WORDS BY ANGE ROSEMANN OF TRIBE | PHOTOS BY ELKE VIDLER
I have fond memories as a child of waking on the first of December to find a cardboard Advent Calendar depicting a beautiful nativity scene and containing little windows to be opened every morning until Christmas Eve, each revealing a pretty little festive image. These calendars date back to the early 19th century, when German Lutherans marked Advent in a variety of ways. In its simplest form Advent was marked by drawing a chalk line of the door each day, some families would light a new candle or hang a little religious picture on the wall each day.
A few years ago I introduced for my family our Advent Activity Calendar. Rather than expecting a gift each day, my children eagerly anticipate a special activity we share together. Some are simple carefree fun - building a cubby with rugs over the kitchen table and eating dinner together under there or going to the beach to watch the sunset. Many are now annual traditions which involve each child in Christmas preparations - making decorations, cooking our special Christmas treats, writing letters to Father Christmas, making cards for our friends. Some are reminders of the true spirit of Christmas - making Christmas treats for the mailman and wrapping presents for our local Giving Tree.
The key to the whole activity is to keep it stress-free. I am notoriously bad at having high expectations of perfect “Walton-family” moments which end in tears when my children are actually just being real children, not television characters. Over the years I have learnt that my happiness at their involvement is far more important than completed Christmas craft that is “just right”.
create your own paper bag garland advent calendar
1. Cut out 24 pieces of paper 15cmx13cm. Fold both shorter sides into the centre, overlapping one side over the other.
2. Glue the overlap and leave these to dry.
3. At this point number each bag – I used rubber stamps, but you could hand-write them, or print and cut out numbers. If gluing or stamping leave to dry.
4. Fold the bottom open edge up 1.5cm. Score the folded edge.
5. Fold the corners on this folded edge towards the centre.
6. Unfold the corners and the folded edge. Push the corners into the inside of the paper bag.
7. Push one flat edge, then the other into the inside of the bag. This is left unsealed so that it is easy for children to squeeze open this end of the bag to access each day’s activity note.
8. Fold over the top edge of the bag about 3cm towards the back.
9. Thread a large needle with Baker’s Twine, festive ribbon or simple kitchen string if you want to go really minimal. Starting from the front of the bag, push the needle through to the back and then return to the front, about 1cm along.
10. Tie a bow at the front.
11. Thread a large needle with your choice of garland string – I used jute twine from a hardware shop. String all the bags on in order.
here are some activity ideas:
• Build a cubby house under the kitchen table and the family have dinner there.
• Each member of the family write a grateful list.
• Write your letters to Father Christmas.
• Set up a nativity scene and add a gold star to the blue sky each night.
• Wrap a present for a local Giving Tree.
• Write and post your Christmas cards.
• Go to a special spot to eat fish and chips and watch the sunset.
• Bake gingerbread men (or even a gingerbread house).
• Decorate Christmas gift tags.
• Pitch a tent in the backyard and sleep in it.
• Make homemade Christmas crackers for Christmas day dinner.
• Make an Advent wreath and light a candle each Sunday.
• Make a Christmas faerie garden.
• Sleep under the Christmas tree.
• Have breakfast for dinner.
• Go for a walk (or drive) around a suburb with good Christmas lights.
• Make Christmas decorations.
• Collect your live Christmas tree from a local tree farm or seller.
• Hang your Christmas lights outside.
• Call a long distance relative and sing a Christmas carol over the phone.
• Make some festival homemade treats for the neighbours, the postman, the rubbish man, etc.
• Have a family board games night.
• Have a family Secret Santa – with all gifts handmade or something found in nature.
• Go to a local Carols by Candlelight (or create your own on your street)
• Get the garden ready for Father Christmas and leave out carrots for the reindeer.
• Make eggnog and drink it after dinner by candlelight.
• Act out the nativity story complete with Christmas carols.