Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Advent Activity Calendar

There are a slew of important decorations that make the Christmas season special. The Christmas tree is central to our celebration and we like a lot of lights. A few years ago, we discovered our advent calendar was sort of an unsung hero of the holiday.

One of those felt jobbers that hangs via a ribbon on a dowel rod, Julia would get up every morning and move a wooden candy cane into a new pocket to indicate we were one day closer to Christmas. She did this from a very young age, every morning from December 1st on.

Then I lost the advent calendar.

It had always been my dream to have our Christmas decorations organized in red and green Rubbermaid totes. Each year as I dealt with a leaning tower of broken down cardboard boxes, I'd lust after an organized system. A few years ago, I treated myself to over a dozen of those special totes. I organized and labeled. I stacked and appreciated my newly organized basement.

The next Christmas, the very special advent calendar was gone.

Clearly, I must have thrown it away with the broken down cardboard boxes. I do that from time to time. I throw things away that should have been kept. A receipt or packaging for something that needs to be returned. A special piece of artwork.

If anything disappears or is misplaced, I am blamed.

So the advent calendar was gone and with it this very magical piece of our run up to Christmas. We looked for a replacement and though you can easily find almost identical felt pocket style wall calendars at this very moment, there were none to be found. We searched several stores and finally purchased this rather garish wooden wreath with little drawers for each day.

"What are we going to put in the little drawers?" I wondered as we lugged the contraption to our car.

"Presents?" suggested Julia.

"Candy?" inquired Tim.

"Yeah, I think we're past all that," I said. "What if we all put things we want to do, Christmassy things, in each drawer and then we'll do something to celebrate every night of advent?"

This idea was accepted. That first year, we worked together to write a dozen activities: watch The Grinch, drink hot chocolate, light the gas fireplace, drive around to look at Christmas lights. Then we each wrote four surprise activities and hid them in the drawers.

It was a huge success. Each morning, Julia opened the drawer to reveal our special activity. We made a family Christmas card with scissors and paper and glue, we went to a drive-through light display, we put together a gingerbread house. These things were sacred advent activities. Everyone had to participate, even the Dad that usually skips craft time.

Our new thing has helped keep Christmas fresh and exciting now that some of the little kid entertainments have passed. We talk about it in the months before Christmas, "ooh, that should be an advent activity!" and add things to the core list. Some things need to happen on a certain day and the schedule is a bit flexible to accommodate outdoor events that require good weather. But the advent activities have to happen and we all look forward to having a little Christmas every evening.


  1. Decorate the dollhouse for Christmas
  2. Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland
  3. Model Railroad Holiday Display
  4. Assemble a gingerbread creation
  5. Make and drink hot chocolate
  6. Play Christmas Head's Up
  7. Go to the theater to see The Man Who Invented Christmas
  8. Read Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  9. Take a family photo in front of the tree
  10. Drive around to look at local Christmas lights
  11. Bake cookies
  12. Light the fireplace
  13. Dessert for dinner
  14. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas
  15. Phipp's Conservatory Winter Flower Show and Light Garden: Holiday Magic!
  16. Have an indoor snowball battle 
  17. Bundle up and go out to look at the stars
  18. Visit Santa when he comes by on the firetruck
  19. Make homemade cards
  20. Overly's Country Christmas
  21. Christmas carol dance party
  22. Make a Christmas video
  23. Watch a Christmas movie
  24. Christmas Eve Party at Nana's House / Read The Night Before Christmas
That's our list of must-do activities. What will you do this holiday season?