Countdown the days as a way to celebrate a slow season seeped in connection.
I think most of us want to consume less, waste fewer resources and stop adding bits of plastic to our planet’s oceans. In my efforts to do so, I am rethinking our advent calendar this year and sticking to activities over items. My hope is to put the focus on quality time together making special memories, rather than on spending money and buying garbage.
As I put this together I wanted to share it with others so that we all might be able to reach towards those goals. Because the plastics are really a bummer you guys.
On top of making the holidays a little more about family time rather than just giving and receiving presents, I also want to instill intention into each activity in an effort to create some meaningful holiday traditions. This is an opportunity to create memories for the whole family to cherish, especially the kids.
MAKE IT MEMORABLE
The trick to getting memories to stick, is to make something about the activity be unique, even if it is something you do all the time. If you take a nature walk everyday with your child, make something about the advent nature walk profoundly different.
You could visit a special place that you rarely make the trek to, or all wear the color red or sing or tell a special story as you walk along. You can create your own traditions around this winter walk (or summer depending on where you live), it doesn’t matter what you do - it just matters that you only do it on your advent walk.
By making it stand out from all of the other walks that you regularly take with your child, you will create strong memories for them to fondly recall as they grow older.
FOR ALL FESTIVE FOLK
We have a 24 day advent calendar that I made several years ago (I copied this one), so I’ve offered equally as many suggestions, but these activities could be added or subtracted to depending on your own family practices.
We have small kids so I will tailor all activities accordingly, but you could do this with older kids, as a single person or even as a classroom or other group.
Whatever beliefs you carry and however they shape the way you engage with the month of December, I truly believe we can all benefit from spending time each year to pause, and take note of things in our life.
SCHEDULING & PLANNING
You can arrange the activities in whatever order makes the most sense for you. We have a holiday party that I know will be a busy day. So in order to give myself the best shot at success, I will put “Go to a Holiday Party” on that day, and save “Make Something Sweet” for a day we have nothing planned.
I’ve tried to assist you in the planning of this sweet little project by offering several suggestions for each day, but you can really make the traditions your own. If you need a little more inspiration to set one up, here are some great ideas.
Without further adieu - 24 family activities to help you slowly celebrate this holiday season.
Take a Nature Walk
No matter where you live, nature is waiting just outside your door. Whether you stroll to a neighborhood park, take a walk in the woods or meander down the beach, get out and take in the current season and all of its natural glory. As we like to say here in the PNW, there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.
Feed the Animals
I envision us making some old school peanut butter + pinecone bird feeders, but this could be as simple as sprinkling some bird seed straight on the ground. You could even make a donation to your local zoo, who are usually making fundraising efforts as the holidays draw near.
Play a Game
Nothing says tradition quite like a favorite family game. There’s board games, card games, acting out and guessing games, apps for games and even puzzles! Some of our favorites are Guestures, cribbage and salad bowl.
Make a Fort and Read Seasonal Books
If there is one thing my kids never seem to tire of, it is reading books. They could read books all day long. I sadly, don’t have quite the patience for sitting down to repeatedly read the same books over and over. This is why some nice dedicated time, made special by our preparation of the space, reading some seasonal favorites that have been tucked away all year, is an ideal activity for any winter’s day that all of us can enjoy.
Sing Songs of the Season Together
You don’t have to be in a church choir or take to the streets to get your fill of holiday caroling. Singing has been shown to release endorphins and also gets you sucking air, providing your body with more oxygen. These feel good effects make it clear why this practice is so prevalent during these dark days of winter.
Watch a Holiday Movie with Popcorn
Watching a movie with popcorn isn’t as much as a novelty for our family as I might hope for it to be, but there are still a lot of ways to make this activity special. You could take great care in selecting the perfect movie to watch, cuddle up in matching movie themed pajamas or head out to an actual movie theater. However you go about it, making it a point to be device and distraction free and really watching the show together will make this a memorable movie experience for the whole family.
Go to a Sporting Event
While I wouldn’t consider myself any kind of sports fan, I happen to have a two year old in my life who is. You don’t have to be an actual fan to have fun at a sporting event though. It doesn’t have to be expensive or even cost money. Local highschools have sporting events several times a week, or you could put together your own epic backyard game of ultimate frisbee.
Host or Attend a Holiday Gathering
Ain’t no party like a holiday party, cuz a holiday party is lit. Get jolly with it and have some yuletide yolo moments with your close kin and comrades. Heck, just head over to the deck and halls of someone else by attending a holiday bash. This is a time to be festive and commune with others, so make merry!
