The Christmas season is just around the corner. For our family, that means celebrating Advent.
The Advent season for us has morphed in meaning through the years.
When our girls were little, a friend stationed in Germany made them a large advent calendar and filled it with German chocolates. Oh, they loved that! The next year, I refilled it with candies and small toys. As the girls grew, we decided they didn’t need the candy or toys, so we turned it into a giving calendar to support the real meaning behind Advent. Each day, they found a scripture with an act of service assignment. It was so much more fulfilling than scarfing down cheap chocolate every day.
Encourage an attitude of gratitude leading up to Christmas.
A great way to encourage an attitude of gratitude during the holiday season is to have a gratitude jar. Each day of December, every family member writes down something he/she is grateful for and puts it in the jar. You can either read them each evening at supper or read them all on New Year’s Eve.
One year we made a small manger out of construction paper and placed it under the Christmas tree. At the end of each day leading up to Christmas, we wrote an act of kindness or service we performed on a strip of yellow paper (representing straw). We never read them to each other. We simply placed them in the manger as a Christmas gift to Jesus, with hopes that 25 days of thinking of others would become habit, and not sharing to fulfill the prophesy that our “left hand wouldn’t know what our right hand was doing.”
No matter your religion or beliefs, creating 25 days of kindness or service in December will teach your children to think of others at a time when kids all too often think only of themselves and what they might receive on Christmas morning.
There are many ways to serve others.
Service doesn’t have to be big or cost a lot of money. Part of the lesson is forming thoughtfulness into a habit. Whether it’s smiling at a stranger or bringing soup to a sick friend, it’s passing on a blessing.
Giving can be about DOING.
Something as simple as placing your neighbor’s newspaper on their doorstep so they don’t have to walk through the snow to the end of the driveway serves as a beautiful gift.
One friend shared the idea of placing a non-perishable food item or toiletry item into a bag each day leading up to Christmas, then taking the container to a homeless shelter.
You can adapt the calendar to a seven-day project to fill a week of winter break, eight days of Hanukkah, twelve days for the 12 days of Christmas, or the traditional 25 days of Advent.
The following list includes 31 activities from which you can pick and choose. They are:
- Simple tasks that can be completed each day (some can be done as family projects).
- Free or don’t cost much money.
- Don’t require a lot of time or planning.
- Make thank you cards to send after Christmas.
- Make a tie blanket together as a family and deliver it to a shelter.
- Take hot coffee or hot chocolate to someone who works out in the cold, like a school crossing guard.
- Go through toys and donate ones no longer used.
- Shovel your neighbor’s driveway.
- Leave a small gift for your mail carrier and/or garbage collector.
- Purchase a gift for a giving tree.
- Make paper snowflakes and deliver them to a nursing home for decoration.
- If your kids are musically inclined, play music for the residents of a nursing home.
- Arrange a hot chocolate and cookies gift basket and leave it on someone’s front porch anonymously.
- Leave a kind note in a schoolmate’s backpack.
- Deliver baked goods to your neighbors.
- Donate outgrown winter coats, hats, and mittens and deliver them to a shelter.
- Make a bird feeder, fill it with seeds, and put it out for birds for the winter.
- Make a homemade gift for someone.
- Collect old towels and blankets and deliver them to an animal shelter.
- Write a thank you letter to your teacher.
- Deliver non-perishable food items to your local food pantry.
- Do someone else’s chores for them.
- Interview grandparents and find out how they celebrated Christmas as children.
- Go on a walk and pick up trash.
- Give five compliments.
- Sing carols for neighbors or for a shut in.
- Have each family member write down his/her favorite memory from the year and read it on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.
- Draw names for a gift exchange. Have kids use their own money to purchase a small gift.
- Make homemade gift tags.
- Donate used books to your neighborhood Little Library.
- Create a Christmas meal menu together and task each person to prepare something (if the kids are old enough).
- Write a letter to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
- Send a card or letter to a deployed service member.
- Donate games to a local children’s hospital.