Every November I tell myself that this will be the year of the Advent calendar. Suddenly, it’s December, and I’m left wondering where the last month has gone.
It’s always like that, isn’t it?
This year is no different – what with me being six months pregnant and a very curious 16-month-old keeping me busier than ever. Today is the first Advent Sunday, and I am wondering what happened to November.
We may still do a shortened version of an Advent calendar – maybe 12 days instead of 25, as it feels much more manageable.
You’ve probably seen Advent calendars floating around social media. They are used to count down the days in anticipation of Christmas, starting on December 1. While the idea originated from German Lutherans, today it’s used by many Christian denominations to focus on the true reason for the season.
Many people choose a more light-hearted approach to Advent calendars, filling them with little gifts, chocolate treats or sweet sayings for their loved ones to open every day. While those ideas are lovely, I was hoping for something with a little more meaning behind it – specifically, something that would help shift the holiday focus from consumerism and the typical hustle and bustle of the season to that which truly matters: Jesus and family.
Of course, because M is still so little, she likely won’t understand the deeper meaning of it all. But any opportunity for us all to spend time together – especially helping spread Christmas cheer to others – is beneficial.
Another idea I’ve considered: Instead of doing a gifts-only or an activities-only Advent calendar, why not combine the two? Odd-numbered days can be for small, Christmas-related gifts, and even-numbered days for acts of kindness and family activities. This way we’re not over-exhorting ourselves, our time and energy – the very hustle and bustle we’re hoping to avoid in the first place.
So today, to help inspire myself (and hopefully you), I’ve put together a list of last-minute Advent ideas that focus on acts of kindness and family activities.
Even if an Advent calendar isn’t your cup of tea, this list can serve as a Christmas bucket list. Enjoy!
General Family Activities:
- Bake and decorate Christmas cookies together.
- Hand-address your Christmas cards and hand-deliver the local ones.
- DIY a special ornament for the Christmas tree.
- Cut out paper snowflakes.
- Make hot chocolate.
- DIY paper chains.
- Read about the birth of Jesus.
- Decorate your Christmas tree.
- Take a winter nature walk as a family and collect pinecones.
- Make Christmas garlands out of popcorn.
- Find and attend local Christmas lights shows.
- Go ice-skating.
- Make snow ice-cream.
- De-clutter a particular spot in the house – toys, clothes, etc. – and donate them.
- Make Christmas crafts.
- Watch a Christmas movie.
- Take a family photo in front of the Christmas tree.
- Have a snowball fight.
- Go sledding.
- Make a Christmas garland out of dried, sliced oranges and cranberries.
- Decorate sweaters for an ugly sweater competition.
- Build a snowman.
- Find and attend a local Christmas show, like ballet, a play, a concert, choir performance, etc.
- Have a dance party to Christmas music.
- Host a picnic in front of the Christmas tree.
Acts of Kindness:
- Collect food and donate to the local food bank.
- Make and leave Christmas cards and small gifts for those who serve your community (trash collectors, mail carriers, delivery men and women, the bagger at the grocery store, etc.)
- Donate clothes, coats and blankets to a local homeless shelter.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
- Bake and hand-deliver cookies to your neighbors.
- Stuff socks with supplies and give to the homeless.
- Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru line.
- Go caroling at the nursing home.
- Make baby baskets for the NICU.
- Bring lunch to a new mom.
- Donate blood.
- Prepare a meal for someone who is sick.
- Let someone go in front of you in line.
- Take Christmas treats to the fire or police station.
- Offer to babysit a friend’s little ones one evening.
- Check in on an elderly neighbor or someone who attends your church.
- Invite a new family for dinner.
- Tape change to a parking meter.
- Leave kindness stones at the local park or playground.
- Write thank you notes and mail them to the houses with great Christmas lights.
- Send a care package to someone in the military.
- Clean up the local park or playground by picking up litter.
- Put together a shoebox or two for your local church.
- Help your littles make Christmas cards for their teachers or nannies or grandparents.
- Leave a Christmas note for someone to find.