A Conscious Advent Calendar
There are so many things I love about Christmas: seeing friends and family, watching my boys excitement grow as the big day creeps closer, foraging for and then decorating the Christmas tree and of course eating all the mince pies.
But there is a part of it that I have begun to find a little uncomfortable, that doesn’t sit right with my values. I struggle with the emphasis that is put on the expectation of presents and I am referring to "presents" rather than gifts. Christmas has been known as the season of giving for many years but there seems now more than ever to be a focus on endless bigger and more expensive gifts. Apparently in the UK we spend nearly double the European average over Christmas.
As my boys grow older, I am trying to find ways to teach them the value of memories, experiences and community over the material things that seem to be the driving force behind our culture. So, this year I have decided to make a few changes in our house and this starts with our advent calendar. Traditionally, I have always made our advent, usually filling it with chocolates to enjoy, but this year, I’ve prepared something different.
I have made our family a Conscious Advent Calendar. I know, you’re probably wondering what on earth that is, so let me explain. Instead of chocolates or token gifts, I have written down something for us to do or experience each day. This ranges from simple things such as taking the time to play a board game as a family, to charitable acts of kindness such as donating toys to charity or calling on a neighbour in need. I have also focussed on experiences, taking it back to my childhood, with activities like making paper chains and paper snowflakes to hang in the window.
And in true Botanical Tales style I have hung the daily activities from a branch and decorated it with berries and foliage – it would be wrong not too! In case you fancy doing the same this year, I have written a short and simple tutorial below. And right at the bottom I have shared my 24 activities with you as inspiration.
You will need to gather:
· One large branch or bow of a pretty tree
· Sheets of paper, I used thicker mottled paper in a beige
· Berries and pretty foliage
· Ribbon to tie up the branch
· A pen
1. First cut your paper in to 24 small strips, big enough to write your activities but a small enough size that they will look delicate when rolled up and hung from the brand.
2. Carefully write out each of your activities on to the mini rectangles of paper
3. Cut your berries or foliage in to small bunches or branches of at least 24.
4. Cut 12-24 strips of string. You will want to leave enough length to tie at least one piece of paper and some foliage. I choose to use 1 length of string for two activities and will just slot them out each day. This saved on string and I felt also gave the branch more depth when hung.
5. Next, roll up your pieces of paper and tie them with the end of a length of string so that they stay rolled up. A couple of centimeters up tie a knot around a small bunch of foliage or berries and then add either another roll of paper or more foliage. How you dress your string is entirely up to you
6. Take your length of ribbon, I used a soft velvet ribbon in a soft tone, and tie it in a bow or knot at each end of the branch. How much length you will need is dependent on how you want it to hang and how much give your branch has. Just have a play around until you’re happy.
7. For the final stage, I find it easiest if you hang the branch and then gradually add your lengths of string. This way you can see any gaps or if there are too many overlapping.
And there you go! A simple, festive and cheap advent calendar for you and your family.
Below is a list of the daily activities I have used in mine for inspiration for you. Please note, some of the activities should only be completed on certain days such as “ hang your stockings”, rather than numbering each piece of paper I have decided to bank any activities that can’t be completed on the day. There is no point in making more stress for yourself, as with most things in life, keep it simple!
I would love to hear what you think, share your photos with me on Instagram and leave a comment here. And if you are looking for more activities, you can find my hanging flower tutorial here!
Sing Christmas carols round the Christmas tree
Make a giving list - think of what you would like to give to others
Pay it forward - find a way to do something nice for someone
Make gifts for class teachers
Make reindeer food out of oats and seeds
Make a ginger bread house
Write Christmas cards to your loved ones
Take a drive to look at the Christmas lights
Collect cans and dried goods to donate to the food bank
Write a letter to Father Christmas telling him about your year
Make a long paper chain and hang it across the ceiling
Make paper snowflakes and hang them in the windows
Reach out to that person you wish you spoke to more
Wrap up warm and take a walk outside in natures beauty
Get out a board game & play as a family
Hang a bunch of mistletoe and give loved Ines a big kiss
Gift a bag of unused toys or clothes to charity
Climb into bed & read the night before Christmas
Play Christmas carols and dance in your pjs
Make mince pies and share them with your neighbours
Choose your favourite Christmas movie & snuggle up on get couch
Hang your stockings out for Father Christmas
Decorate the Christmas cake
Make a foraged wreath and hang on your door