Family Holiday Traditions: Making a New Year’s Resolution Advent Calendar

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Christmas is over. But the holiday spirit is what brings families closer together, so why not make the holidays last all year?

To keep the spirit of giving alive for my family, we decided to build a New Year's Resolution Advent Calender. The great part is that you can find some great deals on advent calendars to use  (Not the chocolate-filled kind—that would be sorta gross!).  I’ve seen all sorts of adorable wooden ones at places like Target and craft and hobby stores, like Home GoodsMichaels, or Hobby Lobby, that feature real open-n-close doors in which you can put your own items.

When I bought our faux-snow-covered Advent house, my first thought was to fill it with small toys and treats from December 1-25. Then, in a sudden moment of clarity, I realized:

  1. I really, really didn’t need any more small toys lying around the house, getting sucked up into the vacuum cleaner or cluttering my family room.
  2. If I wanted to give out daily chocolate treats, there was still a heaping pile of Halloween candy left in the kitchen cabinet.
  3. It might be nice to create a little family togetherness and kindness. What a great way to start the new year!

I got out my scissors and carefully cut 25 3” x 3” squares of red and green paper (which was sorta silly because I already had a drawer-full of small post-it note paper that would have worked just as well) and started to brainstorm ideas for fun family activities and random acts of kindness that we could do together over the month.

25 Small Acts of Kindness to Include in an Advent

Here are some quick and simple ideas I came up with:

  1. Have breakfast for dinner (a major favorite every year!).
  2. Read an extra book at bedtime.
  3. Have a dance night—frilly tutus, twirly skirts, or whatever creates the spirit.
  4. Pick a game for the family to play together.
  5. Make items to give to a charity—knit hats, blankets, sweaters, or whatever is needed by the local shelters.
  6. Have a pedicure night! Pick a nail polish for a pedicure by mom.
  7. Pick mom’s outfit (Mercifully, they did a great job!).
  8. Pick dad’s outfit (Humorously, his was not so great…but he was a good sport!).
  9. Take dinner to a neighbor.
  10. Write a letter to Grandma.
  11. Make hair accessories for each other.
  12. Sleep over with a sibling night (always planned for a non-school night!).
  13. Have dessert before dinner night.
  14. Collect canned goods for a shelter.
  15. Invite a friend over to play.
  16. Pick a restaurant to go to for dinner.
  17. Pick a movie to watch with the family
  18. Offer to do a chore for your sister
  19. Donate used books to a local Domestic Violence shelter.
  20. Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk.
  21. Send a package to the troops, or a personal friend who is serving in the military.
  22. Make a meal, including all of your family's favorite foods. Invite friends over to sample.
  23. Have a progressive game night with some family friends who live near by.
  24. Go caroling... even though it's not Christmas!
  25. Go on a family scavenger hunt.

This is our third year using our New Year's Advent Calendar and we look forward to opening it each day—crazy kid-designed outfits and all. The anticipation with which my young daughters open the daily doors is priceless and the planned family activity or act of kindness is a great way to start each day of the new year.  I change things up a bit each year, depending on scheduled events and unforeseen opportunities, but keep the perennial favorites (chocolate-chip pancakes for dinner would be sorely missed if it was ever omitted!) and know that this daily New Year's ritual will be a forever-treasured memory.

What are your family's plans for 2011? How can you focus on fun family traditions to strengthen your family relationships?

By Signe Whitson, LSW.  She has been a child therapist for over ten years and has inspirational ideas on how to help better the relationships of parents with their children.  Her advice has been featured on Psychology Today and is shared on her popular blog on passive aggressive behavior.  Her partnership was formed with a baby clothes boutique to spread her ideas to a larger audience.

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