I have always had a fascination with advent calendars. My mom used to get the ones from Trader Joe’s where you get a piece of chocolate for each day as we counted down to Christmas. I just loved the process and the concept. I’m really big on making lists just so I can cross things off when I finish them. It’s so satisfying. So it’s no wonder advent calendars are right up my alley.
When I grew up and had kids of my own, I wanted to take the advent calendar to another level. I scored a Disney one on a clearance sale years ago and it has quickly become my very favorite part of Christmas. Each day of the calendar is a little box, just big enough for a snack-size candy bar, and I take pride in filling each box with something special and meaningful for all 25 days. We can get so bogged down with the hustle and bustle of the holidays – the traffic, the shopping, the parties, the wrapping, the stocking stuffing, the cooking. It’s overwhelming. We’re so busy preparing for the big day that we lose the meaning of the day itself and the beauty in the days leading up to it. Our advent calendar has become my way of connecting with my children, with the spirit of the season, and bringing our family together to remember what really matters.
Every morning, they wake up and run to the mantle to grab the calendar and slide open the box of the day. Sometimes it’s just a piece of candy, but most of the time, it’s a folded up Post-It with an activity inside. It may be something simple like “make hot cocoa with marshmallows” or “watch a Christmas movie.” Other times, it’s the bigger events, like our annual Sea World Christmas Celebration trip or going out to buy our Christmas tree. As the littlest one has gotten bigger, I’ve added in activities with a heavier meaning, like volunteering somewhere or taking a trip to the store to purchase goods for donations. Funnily enough, it’s the candy the kids are disappointed to see, not the Post-Its.
Because the Post-Its have purpose and meaning. They are something we will do together. They are memories in the making. We start the day with the calendar so the kids have something to look forward to and to give us parents the motivation needed to do whatever we said we would – or at least try. We once attempted a gingerbread house and it came out horrific, but there was so much giggling and so much warmth in the house that it didn’t even matter. We may have to stay up a little later to finish off the laundry because we sat and watched Elf in our pajamas with the kids instead of doing our grown-up “chores,” but so be it. The kids won’t remember that their clothes weren’t folded within an hour of drying. They’re going to remember the snuggles on the couch and mom’s Elf pajama onesie that they find funnier than the movie.
I spend a good week prepping the calendar before December 1st hits and it fills my heart with joy and excitement at all the things my family will do in the upcoming month. It’s not always easy to find Post-It ideas, but that’s part of what makes it so special. It forces you to find what’s important and to put aside the daily grind to just be with your kids. Sometimes getting that Post-It task done just isn’t possible, and, I’ll admit, I have failed to come through more times than I’d like, but the kids do not let you forget. That Post-It saying mommy would make snowman sugar cookies will be stuck to the fridge as a daily reminder of the promise I made to them, and even if it’s a day or two late, I will fulfill it.
This holiday season, I hope you are able to find a moment to enjoy the moment. Breathe it in and let it fill you, not drain you. Make the cookies from scratch. Let the kids have the Grinch pancakes at IHOP for dinner. Let the dishes go unwashed to lay around watching Home Alone with the family. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. The advent calendar is a genuine project that takes planning and organization and just a lot of effort, but of all the things we put our energy into for Christmas, it’s the one that brings me endless joy in return.
From my family to yours, happy holidays!