By Elaine Munro, Director, Sustainable Operations
It’s that time of year... when the hustle bustle of holidays begins to gain momentum. You may begin to wonder what it’s all for? Why has it become so commercial? Did you really spot the first holiday items in stores back in September? Whatever tradition your family celebrates, we could all do with a breath of fresh air...some space to put “meaning” back into the season.
One tradition that involves a bit of planning to get started but takes on a life of its own is an “Advent Activities Calendar” (or “Holiday Countdown Calendar”). If you are crafty, you can create your own or there are quaint versions popping up. They can be used year-after-year to begin a new holiday tradition in your family.
The main theme of a “spirit” calendar is to celebrate gratitude and kindness during the holidays. Working together as a family or group of friends, you can create unique events that easily share the warmth and joy of the season.
Before we have fun with the activities planning, one small side note about the real “spirit of giving”. In western culture, we have witnessed an unfortunate trend in media coverage and fascination of celebrity, including celebrity philanthropy... “watch me being a caring person”. !
The true spirit of giving comes from the heart. It is the joy of anticipation and the inner satisfaction of lifting the spirit of another. The act of giving doesn’t require recognition. The greatest satisfaction can come from the “unseen helping hand”. It is a form of “deferred gratification” in giving which isn’t on the radar in modern culture.
DESIGNING YOUR ADVENT ACTIVITIES CALENDAR
Once you’ve created or found your choice in advent calendar design, it’s time to get the “secret elves” busy!
Organize a family time to plan and create your activities for the holiday season, from December the 1st to the 24th. Here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices going...
- String popcorn and cranberry garlands to celebrate the birds in your trees on Christmas Eve
- Edit unused clothing from parent/kids’ closets to donate to family shelters
- Read “The Velveteen Rabbit” as a family bedtime story and gather gently loved toys for a local charity (children may want to include a note about their toy for the new owner)
- Bake “gratitude cookies” for people who make a difference in your everyday life... crossing guard, bus driver, coffee shop staff, owner of local market, etc. and deliver them throughout December
- Roll out the recycled kraft paper and make your own wrapping paper with ink stamps
- Create “nature bows” from twigs, shells, berries, waxed leaves... tied up string and natural ribbon
- Bake a batch of “Reindeer Treats”... unsweetened cookies with grated carrot (to see better through the night of deliveries) and share a few with your favourite neighbourhood pooches
- Plan for a night of “Glee”... rehearse a few holiday songs and take your holiday elves to sing at a seniors home
- Decorate your patch of nature (home and outdoor landscape) with LED lights and natural garlands / boughs. You can add sparkle anywhere with battery-operated outdoor lights!
- Go shopping in your kitchen cupboards to find a few useful items for local food banks
- Delivery Day... time to take the gently used clothes and toys to their local destinations so that they can be used for the holiday season
- Write thank you notes to Santa and his elves to put in the mail on December 26th
- Thanks for the memories... find or make mini cards that can be placed in your Christmas tree highlighting favourite Christmas memories or what you are most grateful for in the year as it comes to an end
- Select dates for “Holiday Movie Nights” with each person picking their favourite holiday movie and their “treat” for the screening
- Snuggle walks... bundle up and explore your neighbourhood or one that is known for its sparkle and celebrate the season of lights. Maybe you’ll find a “Griswold” house!
- Book a visit or two to local craft and holiday markets
- Make a family “battery recycling” box. You can use it all year long and recycle used batteries at a local big box store
These ideas will hopefully spark the imagination of family members to create activities that are both fun and meaningful.
We’d love to hear your “Spirit of the Holidays” stories and maybe a photo or two. Submit your stories to
We wish you love, happiness and good health for the holidays and all the new year through!