Inside: An alternative Advent calendar to get YOU and your kids in the holiday spirit. Too soon to think about Christmas? Discover that warm fuzzy feeling.
Where has the year gone? Yesterday, my husband hauled the Christmas boxes down from the attic.
Too soon, I thought.
But that was before I opened the one marked ‘Advent’.
Sorting through the box gave me the same warm fuzzy feeling as decorating the tree or the smell of mince pies baking or singing
badly merrily to Jingle Bells.
Why the need for an alternative Advent calendar?
Don’t get me wrong, I still remember the excitement of a traditional Advent calendar. Opening fiddly little doors with chubby fingers to reveal tiny pictures of reindeer, stars, and all things Christmas.
But that was then.
These days there has to be chocolate, and you’re just as likely to find a picture of SquareBob SpongePants hiding behind the door.
For the last few years, we’ve done something different. We wrap 24 Christmas themed books instead.
I don’t remember how our alternative Advent calendar began, but it’s become a treasured family tradition, and here’s why…
It holds the memories of Christmases past
Some of the books we wrap we’ve had since my son was small. The memory of him saying ‘baubles’ aged 17 months, as we read Christmas Time by Alison Jay, always makes me smile.
Now 7, and gap-toothed, he still enjoys doing an impression of himself as a toddler. Comedy gold.
There’s also a book which reminds me of childhood Christmases in England: Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas by Alison Uttley.
The image of Fuzzypeg the hedgehog on a snowy hill takes me back to sledging with my siblings and cousins: wet mittens, soggy socks, and near-death experiences aplenty!
It doesn’t have to be expensive
We wrap and read many of the same books every year. They’ve become old friends.
And we buy must-have discounted and secondhand books whenever we come across them.
This year I couldn’t resist two new books though:
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig and Chris Mould is written for middle-graders. I can’t wait to get stuck into “the true story of Father Christmas.” Hopefully, the chatty style will appeal to my (chatty) son. The witty illustrations appeal to me. ; )
Walk this World at Christmastime by Debbie Powell also caught my eye. This vibrant busy book has little flaps just like the ones on a traditional Advent calendar.
The reader is invited on a journey:
Let’s take a stroll around the world,
to all four corners of the globe.
Peek through windows, open doors,
watch as Christmastime unfolds ….
I’m looking forward to discovering what’s behind each flap and learning how people celebrate Christmas in different countries.
It helps us learn about other cultures and customs
Last year we spent Christmas in Mexico. I bought The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie DePaola to teach us about Mexican holiday traditions.
I hope to be transported back there when we read it this year (must put hot chocolate and cookies on the shopping list).
Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker and Carina Stahlberg is another family favourite. It describes how Swedes celebrate on December 13, and includes traditional recipes, songs, and sewing patterns.
I’m woefully bad at singing and sewing, but last year we filled the house with the delicious spiced aroma of saffron Lucia buns and ginger snaps.
I’m already looking forward to this year’s batch.
It strengthens bonds with friends and family
My mother sent us a copy of The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg for my son’s third Christmas. If you’ve never seen it I urge you to find a copy.
Mail is delivered to a variety of fairy tale characters, in real envelopes, and with a tiny something inside. Baby Bear opens a little card with a joke in it and Humpty Dumpty receives a teeny jigsaw. But the concertina-style scene at the end wins the prize.
Your children will be filled with awe and wonder, and maybe you will be too. I know I was.
Whenever we read it we think of Grandma with love.
Perhaps ask your loved ones for a copy of their favourite Christmas book to help build your Advent calendar library. Imagine the pleasure of sharing their stories with your children year after year.
It keeps the kids out from under your feet
If you’ve got independent readers in the house, work the Advent calendar to your advantage. Throw a few festive chapter books into the mix.
It takes less than a minute to open a window and wolf down a chocolate, but a good book will keep them entertained for hours.
Last year my son enjoyed Deck the Halls, We’re Off the Walls (a My Weird School special) by Dan Gutman, which comes ‘with games, puzzles, and more!’
Many of the popular children’s series have Christmas specials, so you should be able to find stories to suit your children’s tastes and reading abilities.
It makes the night before Christmas extra special
By Christmas Eve you can sit down and read 24 Christmas themed books back to back.
Who needs Elf or Home Alone?
Just kidding, everyone needs Elf and Home Alone on Christmas Eve!
My ideal scenario would involve all of the above with a couple of glasses of mulled wine and a mince pie or two.
You see, just thinking about our Advent calendar has put me in the holiday spirit.
And finally, it’s the best Christmas decoration ever
24 parcels gaily wrapped in colourful paper looks festive.
I’ve decorated our mantel with them.
They’d also look lovely under the tree.
And the best news ever? Once Christmas is over there’s nothing to untangle or take down or tenderly swaddle in cotton wool and tissue paper.
Now that’s a reason to celebrate!
Just pile the books into a box marked ‘Advent’ and haul it up into the attic ready for next year.
I write about parenting problems and the picture books we used to solve them.
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