Advent: celebration and anticipation and hot chocolate for breakfast

I got this advent calendar several years ago from Ten Thousand Villages.

I wanted to mark the days of advent without the excess of, say, the Star Wars Lego advent calendar. (Not all of my children agree, and in fact last year we had both this calendar and the Lego calendar, which is the most secular calendar you can hope to find: last year’s version had Santa in what looked to be a Speedo taking a shower. Not even kidding. This year’s, according to those in the know, ie. my ten-year-old, features some kind of car chase or bank robbery. Just the thing to get you into the seasonal spirit.) However, who am I to talk? The advent calendar pictured above has been, for the past couple of years, nothing more than a repository for a daily dose of candy. Something small and sweet. I didn’t have the energy to fill the little pockets with thoughtful activities, despite having greater intentions. I just didn’t. So, candy it was. And Speedo Lego Santa.

This year I discovered a new cache of energy and resolve. And I started early, BEFORE advent season (ie. last week). I think the energy comes from this new office, and from having every weekday morning to myself. Have I mentioned how lovely these quiet mornings are? Five mornings a week! Sometimes I write, but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I dream up advent calendar activities for my children. It feels decadent.

And it may be decadent; but then again, maybe not. This is a larger question for a very different blog. In any case, this year, with these quiet peaceful spacious mornings to myself, yes, those little pockets pictured above are filled with activities. One per day. I have extra ideas stashed. I didn’t want to overload my every day with a mandatory activity that I would be unable to pull off. So right now a few of those pockets have “hot chocolate for breakfast” as my fall-back option. That I can manage; if it turns out I can manage more, I’ll make a swap.

My activities spring from a larger theme of celebration and anticipation, and not so much (I’m afraid) from a theme of giving and community. Visit my friend Rebecca’s blog for more community-minded advent activities: she has some terrific ideas.

Here are mine:

– Hot chocolate for breakfast!
– Bring down Christmas books and CDs from the attic (Which we did today! Hurray!)
– Candy canes!
– Put up the Christmas tree!!!!
– Set up the creche
– Celebrate last swim lessons with ice cream
– Make snowflakes for front window
– Write Christmas letters to Santa
– Pizza and movie night (Christmas-themed movie)
– Write family Christmas letter to send
– Plan and make homemade gifts for each other
– Everyone wear green and red
– Look at old photo albums
– Christmas concert/singalong (at home)
– Make Christmas cookies + gifts for aunts, uncles, grandparents
– Deliver Christmas treats to friends and neighbours
– Pick up Christmas turkey and plan menu for special Christmas meals: everyone choose a favourite food!
– Christmas cookies for breakfast!
– Read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
– Celebrate winter solstice: eat supper by candlelight!
– Grandpa Arnold’s Christmas party
– Hang stockings + Christmas eve party

(Why the random exclamation points, Carrie? Your copy editor would not stand for this!)

Extra ideas, not currently in pockets
– Volunteer (ideas, anyone?)
– Decorate a tree for the birds
– Make popcorn and cranberry strings
– Skating at the rink uptown
– Make decorations for the tree
– Night hike with hot chocolate
– Sledding (oh, let it snow, please!)
– Family games night
– Bowling (we’ve never tried this, but who knows?)
– Family art night
– Dance party

Proofing the page: reading Juliet
Extravagant life, the pack-it-all-in-dance-it-all-out version


  1. Tricia Orchard


    I was looking for volunteer ideas for my kids, but I am not sure where to look. One thing we are doing is decorating cookies and then dropping off to St. John’s Kitchen.

    After dropping off items today to St. Monica House, I noticed an ad that they are also looking for new items. I might take my kids with me to the store (Zellers, Dollar Store?) and give each child $10. The goal will be to find new needed items on the list to donate. They need things like cotton swabs, shampoo, baby wipes, soap, toothpaste etc.

    I am not really sure what else to do. If you think of anything, let me know.


    There is also the Tree of Angels, too.

  2. m

    Blogger ate my comment!

    I made an advent calendar for the family and I’m too lazy/tired to do anything meaningful with it, other than stuff it full of chocolates, toys, or pencils. Maybe when the kids are older? I do love the idea of an activity based one. Perhaps I’ll sneak in a couple activities this year, like family skating or something.

    For volunteering, how about going to an old aged home and have the children read books or play cards/games with some of the seniors?

  3. Rebecca

    Hi Carrie – love your ideas here! One idea about volunteering: something mentioned at church this past weekend was delivering hampers for the House of Friendship – they’re in need of drivers. One person at our church has been doing this for years with his kids – and they always look forward to it. Deliveries start this Saturday, but can be done in the evenings next week too. I think our family’s going to do that this year. You’ve got more bodies to put into a vehicle than we do, so I’m not sure if that would appeal or not!

  4. Carrie Snyder

    Thanks for the suggestion, Rebecca! I will look into it.


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