I remember getting advent calendars filled with tiny chocolates as a kid. My sister and I would try our hardest to resist the temptation the best we could but the chocolate was usually long gone by Dec. 25. Somehow amidst the chocolate and excitement over the treats, the meaning of the advent calendar eluded us.
“Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” and includes the four Sundays preceding Christmas and is a time of preparation and expectation.
For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. That’s what advent means—coming. ~ from DesiringGod.org
I was inspired by 100 Days of Real Food to create an advent calendar to help us observe advent in a way that gets the whole family involved in the preparations for welcoming Christ at Christmas. I created a list of giving activities that range from incredibly simple to a bit more complex that are suitable and understandable for my three year old. I did some pre-planning to make sure the activities fit in with our schedule so that even on the busiest days we can complete our tasks.
Here’s our list for this year (view printable PDF version):
1. Mail a card to a relative that you have not spoken to in a while.
2. Do something especially nice and out of the ordinary for a friend.
3. Write letters to our sponsored children (through Compassion International).
4. Write a letter to your teacher telling them what you most like about his or her class.
5. Spread holiday cheer by volunteering at a nursing home.
6. Make and deliver a meal to a family in need.
7. Tell each member of your immediate family what you love about them.
8. Choose 2 or 3 non-perishable food items that you can set aside to donate to a local food bank.
9. Put together a care package for someone spending the holidays away from family.
10. Cut some flowers out of your yard (or make flowers out of tissue paper) and give them to someone special.
11. Make a bird feeder and hang it outside for our feathered friends.
12. Decorate a card and mail it to someone who is sick.
13. If you see a piece of trash on the ground (at home, school, or outside) pick it up and throw it away…be sure to wash your hands afterward!
14. Pick out clothes to donate to Goodwill or a child in need.
15. Email your congressman or the President asking them to consider an issue that you feel is important for your community.
16. Make a small craft and mail it to one of your cousins.
17. Write a thank you note to someone who has helped you recently.
18. Make treats for the staff at the library.
19. Pick out a toy and donate it to Toys for Tots.
20. Drop off spare change to one of the Salvation Army’s red kettles.
21. Help with a chore around the house that you don’t normally do.
22. Call one of your grandparents on the phone (or facetime/skype!).
23. Write a letter to a soldier thanking him or her for serving our country.
24. Make a card and include a big tip for someone who has to wait tables on Christmas Eve.
25. Give big hugs to everyone you love (in person or virtually!).