A new take on the Advent Calendar

A new take on the advent calendar

Are you beginning to feel panicked with Advent right around the corner? Do Advent Calendars just create more work and clutter for you, along with increasingly higher expectations from your kids?

We’ve many types of Advent calendars.  We’ve had the Lego calendars, the Playmobil calendars and homemade calendars that took me days to prepare with specially chosen little gifts for each day in December. But what I found with all these options is that advent calendars don’t just clutter up my home, they also raise the kids’ expectations.

Each year they expect a new advent calendar with more unique gifts and they never seem truly satisfied. Advent calendars can turn what should be a beautiful time of year into a season focusing on the gift which will be behind the next door.  The real spirit of Advent, thinking of others, is then lost in a big pile of used-once toys and wrapping paper.

So this Christmas we are trying something different. 

I like to call it “The Secret Helper”

It is equal parts advent calendar and secret Santa—with a dash of goodwill mixed in. By taking the focus off the consumerism that the holiday season can so easily burdened us with, we can actually help return the focus of the holiday to the family. By starting with little gestures of love in our own family (after all goodwill starts at home) the goodwill will more easily be spread and therefore multiplied.

Here’s how we’re doing it this year.

Over the 24 days in December we will focus on doing acts of goodwill for someone in our family. Each morning instead of finding chocolate or a toy behind the advent door, we will find a name of the person who will be subject to little gestures from the rest of the family throughout the day. The other family members can work together or alone. 

In attempt to take away the focus on presents last year, we had specific Secret Santas within our own family to treat throughout Advent. But the kids had a difficult time getting away from the easy option of buying something. In the grand scheme of things, their ideas came from the right place (who doesn’t love finding their favourite chocolate hidden under their pillow) but the overarching idea that we needed to buy something in order to make someone happy was still there. This year I want to help them to learn that there is more than one way to show love.

I’ve written a list this year to help get their creative juices flowing.  These are ideas which can take the place of chocolates or cheap toys which will have a lasting effect on both the giver and receiver.



  1. Read a story

  2. Sing a song

  3. Write a note to make them smile

  4. Write a joke to make them smile

  5. Do a job for them

  6. Make a special treat you know they will like

  7. Tidy up a mess for them

  8. Ask if they want to go for a walk together

  9. Find an activity to do together like paint, craft, watch a movie, listen to music, that you know the other person loves

  10. Draw a picture, or paint something

  11. Sit down and chat

  12. Look through old photos together

  13. Play a board game together

  14. Use your talents to bring a smile like play an instrument.

  15. Write a poem

  16. Give them a compliment

Or it can be as simple as giving them an unexpected hug.

Do you have any other ideas to add to the list? 

As always, this is an experiment! It will be interesting how it develops and to see how each family member reacts. I can already tell you that not all of my kids are 100% happy about the idea of giving up candy for acts of love. But I hope that once they experience a season of giving first hand, they will start to understand the deeper meaning of the Advent season.

Do you struggle like I do to replace the focus of the season from consumerism to acts of love and charity?  How do you manage the the holiday season? Or do you think advent calendars and toys just belong to Christmas and I am being bit of a party pooper? I would love to hear your opinion!