I think I have always loved Advent calendars - as a kid, as a youth, as an adult, and as a parent. And not just the chocolate variety. I love ones that have little messages - tasks or things to think about each day. And the playmobil ones - they're fun too.
Last week I made a calendar at my crafty friend's place. She hosted an Advent calendar evening with a bunch of friends. Here's the final product:
About 12 years ago - before kids - Derek and I made a calendar for my family members that had different activities for the "12 days of Christmas." It started on the 10th of December and went til the 25th, so I don't quite get why it was called "12 days." Oh well. We also made a tape (yes - a cassette tape) to go along with the calendar with some of our favourite Christmas tunes for family to listen to on certain days. It was very simple and fun. This was the inside/bottom of the calendar (there was another paper over top that had flaps on it to open each day):
I also saw an idea where you can use all of your single socks strung on a line with little notes or ornaments inside each day - 24 for the days leading up to Christmas. Luckily, I happen to have 24 lonely socks in the house just waiting for a special job like this:
I also thought of using those clips above (bought at IKEA years ago) to spell out a Christmas message - adding one letter for each day from Dec. 1st to 25th. Here's what I've come up with:
Hope, Joy, Peace, Love, Christmas [that's 25 letters!]
We've used this Advent calendar below (purchased at Ten Thousand Villages) for the past few years. Each day, there's a note inside the pocket. Three years ago, Zoe was convinced that it was God writing the notes. So sometimes they said, "Be nice to your parents today." or "Don't pick your nose anymore." 2 years ago, she thought it was Santa. Some mornings Santa would forget to put a note there, and he'd magically make one appear in the afternoon or even during supper. Last year, Zoe was convinced that she recognized our handwriting.
I like to be intentional about infusing this month with good things - something little each day - thoughts, prayers, activities that focus on the spirit of giving and what matters. It's easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season and not leave time for reflection or quiet or real meaning. For me, this time of year is all about family traditions - making memories together.
It's also about noticing small miracles and glimpses of God (are you seeing them too?). In her sermon on Sunday, my friend talked about trying to resist the urge to fill up her Advent calendar with lots of activities that will fill up time and space, leaving no room for surprises or God. I'd like to have both - meaningful activity and restful space to imagine, breathe, and take in the joy of the season.
If you're wanting to craft your own calendar this year, here are some ideas to draw from:
* Be a secret Santa or angel to someone today. Do a kind deed.
* Surprise a friend with a "just thinking of you" phone call.
* Make and drink homemade Bailey's.
* Listen to the Elvis Christmas album.
* Sing your favourite Christmas carol.
* Go for a walk with a loved one.
* Look at the lights around town.
* Write yourself a letter about what this year has meant to you.
* Read your favourite Christmas story.
* Pray for situations that seem hopeless.
* Tell of a time when you felt love.
* Talk about glimpses of God.
* Tell others at your supper table what they do to bring you joy.
* Light a candle. Pray a prayer of hope.
* Make a decoration for the Christmas tree.
* Write a Christmas card to someone far away.
* Host strangers.
* Go carolling.
* Make a Christmas show for friends or family.
* Bake some Christmas treats.
* Wrap a gift to donate to a children's hospital or agency that collects toys.
* Camp out in the basement.
* Write about your wishes for the world.
* Watch a favourite Christmas movie.
* Choose some favourite foods to give to the food bank.
* Clean and decorate your bedroom.
* Be impregnated by God's spirit (that was Derek's idea).