This is a picture of the advent, or countdown calendar, that my sister made for me. Yes she made it! (sorry for the poor light quality on the photo, my house does that to me) Two years ago she surprised me with it as a Christmas present and nearly had me in tears, I was so amazed. She knew that I had wanted one, but couldn't find a cute one that I could afford or that I really thought would work well for what I wanted to do with it.
She really decked it out with cute papers and doo-dads. It really is adorable. Mine hangs on two different boards. She says she has since found out how to put it all together on one. That would help anyone who has space issues, because it's pretty long when it is hanging up. I actually hang mine on the back of a closet door that is centrally located in our main living area.
So this is what we do with our calendar: I wanted to help my kids remember that the focus of Christmas is supposed to be on Jesus and his birth. I also wanted to do something that would take the focus off of the presents and commercialism and help us focus on good character qualities and putting others first. But, I also wanted it to be fun, something they look forward to each day.
So as you can see, there are 25 little tins. One for each day. To keep it simple for me and the kids, the tin we open is the same as the day of the month. Inside they may find a couple of things: The tin holds 3 Hershey's kisses, which, if they find those inside they each have to give me a kiss before they can eat it. Yes I do resort to bribery for kisses from my kids if I need to. I'm not ashamed. They also may find a piece to a miniature nativity set that also conveniently will fit inside. And there is always a piece of paper inside as well.
The piece of paper that is inside has one of two things printed on it. One thing they may find is a piece of the Christmas story, that I typed out in chronological order, but is still in the words of the Bible. I broke it apart into sections, and usually a piece to the nativity is in the same tin as the Bible story. This way, by the time Christmas arrives, we've already read through the story behind Jesus' birthday once. The boys love getting a nativity piece in their tin as much as they love getting a piece of candy. We then set out the nativity, piece by piece, until it is completed on Christmas morning.
The other thing that might be printed on the piece of paper in the tin, is an activity for all of us to participate in. Because I have a young family, I've kept things pretty simple. But I plan on changing it as my children grow. Here are some of the activities I've come up with:
* Let's watch a Christmas movie together tonight, Mom will pop the popcorn!
*Draw a picture of your favorite aspect of Christmas. We'll hang them up as decorations.
*Let's make Christmas cookies today! We'll wrap some up and deliver them to our neighbors.
Then there are others like:
*Give everyone in your family 3 hugs today when they least expect it.
*Use encouraging words when you speak to each other today.
* Let's choose a missionary to pray for during this holiday season.
*Be the person that always goes last today.
I've tried to include both fun activities and things that will force us to think of others and push us outside of our comfort zone. I also wanted to do some things that encourage positive interactions between the boys. Let's face it, they don't choose to hug each other very often.
If I want this to work out well I have to be intentional about looking at my calendar and placing the appropriate activity in the appropriate day before we put the advent calendar up for the season. If I don't some things really won't work out. For instance, it's hard to bake Christmas cookies if we aren't going to be home all day. Sometimes we don't do the activity for the day because life gets in the way, or because I don't have the right things already in the house. (Or because I don't want to deliver the cookies to the neighbors without Troy.) Overall, this little advent calendar has helped our family be more intentional about how we are spending the days leading up to the Birth of our Savior, Jesus. It's been a great way to teach some character traits to our kids in a fun and exciting way. I'm also excited that I can make it grow with my kids and we can change things as the years go by.
But some things will stay the same.
Because they will become traditions.
And I like that.
How do you advent?
I'd love to hear your ideas too.