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Celebrating the Season, One Act at a Time

A family’s new Christmas traditions include more giving than receiving.

My children are the perfect advertising targets because they are old enough to be highly influenced by toy commercials, yet too young to understand the concept of money. The year that pillow pets was all the rage, my 4-year-old walked around the house singing, “It’s a pillow/ It’s a pet/ It’s a pillow pet!” and then would remind me, “And, it’s also washable!”

I know my kids are no different than other kids, and I shouldn’t be concerned about greed, even when they hand me the Target toy catalog with every toy circled…with notes. I remember doing the same with the giant Sears catalog that was delivered to our house, if memory serves me, that catalog was twice as big.

However, I felt as the Christmas season was gearing up that maybe there was a way to still revel in the holiday cheer and family traditions, as well as teach my children that this is the season of giving, not just receiving. A scrapbooky-type homemade advent calendar that I found on Pinterest gave me the inspiration to start a new tradition in our family. Instead of advent calendars with chocolate candy this year, our calendar has Christmas activities for the family to do together.

While our daily activities include “Write a letter to Santa” and “Take a nighttime drive through the neighborhood to see Christmas lights,”  I’ve also added some acts of kindness like, “Pick out five old toys and books to donate,”  “Buy gifts for the Angel Tree,” and “Donate money to the Salvation Army.”

There’s a little bit of resistance—what 4- and 6-year-olds voluntarily want to give away toys or piggy bank money? I’m hoping this activity advent calendar is a tradition we can stick with, and add more acts of kindness every year until we have 24 days of good deeds. Now, that’s something that would get me in the Christmas spirit.

Here’s what I have on this year’s advent calendar. I’d love any suggestions for more acts of kindness we can add to next year’s calendar.

1. Make care packages for deployed soldiers
2. Write a letter to Santa
3. Make a donate to The Salvation Army outside the grocery store
4. Watch “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
5. Decorate the tree and listen to Christmas music
6. Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows and candy canes
7. Pick out 5 old toys to donate
8. Collect old coats, sweaters, and PJs to donate
9. Go shopping for Angel Tree gifts
10. Go to community holiday party
11. Decorate gingerbread cookies
12. Read “Christmas Mouse” together
13. Make gift baskets for coworkers and neighbors
14. Make a donation to Toys for Tots
15. Write a letter to a friend or relative
16. Watch “Elf”
17. Go shopping for a present for your sister
18. Watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
19. Make a card/get a gift for the mailman
20. Watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
21. Read “The Polar Express”
22. Bring gifts to school for teachers
23. Drive around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights
24. Read “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Jennifer Eichner McNerney December 13, 2011 at 12:21 PM
One thing we did last year and plan to do again: decorate a tree outside the houses (for the birds). We make ornamanets out of bird seed, pinecones, etc and decorate a small tree (a shrub would work to). The birds love it, and it keeps the kids busy for awhile ;) My daughter LOVED the idea of remembering the animals on Christmas. I also encouraged my older daughter (4.5) to write a letter to Santa for her brother (instead of herself). I think it made her a little more aware of what he, almost 2, might want/desire and take the focus off of the "ME, ME, ME-ness" that can occur.

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