Family Advent Activities: Giving & Serving

My husband and I have three goals for our children:  to raise them to be healthy in mind, body and spirit.  Usually my articles on Rochester Media are centered on the healthy in body topic, but today I will share with you a tradition we are creating that centers on the latter goal, being healthy in spirit.  While they will get presents on Christmas Day, all the days preceding it will center on giving, serving, and enjoying the Christmas holiday without the presents. 

Advent StockingsWe do this with the help of Christmas advent stockings.  We string 24 stockings across a ribbon and each day we pick out a piece of paper from that day’s stocking.  Each piece of paper has an activity for that day. 

This will be our second year doing advent stockings.  This year, I have a little more time and my children are older, so I will prepare a few “lessons” to go with each activity so they can understand a little more of why we are doing the activity.  For example, when we buy the ducks through World Vision, I will do some research ahead of time and print out some information on a country that World Vision serves in and what a child living that country might experience.

I learned a few other things after doing this last year.  First, it is harder than it sounds.  To do something “special” each day is an act of service.  Second, look at your schedule BEFORE you plan the activities to make sure you aren’t scheduling one of the more time-intensive activities on a day when you have a million things going on.  And third, be flexible.  If you think you need to change things up, wait until the kids are in bed and switch some of the activities around. 

Here is what we plan to do each day:

1-Dec:  Make Angels to Hang Over the Nativity Set
2-Dec:  Make & Decorate Gingerbread House & Visit the Big Gingerbread House at the Royal Park
3-Dec:  Watch Son at School Christmas Program
4-Dec:  Gingerbread Puppets at the DIA, Part of Noel Nights in Downtown Detroit
5-Dec:  Write Thank You Notes to a Solider and his family
6-Dec:  Learn About the Real St. Nicholas on St. Nicholas Day
7-Dec:  Make Sugared Pecans & Make Christmas Cards for Maltese Family
8-Dec:  Deliver Pecans to our church staff & neighbors
9-Dec:  Bring Money to Salvation Army Bell Ringers
10-Dec:  Make Christmas Gifts for Each Other
11-Dec:  Make Thank you notes for School and Sunday School Teachers
12-Dec:  Deliver Thank you notes to Sunday School Teachers
13-Dec:  Watch Daughter at her School Christmas Program & Deliver Thank You Notes to Teachers
14-Dec:  Donate 2 Chickens to World Vision
15-Dec: Donate Diapers to Preschool Diaper Drive
16-Dec: Go to Whole Foods and Purchase Two “Bag Hunger” Tags
17-Dec: Go to Get Pizza in Downtown Rochester and Watch the Big Bright Light Show
18-Dec: Make Lanterns at the Rochester Library
19-Dec: Make Christmas Plates
20-Dec: Make a Donation to Rochester Area Neighborhood House
21-Dec: Paint Christmas Ornaments
22-Dec: Choose a Christmas Gift for the Dog & Wrap It
23-Dec: Invite Friends Over for Hot Chocolate in the Snow
24-Dec: Make Grandma & Grandpa their Christmas Cards.  Have Kids Wrap the Presents 

Have you and your family done something similar?  Do you have a tradition of giving around Christmas or another time of the year?  Email me at with the ways your family serves others.  I would love to share some of your ideas in my column next month.