Every year for the last 6 years, I have made an advent calendar for the kids. Here is a post on what I have done each year. Each day the kids are excited as they open up the envelope which reveals the family activity we are undertaking that day. I’ve changed it up quite a bit and here is the list of activities I will include this year:
- Write a letter to Santa.
- Make snowflakes and dress your windows with them.
- Hope jar – write down a hope you have on behalf of another family member in the household. For example, “I hope my sister feels better today.”
- Watch a Christmas movie.
- Build a snow fort or an indoor fort and make homemade hot chocolate and marshmallows to drink inside.
- Go ice skating outdoors.
- Buy a tree and trim the tree.
- Dance to your favourite upbeat Christmas song…Ours would have to be this one:
- Write a “thinking of you” note to someone you care about but haven’t seen in a month or two.
- Make a gingerbread house.
- Bake dozens and dozens of your favourite Christmas treat, package them up nicely, and deliver to as many neighbours as you can.
- Smile at every stranger you pass by today.
- Call 5 people today and tell them you love them. That’s it and nothing else. A sample script: Hi (insert name). I just wanted to say that I love you and I am grateful that you are in my life. Have a great day. Bye!
- At sundown, forget artificial lighting. Have dinner by candlelight. Get ready for bed by candlelight. Read your favourite holiday/Christmas story by candlelight at bedtime all together like ”Twas the night before Christmas.”
- Build a snowman with a carrot for a nose…Weather permitting.
- Dessert for dinner.
- Make blessing bags and distribute.
- Take a family moonlit walk in a natural setting and keep silent the whole time.
- Talk about holidays/Christmas pasts – write down your favourite Christmas memories, look at old photos, talk about your own favourite moments as a child to your children.
- Walk through your neighbourhood at night and vote on the best decorated house, brightest house, craziest decorated house, etc.
- Go tobogganing…weather permitting.
- Look up “Peace,” “Love,” and “Joy” in 5 different languages and say them to each other.
- Make up a Christmas poem or song together as a family.
- Find 15 minutes of solitude to reflect on Christmas, family, or what it means to give and share the joy of the season.
A list of contingency activities for those days without snow:
Everyone choose their favourite Christmas carol to sing together.
Make a gift for someone who has touched your life in a small way and deliver anonymously.
Make a snow globe.
Have a “swants” party.
Forgive out loud, in person, or in your heart.
Write thank you notes and deliver to 5 people.
This week I am taking a look at our calendar and figuring out when the best days are for each activity. The snow activities will be a night-before type of decision and I can always substitute them with a contingency activity. I am also making love notes for each child for each day and instead of our normal string of envelopes, we are using this neat little advent calendar/box this year:
The kids just received it as a Christmas gift from some friends and they love it! The boxes are big enough to fit multiple things including a tiny piece of yumminess or craft goodness, a love note, and our family activity.
I have to admit I’m breathing a little easier now that I don’t have to stamp envelopes this time around and am a little ahead of the game with the love notes keeping it simple with phrases like: “You make the world brighter.” “Thank you for being YOU.” “I love your pinchies.” For the littles, I just put a sticker or stamp or a little doodle to their note. Each child has a 12×12 page and they glue their little square love note they receive each day onto the page. Here are some love notes from past years:
Then their pages go into our family scrapbook.
Sometimes I write a bit of encouragement. Sometimes I write about a memory. Sometimes I ask a question. Sometimes I just draw a picture to colour. Sometimes I write why I am grateful for them. Sometimes I write about their act of kindness I witnessed. And I try to fit in a surprise note that says, “Mommy Time” and “Daddy Time” and that child has alone time that day with us.
A December full of daily activities to be done as a family is a tradition the children look forward to every year. We do each activity together – the 7 of us. We take the time to celebrate the past and the people who we care about. I drive myself crazy writing the notes every year but as they look back and read and share memories, it’s all worth it. These following of these traditions allow me to embrace the season on my terms, to slow it down and define it as an “inhalation” period. That’s part of what I do and what I love: Creating traditions and seeing them through every year. They may take some effort on my part but the family bonding and excited discussions amongst themselves are worth the cramped hand from writing 120 love notes and the commitment to going tobogganing for the family activity when I really want to curl up on the couch with a good book.
Have you thought about incorporating family traditions that are unique to your family?