25 links.
- Cut 25 flaps into a paper calendar, then glue to a second paper on which is written each day’s activity, aligned beneath the flaps.
Here is an advent calendar of the type we’ve enjoyed a couple of years.
- Read the Christmas story aloud.
- Bake & decorate sugar cookies with the kids.
- Attend a Christmas concert or program.
- Drink hot chocolate with candy cane stir sticks.
- Check out some Christmas books from the library. Keep your eyes peeled for the ones with great illustrations!
- Go sledding.
- Write Christmas cards.
- Hang stockings.
- Sing carols.
- Play Handel’s Messiah.
- Wrap presents.
- String popcorn or cranberries.
- Plan a mystery supper for your family (and/or guests) using clues from the Christmas story. (Mary’s curly hair = linguine, Jews’ forbidden feast = ham, donkey’s delight = salad, traveling to Bethlehem = Rocky Road bars, swaddling clothes = napkin, etc.)
- Decorate gingerbread houses. (Graham crackers are great building material for small hands and big imaginations.)
- Play I Spy/ Treasure Hunt with your nativity scene pieces.
- Go on a tour of lights.
- Visit an old folks’ home with a few Christmas goodies.
- Go caroling door-to-door with friends or a church group.
- Put a puzzle together.
- Buy a present to donate. (Here are some easy avenues–Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, Samaritan’s Purse, or your local Crisis Pregnancy Center.)
- Create a gift with your own hands (homemade cookies, a scarf, a hat, an apron, blanket, a jar mix, a loaf of bread… the ideas are endless).
- Go outside and play in the snow!
- Stir up some homemade candy.
- Dress up and enact the Christmas story.
- Exchange presents.
It’s a beautiful idea. “You will not regret it… if you live,” says Twain.
If you have lots of energy for Christmas, it may be just the idea for you! Keep in mind, some of the activities take only 15 minutes, or are already in your schedule.
For those who are out of breath just from reading the list, hang on till tomorrow for an alternate idea…