The countdown to Christmas gets earlier each year.
This year, after shopping for school supplies, I found myself wandering into the Christmas aisle. Mid-August in my flip-flops and shorts, I savored every child-free moment in my Hobby Lobby nirvana that I could. But my awe and wonder went no further than to question if people actually buy Christmas trees in August?!
Try as I might, I am not one who can wrap my head around preparing for Christmas until the tryptophan in my turkey has triggered a close on Thanksgiving. Regardless of if I start my Christmas preparations in early August or not, I still find myself trying to cram “just one more thing” into our December calendar.
And it stresses. Me. Out.
Advent can be a stressful time of year. Those 4 weeks of preparing our hearts for Christmas get jam-packed with kids’ concerts, cookie exchanges, and holiday parties faster than I can say, “Ho-Ho-No.”
Since our December calendar keeps us so busy, we decided to design our Advent calendar to slow us down. Instead of opening a door to a chocolate temptation or little Lego man that I’ll later step on, our family scrapped the “usual” Advent calendar countdown and created a family “Advent-ure” calendar instead.
Each morning we open a door on our Advent calendar and in place of a dessert or trinket, we are greeted with a slip of paper with a family “Advent-ure” on it. A task where we give instead of receive. Spend time as a family instead of dividing and conquering. It is the perfect reminder for us that Christmas isn’t about the gifts we receive, but the gifts we have to share.
Though I was as giddy as any other wine-o when I saw Aldi’s new Advent calendar with 24 days of wine to count down the season, I want my Advent to be one that is impactful, not one that is forgotten. Our girls race each morning to read aloud the task for the day and anticipate the activity to come.
Over the years, these family tasks have become fun traditions.
As my oldest enters middle school, I’m ecstatic that long ago we made the rule that everyone must participate. No one is allowed to act “too cool” for our family fun. We’ve had to swap a few activities out as the girls get older and replace them with things more “age appropriate,” but here are the 24 Advent-ures we like to do leading up to Christmas to slow us down and ensure we have at least one hour each day sharing our blessings instead of taking them for granted:
- Day 1: Donate unused toys to the We Care Shop.
- Day 2: Ring the Red Kettle Bell for Salvation Army.
- Day 3: Have a family game night.
- Day 4: Enjoy breakfast in bed.
- Day 5: Eat dessert before dinner.
- Day 6: Shop for our “Adopt-a-family” gifts.
- Day 7: Experience the Nutcracker Ballet together.
- Day 8: Make paper snowflakes for the windows.
- Day 9: Paint your toenails red (My husband is such a good sport!)
- Day 10: Write letters to Santa.
- Day 11: Blow frozen bubbles. (Followed by hot cocoa…brrr.)
- Day 12: Sing Christmas carols.
- Day 13: Make a list of 10 things you are thankful for.
- Day 14: Make Christmas cards to share with friends.
- Day 15: Take a drive to look at Christmas lights.
- Day 16: Watch the Polar Express together.
- Day 17: Dress fancy for an Italian candlelit dinner. (AKA: Pizza night!)
- Day 18: Bake a special Christmas treat to give to neighbors.
- Day 19: Make reindeer food for Santa’s reindeer.
- Day 20: Create a special ornament for the tree.
- Day 21: Go to a fun sporting event together.
- Day 22: Serve a meal to someone who is hungry.
- Day 23: Read, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
- Day 24: Give your favorite present to someone a day early.
- Day 25: Remember those who may feel alone on Christmas day.
These activities slow us down. They remind us that our running is not as important as our being.
Being in the moment.
Being with each other.
Many of these tasks help reiterate that giving a gift (a meal, a donated toy, a baked good) is far more rewarding than receiving a gift. Our girls can’t remember what was on their wish list last Christmas, but they remember the family they served a meal to last Advent. They remember freezing their heinies off ringing the Red Kettle Bell and realize their cold night is only a 2-hour shift, while someone else will spend their evening sleeping in that same bitter cold. They look at their daddy’s red polished toes and know that he would do absolutely anything for them. It is our way to keep our focus during the countdown to Christmas and put into perspective all the hustle and bustle that can sometimes consume us during the holiday season.
Do you find yourself overwhelmed during the holidays? What do you do to slow down?
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