Take a Group Photo
For whatever reason, even with all of us walking around with the most technologically advanced photography equipment in the history of humanity in our pockets, it can be impossible to keep a decent and up to date group photo. By dedicating time and attention to the task we can take away stress around it and simply find ways to make it more fun. Maybe you have props to take some silly photos, or tasty treats to eat after.
Write Out a Wish List
Santa isn’t the only one who makes dreams come true. Whether you send off postaged paper to the North Pole, write down wishes for the new year or just jot them down in the hopes of capturing the magic of the season it’s all powerful. Putting pen to paper is a practice that can influence our subconscious minds, setting our inner programming on autopilot after what we want.
Donate to the Food Bank
One of the most simple and impactful ways we can offer immediate help to people in our communities is through the food bank. Go through your pantry and collect items you no longer need or aren’t likely to use. Look up the nearest drop off location near you and share what you can with those who need it.
Declutter a Closet or Shared Space
When the days get shorter and the darkness spreads across the land, it often makes its presence most deeply felt in the innards of our homes. Maybe it is from being cooped up indoors, or maybe it is just getting further and further from that spring cleaning, but something about the dead of winter spells clutter and disorganization. This is why this is such a great time to tackle a spot in your home that could use some TLC type energy. Head into the new year with a little more clarity and mental space, by tidying up some of your living space. Kids can take part and help sort things into keep, sell, give piles which opens itself to lots of potential fun games.
Write Holiday Cards to Loved Ones
I haven’t sent a holiday card in a few years, it sort of felt obsolete when everyone I would send one too already knew my every post and followed along for every family highlight. Now that I am not using social media though, it seems more appropriate. Even if you don’t send a card to everyone you know, just stopping to send a seasonal update and some well wishes to your nearest and dearest could truly make someone’s holidays.
Savor the Sunlight
I find the metaphors provided by the rhythms of the sun, and the changing length of sunlight each day absolutely profound. I also live somewhere that is grey most of the year and absolutely worship the moments of blue sky and warmed skin. We can slow down and recognize the amazing gift that the sun is by playing games with shadows (tracing shadows in chalk is a family favorite around here), by mindfully watching the sunrise or set, experimenting with sundials, or however you so choose.
Make Holiday Decorations
If you have ever seen the movie “Elf” with Will Ferrel, you know it doesn’t take more than some paper, a pair of scissors and some holiday spirit to make some amazing decorations. If you have a nightlight you can really go the extra mile. This is such a fun way to bring that something special to your whole home, making the whole season feel unique and full of care.
Artfully Capture a Seasonal Scene
There is a winter sunset that I have my heart set on painting, but you could choose a snowscape, draw a winter wonderland or use paper cuttings to represent your favorite holiday Aussie style on the beach. Get out the art supplies and get inspired by a seasonal landscape that is special to you.
Make Something Sweet
We seem to always be making up something sweet during the holidays, or at least have it available everywhere we look. To make this day of baking your favorite holiday treat extra special, go the extra mile. Put the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the fruit in the pudding, if you get what I’m saying. Take the time to do the added steps that will make these sweet goodies something to always remember.
Make Something Salty
Can I get a Chex - Mix?! That stuff is so good. So is fancy popcorn, and homemade pretzels, and of course dip - all of the dips. Whatever savory little morsels fit that holiday snack sized hole in your heart, this day is for them.
Make Something Warm to Drink
Nothing is quite like a warm hug for the insides, like a hot drink on a cold day. The most our kids usually ever get is steamed milk, so hot chocolate might just blow their minds. I’m thinking about trying golden milk, or maybe adding some whipped cream and cinnamon.
Deliver Homemade Treats to Someone Special
With the holidays so full of making sweet and salty treats, it is wonderful to be able to share them with others. You could share things you’ve made with a neighbor, host, office or friend.
My daughter and I have our hearts set on building gingerbread houses, but you could build any old thing ya like. You could make birdhouses, bat boxes, floating shelves or that piece of furniture you have been too afraid to take out of the box.
Create an Altar
Collect together some of the beautiful things you have made over the month in one space. You can personalize it any way you want by adding photos or other decorative items. This can be a place for burning candles, saying prayers or sacrificing loose change that can later be donated.
Do you celebrate by counting down the days? I would love to hear other ideas or family traditions so please do share!