After the apparent success of last night’s Advent Library post, I return tonight with another of our traditions. I have seen various versions of this around the internet, but here is ours.
Our advent calendar each year is one of those material ones with a little pocket every day to put something in.
Ours gets filled with a mini Green and Blacks chocolate bar each day. They come in packs of twelve, always seem to be on special offer in November, and are easy to divide up so each of us gets some chocolate every day, rather than having to fight over it. Alongside the chocolate bar gets slipped a little gold star.
These are each cut from gold card, an activity written on, and then laminated (I do love laminating!). I have a few spare, blank, unlaminated ones for any new activity that arises.
Around this time of year I get out my stars and try to organise our activities for advent. Now that my daughter’s at school some of them are pretty easy to slot in; Nativity play, Christmas jumper day, Christmas fair, etc. so those get put in first.
After that I include some of my favourite local Christmas events; visiting National Trust properties, my favourite meet Father Christmas, an amazing festive play, and the best Christmas lights. These get planned around weekends and days off work.
To help with my basic organisation and to try and stop myself from leaving everything to the last minute I always include some absolute essential tasks; buy the tree, decorate the tree, write the cards, post the cards, make the cake. I try to include some which are more aspirational, like make our own mincemeat and mincepies, make truffles (these often don’t actually get done). It helps to spread the jobs through the month, get the kids involved and make them seem like an event, rather than merely an effort.
I also make a special point of trying to do some good will activities. You may have heard of the Kindness Elves, a retaliation to the slightly more mercenary element of the American tradition of Elf on the Shelf. These Kindness Elves suggest random acts of kindness to perform every day of advent, but I just don’t have the energy to be THAT kind, so we try to have five or six tasks each year; give old toys and books to charity, do a shop for the local food bank, donate to a homeless shelter, put food out for the birds, choose an Oxfam Unwrapped gift, etc. I do try to make sure the children realise, even at their young ages, how lucky they are, and that they have the power to do something small to make somebody else’s life better. Just not for 24 days in a row, that sounds like hard work!
That’s one of the things I like about our stars. I make a point of throwing in some slam dunk stars, for those days when I can’t be arsed to get off the sofa, or when I’m working nights, or we’ve all got a cold, or it’s raining and miserable. Things like light a Christmas candle, sing a Christmas song, watch a Christmas movie, eat a mince pie, drink hot chocolate. Things that require no effort and are actually just nice to do. I always try to put these ones in on days I’m not around. I also always have some spare easy ones to swap around when I just can’t be arsed.
Because Christmas is meant to be fun. I haven’t quite managed to acquire my mothers sense of having to do everything and have everything perfect for everybody else. I want to do the things we enjoy, avoid the things that we don’. Spread out the work and the fun and the planning and the joy for the whole Advent period. I want to try and take the focus away from presents and make it more about family. I want it to be flexible and fit around life which can get pretty hectic, so unless there are tickets paid for there is always the choice to swap things around at the last minute.
So those are our Adent stars. This will be our third year of them and I’ll let you know how it goes. So far we have found that sometimes they work great, encouraging us to plan, to get out and about and have fun experiences together, to do some good deeds and feel good about ourselves and our fellow man. Other stars have been disasters and get thrown straight in the bin. Some days even a Christmas song feels far too much like hard work and the whole idea gets abandoned till the next day. Sometimes even a few days get forgotten all about (though mysteriously the chocolate always gets eaten). Overall though I have enjoyed doing it, and always keen to hear new suggestions of fun and easy Christmas activities.