Most Advent calendars I know involve taking small items out: chocolates, bonbons, small toys, Bible verses or tasks to be completed. Our Advent calendar is different because instead of taking items out, every day we put something inside it.
In my family, there were no traditions associated with the Advent itself, and Advent calendars were rarely used. That is why I didn’t care much about them either. Nevertheless, when our daughter was born, I thought it was worthwhile introducing some quality family traditions, and an Advent calendar might be one of them. Especially if it both unites the family and educates.
What is our Advent calendar about?
Sometimes I tend to do things the other way round and totally my own way. That’s why I decided that our Advent calendar will not promote taking and gratifying. Instead of that, at the end of each day, we put inside our good deeds written on small pieces of paper. Firstly, it makes us think every day about doing something good for others. Secondly, we inspire each other, sharing our “good practices” every evening. And thirdly, we work towards a common goal: once we fill all pockets of our Advent calendar, we take out the slips of paper with the good deeds and place them under the figurine of Baby Jesus lying in the manger to make it more comfortable for Him.
In this symbolic yet clear way, we want to show our children who we really make all efforts for and that Christmas is not about receiving gifts but about giving.
How to make such an Advent calendar?
You may prepare such an Advent calendar in many different ways. The only thing you need to remember about is the right number of pockets/boxes etc. to fit small pieces of paper.
Our first Advent calendar was made of cardboard with 4 x 7 square slips of paper stuck to it. It was decorated with theme stickers and had a ribbon stapled to it. I think it looked really nice, but I was worried about the durability of paper pockets once children started pulling at them. In other words: it was not an Advent calendar to last for years.
When I discussed my idea with my best friend, she agreed to help me. Together with her mother-in-law they sewed an Advent calendar from a rectangular piece of cloth stretched over a cardboard, and sewed four stripes of white lace over it, basted in eight spots to form seven pockets. On the top of the material, there is a tunnel to fit a stick that we use to hang our Advent Calendar. It is going to be the third Advent with our calendar, and it still looks brand new!
As regards the slips of paper, we keep using square notepads where each family member has their own colour. At the time between the bath and the evening prayer, we all go to the room where our Advent Calendar is hung, everyone talks about their good deeds and writes them down on a piece of paper or dictates it to a parent (and when our offspring was an infant, we recalled the good things she did and wrote them for her). Then, everyone places the folded piece of paper in the right pocket, and the parents remind children that on Christmas Day, we will take them all out and place them under Baby Jesus’ crib to make it more comfortable for Him.
And what does your Advent calendar look like? Do you have some interesting ideas that could inspire others? Share them in the comments below!
– If your children are of kindergarten age, consider an Advent calendar with bigger pockets, so that they could write down their good deeds in big capital letters or insert slips written by a parent themselves.
– Actually, this Advent calendar may also be used in atheist families. It can serve to motivate children and adults to be nicer for one another and serve as a proof that everyone has “earned” their Christmas gifts