Holidays, Kids

Advent, when less waste is also less stress

Advent season is coming up and I have been pondering on a good way to celebrate it. Advent is often celebrated as the 25 days leading up to Christmas, although different faith traditions have different start and end dates–and many people do not celebrate Advent–or Christmas for that matter–at all. If you fall into the category of people who do celebrate Advent, here are some of my thoughts on it, particularly with kids.

The thought of buying a traditional, disposable little calendar with daily trite gifts like plastic stickers, mini lotion bottles, cheap toys, and plastic-wrapped candy does not excite me, for some reason 🙂 But the idea of my 2 and 4 year old daughters building up anticipation for Christmas and for learning about why we celebrate Christmas sounds great. If you look on Pinetrest for zero-waste Advent calendars, there are lots of ideas, ranging from re-purposing toilet paper rolls to pretty reusable cloth bags. But, after searching Pinetrest and Google images for I while, I realized that I was falling into a trap in which I commonly find myself: Focusing on the outward looks of things at the expense of the inward meaning that is actually important. I started thinking about what I really want my kids to get out of Advent.

Instead of going straight to Pinetrest like I did, I recommend finding a quiet 15 minutes to yourself. Pull out some blank paper and start journaling the answer to these questions: What are the most important aspects of Christmas? What do you most want your kids to know and feel during this season? How can your family build up anticipation about these things leading up to Christmas? Is there anything you do not want to have as a part of the holiday season this year?

For me, one of the top things I do not want as a part of this season is: STRESS!!! And over-complication (which usually leads to stress). The things I most want my kids to know about Christmas relates to our faith, but there is also being with family, appreciating winter, enjoying friendship, and celebrating joyfully through good food :).

And so, at least for this year, I’m not doing a Pinetrest-worthy advent calendar. But, I would still like have some way of marking the time up to Christmas to celebrate advent.

A coworker told me how she would do different special things with her kids each day during Advent instead of giving a gift. This seems much more in line with what came to the surface through my journaling session.

And so, our Advent “calendar” this year will be a book I found at an online used book store that has 25 stories leading up to Christmas. Each morning we will read one story and use an envelope as a placeholder. Each day I’m going to put a slip of paper in the envelope saying something special we will do that day (on scrap paper from junk mail, since this is also a blog about zero-waste ;0 ). And it’s going to be real simple stuff most days, such as eating dinner by candlelight, stopping by the library to play, or going out to see Christmas lights. Some days might be bigger things like decorating gingerbread cookies or eating out for lunch with Zach on his lunch break. There will probably also be  one or two days when the paper tells the kids where a sweet treat bought from the bulk bins is hidden in the house.

I’m going to tie each activity back to the things above that we feel are most important about Christmas–even if it’s something as cheesy as how the sweetness of chocolate chips reminds us of the sweetness of being kind to a friend (yes, you may roll your eyes).

What about you? Any thoughts on reducing waste and stress during the holiday season? And please comment below if you have any more ideas of fun but simple things we could do with our kids this advent! Come on, I need about 18 more good ideas… 🙂

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