Family life

How do you keep the spirit of the season alive?

Tracy's using a DIY advent calendar to help her family keep the focus on the spirit — rather than the spending — of the season

By Tracy Chappell
How do you keep the spirit of the season alive?

Made from watchmakers' cases, we can tuck whatever we'd like into Anna and Avery's calendars

Anna and Avery’s grandma always gives them a yummy chocolate-filled advent calendar each December. The kids pull at the perforated square and find a chocolate each day and, of course, they love them. I always wished there was a way to tuck in a little note or activity idea, so the kids could be filled with festive thoughts throughout December. I knew this probably meant me scouring craft sales or (gulp) making my own unique advent calendar.
Last year, a friend on Facebook started posting about what she was doing with her girls and their homemade advent calendars. Instead of treats, they were given activity ideas: Go skating; help a friend; sing a Christmas song in each room of the house. It was exactly the kind of thing that had been bouncing around in my head, and made me determined not to drop the ball again this year.
Then, strangely enough, I started to find fill-in-yourself advent calendar creations all around me. Loblaws had cute wooden ones that looked like fire trucks, with tiny numbered doors on each side that you could tuck little things in. Home Outfitters had an adorable stack of presents, each with a numbered door (however, when I went to look in person, half the doors were already falling off them). But better than both of those ideas, was the one I’ve pictured. They were made by a friend of mine from way back, with watchmakers’ cases and her own beautiful hands. I fell in love. Part of me said, Tracy, you could make those yourself if you tried. But time was a-ticking, so I chose to buy them and they are so lovely and perfect that I don’t regret it for a minute. (But you could totally make them! Our sister site,, also has a cool selection of ideas to inspire you.)
Then, the fun part: filling them with festive ideas. I asked that mom who did it so well last year, and she sent me her list to get started. We included things like donating a toy to a child; making a Christmas craft; taking homemade treats to our neighbours; taking a moonlight stroll to look at Christmas lights; helping to wrap presents; doing something kind for your sister. Some days are just Christmas jokes (because I know some of our days will be a little hairy). For tomorrow, it’s writing their letters to Santa.
I love this idea of having a daily reminder to be festive, to do things together, and to remember why this time of year is so special. I hope the girls do, too. Last year I wrote this article, How to raise an appreciative child, and I remember learning so much from the parents and parenting authorities I interviewed on how to shift the focus from getting to giving, which leaves little room for the “gimmes” and makes kids feel really good about themselves.
Do you have any special family traditions or activities that help keep the spirit of the season alive?

This article was originally published on Dec 05, 2011

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