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The Advent Calendar Revisited: Bringing Goodwill Back into Focus

We are by no means a devoutly religious household, but my kids love the season of Advent. The 24 days or four Sundays leading up to the celebration of Christmas Day, or the birth of Christ, bring a special kind of palpable joy to our household. My kids specifically look forward to the ritual of the Advent calendar. Though I tell myself that their interests are purely religiously motivated (har har), I know their fervor is most likely related to the countdown to Christmas itself (read: presents), and the sweet daily indulgence of that tenth of an ounce of chocolate.

Advent Calendar 3

Though I feel that this chocolate-driven reverence is completely normal and age-appropriate, I know there must be a way to capitalize on their love for Advent and demonstrate the true meaning of the holiday season- which is, to me, a time of giving, gratitude, and goodwill.  

All year, leading up to another holiday season, I have searched for a way to bring more meaning to our Advent traditions, but I came up empty.

Then, just a few weeks ago, the idea of a “pay-it-forward” Advent calendar miraculously appeared in my Facebook feed.

It was like someone had read my mind! I loved the idea and used that as a jumping off point to create my very own Advent calendar for the kids this year. My calendar is comprised of individualized pieces of paper with good deeds for each child throughout the 24 days of Advent.

Advent Calendar 2

Each good deed embodies the giving, kind and pay-it-forward nature of this blessed time of year.

For example, one of my daughter’s notes says, “Compliment three people today” while another of my son’s reads, “Do one of your sister’s chores today.” I also included some joint activities such as, “Choose an extra chore and donate the money you earn to your favorite charity.”  We even incorporated some family bonding time, with a few scattered family good deeds, such as one note that reads, “As a family, we will help with distribution at the Food Shelf this morning.”

I thought it would be challenging to come up with almost 50 good deeds (24 each for my two older children- I did not do this for my 3rd child, who is only 2), but surprisingly, I found it quite easy once I got started. Some actions are very specific and to the point, while others allow for some creativity and personalization.

My hope is that these good deeds will not only be positive contributions in the community but also promote self-esteem and provide great conversation starters for our family.

Logistically, this project is easy, so Pinterest-level perfection isn’t expected. I bought a felt Advent calendar with little pockets (though you could certainly fashion something craftier if so moved) and cut up 48 small rectangles of paper. I wrote each daily good deed on the slips of paper, folded them and slipped them into the respective felt pockets, labeling each one with a first letter of the intended individual’s name.

Advent Calendar 1

This custom-made method provided a lot of flexibility because I based each day’s deed on each individual’s schedule, to avoid overloading on any day. It also allowed me to schedule fixed events like the Food Shelf distribution. The calendar hangs in the living room and the kids retrieve their paper each morning before breakfast, that way we can talk about it during breakfast and hopefully again at the evening meal when they can reflect how they accomplished their daily good deeds.

I can’t speak to the efficacy of this Advent Calendar Revisited, as it has not yet been rolled out, but I am optimistic. It’s new and could certainly be met with opposition and undoubtedly some tweenage eye-rolling, but it’s worth a shot.

Like many in our current socio-political climate, I am striving to teach my children about unity and doing what’s right, and Advent lends itself well to this crucial lesson.

That being said, I admit that I still bought the traditional chocolate filled calendars to avoid total mutiny. I mean, seriously, I’m not a monster.

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