I think I may have mentioned that Christmas unleashes my inner Martha Stewart like no other time of year, and that I really struggle not to want to make all the crafts and bake all the food. I just makes me really happy, it's as simple as that.
Over the last couple of years, I've had a lot of fun creating advent calendars for Bella and Angus. Two years ago I made this time-consuming creation, twenty four little boxes of joy and what fun they were. Like the craft room in a suit case, there was as much pleasure in the making as there was in opening them each morning. Last year, I made a calendar consisting of forty eight (two children!) little gifts strung from a piece of driftwood and while it was hugely popular with the children, the cost did add up, especially when you consider that my two both open a stocking each on Christmas morning.
But I did really love the aesthetic of last year's calendar, the simplicity of the brown paper packages and the green eucalyptus, and wanted to create something similar this year. But this time there are no treats, no toys or chocolates, just a written message; a promise of something fun to do, something to make, somewhere to go, and things that I hope will encourage the children to think a little more deeply about Christmas. For example, we have taken part in what I think is known as the "reverse advent calendar". I'm not really sure who started the whole thing but the idea is that every day in November you buy or put aside a food or household item, and then in early December you donate your thirty items to your local food bank, or to one of the food bank drop off points you now see in most supermarkets.
This calendar cost virtually nothing, since I already had most of the items in my craft kit, needing only to buy those little brown money envelopes and some round white stickers, which cost a couple of pounds.
- a piece of wood or wooden dowel
- number stamps and black ink pad (I bought this one from Amazon a few years ago and have used it so often.)
- string or twine
- hole punch
- mini pegs
- small brown envelopes
- round white stickers
- your twenty four little messages
Simply fill your envelopes with the chosen message. There was a lot of diary checking here, as I made sure that the messages that said "go to the theatre" or "pantomime time" did actually correspond to that day, and trying to save time consuming craft or baking activities for the weekend. Punch a hole in the top of each envelope and attach the string, varying the lengths.
Then use the mini peg to attach the greenery. I used sprigs of fir that we found in the forest while walking, and it can easily be refreshed when it starts to look a bit limp. Alternatively, snip a few sprigs from a fake Christmas tree if you have one (I've tried, it's possible) or use something like fake eucalyptus..
I like the (probably now quite old fashioned) idea that advent is about waiting, preparing and building anticipation, and that the real fun doesn't start for a few weeks yet. This weekend I will start getting out a few Christmassy bits like the nativity and wreath, before I go all-out with the decorations when we buy and decorate our tree in a couple of weeks.