Friday Advent Adventures: The Advent calendar

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!