Count It Down With Memories…

As December approaches I go into full Christmas Junkie mode. I started watching Christmas movies last week, I started listening to Christmas music in October, I’m writing this in my pjs which involves a puny Christmas t-shirt and I will probably decorate my house this weekend.  I love Christmas! It is my absolute favourite time of year. We didn’t have much growing up and we didn’t spend Christmas day at big extended family gatherings. It was just my Mum, my Pa, my sisters and I. We did things like lay under the Christmas tree and look at all the lights through the branches, waited until it got dark and went in search of all the Christmas lights in our local area, had a photo with Santa (yes until most of us were adults), baked Christmas themed goodies and watched Christmas Movies in our pjs. I know Christmas evokes a lot of anxiety for people but it’s not all the pressure filled ‘must haves’ for me. Christmas to me is all the little traditions, the fun silliness and time spent together; that is what makes it special. With this in mind and the fact that my little sister is unable to eat the sugar and additive filled treats you find in store bought advent calendars, I started making our own family advent calendar to count us down from December 1st. An advent calendar not filled with meaningless sugary treats but with memories, creativity and traditions. So, I thought I’d give you some ideas to inspire your own family countdown.

To start with it’s pretty easy, what you decide to include in your activities can be as simple or as complex  as you like. Start out with 24 envelopes or fun containers or anything you want really that will hold a little piece of paper with the day’s activity on it. I have done different things to decorate them- one year all the numbers were stamped on, another year I used stickers. I do a version for my office too and have covered mini pretzel tins in Christmas paper to hide things in. I enjoy doing the process of creating but honestly if you’re time or cash poor you could just write the numbers on with a marker. You could also purchase one of those wooden calendars with little drawers- I have made a Kaiser craft one in the past but I know you can buy them from places like Spotlight and Kmart ready to go. Once I have decided on each daily activity, I type it out, print them off and cut them up to be placed in the envelopes- but again you can hand write it, you do you. (A helpful hint is I print 2 copies and keep one with me so I can remember what we’re doing in a few days time). Some years I also found some corny Christmas jokes on the internet to include in the envelope or added some Christmas themed scriptures to tell the story of the first Christmas. You could type out any Christmas story and reveal a little each day. What you pop in your envelope is really up to you. Then I decorate a cute Christmasy box to house the envelopes for the month but again you could use anything you have around the house or buy a box from a $2 shop.

Coming up with the activities is the fun part! I always have a mixture of crafts, Christmas themed family activities or outings (many of which were things we would have done anyway in the lead up to Christmas but they are so much more fun when they’re part of a daily surprise). I also make sure there are days where we just aren’t ‘getting’ but trying to teach about the spirit of giving too. We don’t do exactly the same thing every year- putting up the Christmas tree we do, Christmas baking we do, but crafts are new each year so I thought I’d make a couple of lists and you can mix and match to your hearts content. Or find your own things to add- go Pinterest crazy. I would usually do a craft activity on a weekend because that means we have time to sit and enjoy doing it together. On weekdays, after school, I would choose more low key activities like reading Christmas books or a Christmas themed afternoon snack after school.

Family Activities:
1. Decorate the Christmas Tree
2. Write a letter to Santa
3. Christmas movie night (throw in pizza and popcorn if you like)
4. Visit the Myer Windows
5. Visit Santa/Have a photo with Santa
6. Christmas Breakfast (snowmen themed pancakes anyone?)
7. Attend a carols service/concert
8. Christmas lights drive/scavenger hunt
9. Christmas baking
10. Christmas themed games (Christmas Charades, Hum that Tune)
11. Christmas afternoon tea (Christmas themed cups and plates, chai tea, baked goodies, hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane)
12. Build a gingerbread house  (I bought a premade one from Aldi, you just had to stick it together and decorate)
13. Reading Christmas books under the tree
14. You could also add in your annual events ‘Christmas with the cousins’ or ‘Kinder Christmas concert’- Kids really don’t need to get something every day, the gift is in finding the joy and gift in doing rather than receiving. But give them a fun t-shirt or Santa hat to wear to the party if you feel like that’s ripping them off.
15. Christmas dance party

Christmas Crafts:
1. Sock snowmen
2. DIY baubles
3. Snowmen tealight jars
4. Cinnamon tree decorations
5. DIY Christmas t-shirts (with glitter and puffy paints)
6. Terracotta pot snowmen
7. Button wreath
8. Fabric wreath
9. DIY Christmas cards
10. Button Christmas tree
11. DIY Snow globes
12. DIY wrapping paper
13. Pre-purchased craft activities (Kmart/Target)

Spirit of Giving:
1. Give away something (a good way to help cull some toys before getting new ones)
2. A random act of kindness (write a note to a neighbour or teacher, help a friend at school, offer to do your sisters dishes duty etc.)
3. ‘Jo Day’- everyone in the family got a day that was their’s and everyone else in the family had to do nice things for them. That could be to draw them a picture, make mum a cup of tea, let your brother choose the TV show after school etc. Depending on how many in your family this is several different days.

Sometimes I also purchased some small gifts like Christmas scented body wash, a Christmas toy, a Christmas colouring book or Christmas themed stationary to add in if I was time poor or if that particular day was going to be too flat out with other things to fit in another activity.

So depending on your budget, your lifestyle and your family you can turn anything into your family advent calendar. Have fun with it and create memories for your kids that will have them loving Christmas long after the thrill of a tiny little chocolate is gone.

I’ve also done versions of this in my office at work. I’ll pop up another post about how to make your office more festive soon.

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