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Where did the advent calendar come from?

The advent calendar has been around for two hundred years, as a way to count down until Christmas and celebrate the days of the season leading up to it. It originated in Germany with the Lutheran church and bible verses or prayers were often written behind the little cardboard doors. 

The advent calendar today

These days, advent calendars have become a part of secular Christmas celebrations. They are often made of paper, with flaps covering “doors”, or from fabric, with pockets on a background, or constructed from wood with doors or cubbies. The pockets usually contain chocolate or a toy.

Homemade advent calendarWhen I was a child, we had a felt advent “tree” with a hanging calendar beneath it. Every day we would take the character from the calendar and put it on the tree, counting down the days until Christmas. After being used with three rambunctious children for my entire childhood, it’s a bit worse for wear (see photo) and we’ve lost many of the pieces. It certainly reminds me of years of holiday celebrations with my family.

Now that I have young children myself, I am trying to figure out how to model the spirit of the season of giving and sharing. Last year we had the typical chocolate advent calendar. With a newborn and a two-year-old, I didn’t even think anything about it. This year, our oldest is far more impressionable and the experiences we provide her with could last a lifetime. So, is there a chance to provide her with a more meaningful experience than cheap chocolate and a piece of cardboard that will end up in the recycling box? An incredible idea came across my inbox the other day and it seems worth sharing.

Introducing the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar

The acts of kindness advent calendar came from the CBC parenting blog, but these ideas can be used for all ages, whether at home, in a classroom, or at work. You could even make one for yourself. These daily advents can be typed up or written out; used in conjunction with an advent calendar or on their own. Here are 24 of my favourite ideas, many inspired by the CBC blog. My background as a nutrition educator might be apparent from the many food-related ways to express kindness:

  1. While grocery shopping, pick a few items to donate to the food bank.
  2. Make homemade eggnog and share it with a friend or neighbour.
  3. Clean up someone else’s mess — just because.
  4. Leave a happy note in a library book.
  5. Hold the door open for someone.
  6. Make soup together with someone you care about.
  7. Go through your things and pick something to donate to someone in need.
  8. Read a book to someone.
  9. Offer to help your parent/spouse/friend cook dinner.
  10. Draw a picture and send it to a grandparent/someone of a different generation.
  11. Pick up garbage on the playground/outside your workplace etc.
  12. Call a family member or friend to chat.
  13. Leave a little homemade gift in the mailbox for your mail carrier.
  14. Sit with someone who is alone at lunch.
  15. Do something extra for a family member or friend without being asked.
  16. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  17. Give someone a really good hug.
  18. Tell someone how much you love them.
  19. Make a holiday-themed snack and share with co-workers or friends.
  20. Make a card for someone.
  21. Thank someone at school or work for doing a great job.
  22. Prepare a snack and invite someone in need to share it with you.
  23. Tell someone a joke to make them laugh.
  24. Ask someone how they’re doing and truly listen to their answer.

Can the kindness calendar be used if I don’t celebrate Christmas?

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, or any other seasonal event, why not swap out a little of the store bought sweets and toys for something that could have a more lasting effect?

We want to hear from you! What are some of your traditions and ways you focus on the giving and sharing of the season?



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