When I first posted about our plans for a clutter-free advent calendar, Faye was a wee thing of 19-months. That original list of holiday activities has all the hallmarks of a family with one small child and lots of weeknight time on their hands. Now, with two little guys growing increasingly excited for December to get here, I’ve made a few changes to this year’s calendar.
In the spirit of both economies of time and resources, I’ve focused this year’s calendar on family-friendly advent activities. To make sure we’re enjoying the season without feeling burdened by it, I’ve included a lot of the festive holiday traditions that we’d be doing regardless—drawing out the decorating, and the excitement, and the general merry-making one day at a time until Christmas. This way, the calendar isn’t a way for us to heap on a whole lot more to the holiday season, as much as it’s about remembering to enjoy it while it’s here—while nights are long and dark and cold, a bit of good cheer in anticipation of more light ahead.
For those who have asked about the timing of this clutter-free advent calendar over the years, the answer is that we’re very flexible. If it’s cold one night and a neighborhood walk to spot Christmas trees doesn’t sound fun, we’ll swap it for something else. If a tree lighting gets postponed, well, ditto. Generally, we reserve the more labor intensive activities for a weekend when everyone’s rested and ready. And, if it turns out that we just don’t have the steam to start an after school craft project or trek out to deliver cookies (let alone bake them), there’s the perennially convenient and cheery option of a family Christmas singalong, off-key renditions of Jingle Bells more than welcomed. (Also: Yes! I’ve often added the activities to the envelopes one by one on the night before, or the morning of, to help weather vagaries of moods and weather or otherwise.)
Here’s what our simple advent calendar activities are shaping up to be this year, in no particular order:
+ Pick out a Christmas tree.
+ Make cinnamon stars.
+ Dry orange ornaments.
+ Decorate the tree!
+ Write a letter to Santa.
+ Cut paper snowflakes.
+ Roll candles.
+ Eat a snowflake-shaped pasta dinner.
+ Hang stockings.
+ Bring food stuffs to a local food bank.
+ Bake christmas cookies.
+ Deliver christmas cookies!
+ Go caroling in the apartment building (or neighborhood!).
+ Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows after school.
+ Head out for an after-dinner pajama walk to scout neighborhood trees.
+ Light advent candles each Sunday (x4!).
+ Watch a favorite movie (while a little brother naps!).
+ Make festive pancakes (inspired by the above!).
+ Mail christmas cards.
+ Make ice ornaments.
To the folks who ask if my kids miss the little trinkets and thingamabobs or chocolate they might otherwise be getting in an advent calendar, the answer is I don’t think so (and treats abound in any case)! But also know that in the past week alone, Faye has asked me for Hanukkah gelt, sparkly red plastic ornaments, a blowup Santa lawn decoration (no matter the lack of lawn), a plastic light up statue of Mary and Joseph, a Christmas stocking festooned with faux red velvet and glitter paint, and sundry holiday treats, mostly in the form of very large candy canes conveniently located near checkout at the grocery store. I don’t make sport of denying my children the things they desire, but no parent can say yes to everything. As I overheard Faye tell a small friend last week, “even nice parents say no sometimes.”
For the curious:
This year I decided to hang our calendar in a straight line from a bit of velvet ribbon. It’s tacked onto the door with a very tiny metal tack, which will save me the sanity of reapplying washi tape all season. (Last year, strung it from our headboard!)