25 notes for Advent calendar

by Whitney on November 30, 2010

For my fellow last-minute Advent calendar stuffers, I offer our annual tradition of centering each day around a seasonal activity. While I may drop the ball of promises made on ordinary days, the calendar keeps me at my mothering best during the month of December. Once it is written, I will follow through.

The activities range from sharing a hot drink to crafts and outings, and I choose the day’s note based on our schedule and mood. I turn all of the things we were going to do anyway into notes–baking cookies, annual festivals, decorating . . . no biggies. For some reason, though, calendar sanctioned activities excite the children more than when I pull the ropes. Even the smallest moment will carry us throughout the day with greater cheer. The effect is so great that this summer we began a new tradition of Advent in July. Seriously, folks, it’s that powerful.

Here’s our list:

  1. Make a gift for someone.
  2. Make a new decoration for the tree.
  3. Have hot cocoa with friends.
  4. Buy a gift for someone.
  5. Visit the bookstore and find a new Christmas book.
  6. Snuggle up with a stack of Christmas stories.
  7. Watch a Christmas movie and sip cider.
  8. Make granola.
  9. Bake a pie.
  10. Make gingerbread men.
  11. Bake cookies.
  12. Go caroling.
  13. Bundle up and walk to the Christmas festival.
  14. Read the story of Christmas.
  15. Gather round the table for family coloring time.
  16. Make Christmas cards.
  17. Build a snowman!
  18. Host a marshmallow roasting party.
  19. Build a gingerbread house.
  20. Write your own Christmas story.
  21. Find mistletoe.
  22. Attend a Christmas play/ballet.
  23. Choose a Christmas tree!
  24. Have a fancy holiday dinner.
  25. Turn on the Christmas music and tour the lights.
  26. *Join friends for a Christmas book exchange.
  27. Choose a family from the angel tree.
  28. Write your own Christmas song.
  29. Make homemade marshmallows for gifts.

*Sometimes activities merge, or we do something on the list without a note, so I have a few alternates ready.

It’s not too late to start your own tradition! We began a few years ago, so now I’ve got a good go-to list, but I still find myself forgetting to write the note and sneaking it in the calendar midday. I fill each day as it comes. If you don’t have a calendar; write the notes on a brown paper bag and tape them on a door panel or down the side of a window. It will look charming and modern.

I love the way this practice focuses us all on each other and the spirit of the season. How do you stay focused on togetherness through the holiday rush?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

renee @ FIMBY December 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm

How clever. to write out activities you would do anyway. I’ve always avoided idea advent calendars because I don’t like external pressures but this might work.. next year. But by that time my youngest will be 9 and some of this may lose it’s magic, though I hope not : )


Whitney December 5, 2010 at 12:37 am

We started this when my oldest was three, so it only made sense to do it that way. I would burn out by day four if every note called for leaps beyond the ordinary. Most activities really are the simplest everyday things, but the note elevates their importance. Last year, one day’s note read to sing carols. We do that every day, but by stepping up the routine just a bit (we bundled up, snuggled on the porch swing, and had a carolthon) it became an event. My experience is limited to the preschool set, though. I do think that you’ll have to work with a different kind of magic at some point. You’ve got plenty of that, from what I’ve seen at FIMBY.

Thank you so much for stopping by.


Dakota Gal December 7, 2010 at 11:27 am

I love this idea. I’m keeping a list of future Advent calendar ideas that don’t involve lots of gifts or candy … things we seem to have too much of anyway. This year we are doing a book-a-day thing. I’ve got slips of paper with the titles of all our Christmas books on them in our calendar, and each day we bring out a new one and read it. But we only have 12 Christmas books, so I’m going to have to supplement with some from the library!


Whitney December 8, 2010 at 12:18 am

I love the book-a-day countdown! Maybe you could write your own for the final day, if not more?


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