Friday Advent Adventures: The Advent calendar

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Welcome to Friday Advent Adventures! For the next three Fridays, we’re going to break open a topic and compare notes from our experiences in reclaiming Advent. (The fourth Friday is Christmas Eve, and even I’m not bigheaded enough to think you all want to talk Advent with me on Christmas Eve.)

This week, let’s talk…Advent calendars!

As I’ve been talking with people the last few weeks, I’ve sensed a theme: most everyone agrees without hestitation that using the Jesse Tree and Advent wreath at night, and the manger throughout the day, will help to bring the Advent season into focus. But the calendar? An activity every day? People’s resistance rattles the air between us–and I understand it. I do. How can you possibly add any more to the to-do list in this busy season?

The thing is, the to-do list is going to be stressful no matter how you approach it. Planning out the parts of the list that you want to share as a family (and I use the term to include married couples without children, either before children or empty nesters, or whose children are too small to participate) really does ease the stress. It breaks down an overwhelming list into manageable chunks.

Planning is key. You have to start by putting in the big suckers–the ones that are going to drain you most. For me, that is cookie baking. It all has to be done early, because we have our studio recital for our piano, flute and voice students next weekend, and I provide the treats. So the c0okies have to be ready ahead of that. So when I start planning, I start by figuring out which two days I can set aside for that job. Once the biggies are in place–and spread out appropriately–then I start filling in with littler things. It takes some moving things around to get everything in place, but I’ve found that it’s well worth the effort. Because once the “have to” or “need to” tasks are organized, I’ve found that we have room to do things we wouldn’t commit to without knowing when everything else is going to get done.

Of course, it’s still going to be busy, and a lot to do. December 1st was the day we shopped for gifts for a person in need for our parish Giving Tree, and that day was beyond busy, between a radio interview, four lessons, and choir practice. But one of the gifts had to be ready to turn in on the 2nd, so what’s the alternative? I go shopping by myself and wrap gifts while little ones are napping? How does that teach my children anything? It’s the experience of helping someone in need that tunes my kids in to the suffering in the world, and teaches them that we have a responsibility to address it in some small way.

Here are a few of the many options for Advent calendars:

Wooden Advent calendars

I’ve seen these at Target and Hobby Lobby this season, and the offerings online have exploded since we bought ours three years ago.

Homemade alternatives:

Part Two:

Here’s your chance to share! Tell us about your Week One. What worked this week? What challenges did you face? What activities did your family share? Are the kids excited? Talk to us! Let’s help each other reclaim Advent!

Some scenes from our first week of Advent (coming later this a.m., but I have to get my kids off to school first, and I wanted to get the post up first thing!

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6 thoughts on “Friday Advent Adventures: The Advent calendar

  1. Am I first? (I get to the office early.) 🙂 Our first week has gone wonderfully! I was skeptical that we’d be able to use our paper Advent calendar (from Hallmark) without fights over whose turn it was to open the window — but there have been no fights! And the one we got has a little prayer inside for each day. I love that! I wasn’t ambitious enough to come up with an activity for each day so that’s why I bought the paper calendar, but it, along with our “Elf on the Shelf” and our candle, which I wrapped in a strip of purple construction paper (Fancy!), lit at dinnertime, have been great ways to get us thinking about Advent.

    I’m unreasonably proud of myself, as you can see. 😉

    • Love the ideas! We have to have a negotiation every day about whose turn it is to 1) open the calendar, 2) hang the ornament…luckily, we don’t have anyone big enough to handle matches yet, so that’s one less bone of contention.

      Thanks for sharing! I’m very curious about that elf on a shelf…got a picture online somewhere you could link us to? Flickr?

  2. Kelley

    Well I’d say the kids are loving the Advent things…and so am I. We especially like the dinner time ritual with the Jesse Tree and readings. Really helps to focus the little ones on the reason for the season!

    I do think it would be easier to do the calendar activities if all my kids were at home. Having a school-ager just means we have to do everything in the evening, which are already busy. But still they love it!

    • I had to think more carefully this year for the same reason. It would have been much easier to do the cookies this morning and just roll them out after Alex gets home, but eh bien. I think this is true for all family activities from this point on out. 🙂

  3. Got a note from my friend Erin with this & wanted to share:

    “we are enjoying our Advent Calendar this year. Definitely much more exciting than the girls fighting over who gets to open the door on our paper calendar every day! We’ve tried doing the Giving Tree, we went to mass on Wednesday evening, and today the girls and I made a visit to church and lit some candles for our own special intentions. (I was surprised I didn’t even get grumbles when they heard the word “church” two days in a row.) We have a couple of fun days coming up, so they’ll be rewarded. Anyway, we like it….

    “Last night we were supposed to decorate the tree, but we actually just went to get the tree and tonight we decorated it (in lieu of the dinner plans we’d made to invite our priest over for dinner, since he wasn’t available tonight.) One comment I really appreciated in your book was how it is sometimes necessary to change your plans (or something along those lines). That simple (tho obvious) fact makes me feel less guilty when I already have to change plans that I made just a week ago.”

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