Advent Calendars: So Much More than Chocolate.

Way, way back when I was a child, advent calendars didn’t have any chocolate pieces in. They were card, with thinly translucent paper behind doors that sometimes proved difficult to open. You could have winter scenes, with rosy-faced children on sledges or Santa working in his shirtsleeves to create rocking horses, pull-along wooden trains and dolls with improbably wavy hair or, as we used to get in our house, a scene of the nativity: a sweet-faced Mary with elderly Joseph peeping over her shoulder and always, always a glittered angel at the top of the card. We didn’t even get one each, it was one for the house and a strict rota between me and the three brothers as to who was the opener that day.

Things have moved on since then. You can, if you’re willing to, buy advent calendars full of chocolate… and also jewellery, beer, wine and (a personal favourite of the Husband) cheese. Or Lego, Playmobil and any amount of stationery. As long as cost is no object, you can have what you want.

I’m not so fond of single use calendars. I like a good fabric or wooden one that will last. And I like having several calendars around the house to open. I wrote about decorating a new one just at the beginning of November and, of course, that will take pride of place on my shelf this year. I’ve filled mine with my little Spanish crib, ready to set it out and build the Nativity character by character again, as well as a small gift or a chocolate. I filled Sarah’s as well, with surprises wrapped in tissue paper. I used cracker gifts from The Cracker Company, and I haven’t bought one for every day, just a selection of 6 to 8 little things.

I’ve also got my Advent Box ready again. This sits nicely under the tree next to me, and already has turkish delight thins and After Eight mints ready to nibble on. I decided against using the same journal prompts as last year, so this year I’ve got a set of doodle prompts for Christmas. One word or topic a day to draw a picture for. I’ve also got a small square sketchbook (about 4 by 4 inches) and I’ll sit at night and draw that. The list of prompts is below, or available as a ready-to-print pdf (there are more than 24, and the list is in no particular order, so I can choose which one to do each day). I still have last year’s journal to look through as a kind of scrap book, and my film and quote cards are still quite useable. Since they’re in small brown envelopes, I’ve tucked my Advent Tea sachets in there as well.

Sarah asked me to draw up a list for her new calendar as well. She wanted a new set of selfcare cards in more appropriate colours for her (meaning blue) so my spare office time today is being spent getting them organised, printed and (hopefully) laminated ready for Thursday. We’re coordinating our Christmas Movie watching so that we can both sit nibbling our Advent treat and enjoying a pot of chai while we watch. I’ve posted our list here as a Jpeg and it’s available as a pdf to print out as well. This time the order does matter, so that we complete our Movie Marathon on Christmas Eve with the Muppets Christmas Carol, one of my absolute favourites.

Together with our shared tea advent calendars, we’re set up for a cosy advent together. A cup of tea, a chocolate, a film and a small action to do. Cosy.

But, of course, advent is traditionally a time of preparation for a spiritual feast. It’s good to do things that aren’t just Me Time and focused on the self. This year, especially, seems a good time for a Reverse Advent Calendar. Set aside a box and save up 24 food or sanitary and hygiene items to donate to your local food bank or charity. Make sure you get the goods to them in plenty of time to be given out. I’m aiming to set a couple of pounds a day aside and donate that as cash to the Foodbank so that they can fill in the gaps foodwise.

There are spiritual emails to sign up to that will give you a daily dose of inspiration, or advent books that give you a daily verse or line to contemplate. I started mine early this year, because I found one called Celtic Advent: 40 Days of Devotions to Christmas. I’ve enjoyed it so far, snuggling up last thing at night to read that day’s passage, and I especially enjoy how the author has linked Celtic christianity, with its saints, nature-focus and love of pausing before acting, with the Christmas story itself.

If money is a real issue, finding a way to mark advent for no cost is necessary. Perhaps draw up a list of 24 local streets and walk along one a day to enjoy the lights on display, or have a short circular route that you walk every day. Focus on how the route changes from day to day, pray as you go or shower your neighbours on the route with happy thoughts and blessings. If you’re housebound, and have computer access, use Google maps Street View to have a virtual walk.

Taking a photo a day and uploading it to social media is also a virtually cost-free way to mark Advent. You can either photograph every day life or, if you’re just a little more tech-savvy, make Quote images from your favourite poems, bible verses or Christmas books and films to share. It’s a good way to return focus from getting more, to inner peace and what Christmas actually means to you.

Any action or set of actions becomes an advent calendar if you wish it so. A cup of tea a day, a programme or film watched in the right spirit, a book or chapter of a book read alone or to others. Lighting a candle or a tealight each day, eating one chocolate from a special box or sending a text or message to an old friend or lonely neighbour. We’ve got so used to paying another to provide our entertainment and education, we’re in danger of forgetting how to do it ourselves. Take something you love, add a little twist and make it work for you.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. Lent is a season of rituals and resets. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human. And it’s always the little things.

And my Christmas books are all available now: 

Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas is the basic, all round Christmas hygge book, with advice and ideas on how to make hygge (the cosiest way to be mindful and live in the moment) a large part of all your celebrations.

Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas is about taking time to look after yourself at the busiest season of all and is only available in ebook, with its own advent calendar of selfcare ideas.

 Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was my answer to Christmas in Lockdowns in 2020 but might (sadly) prove useful for a few more years to come. It has advice on celebrating small scale, and keeping a Christmas flexible. I’m itching to write a new Christmas book, on simplicity, frugality, minimalism and making the meaning of your Christmas more significant, but time, time, time…

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well.

The photo between post and promotions is by Annie Spratt on Unsplash . I love the little car against a grey background. One of my plans for a Christmas table is based on a car like this, driving home for Christmas…… And the header is a photo of one of my Advent books…. I forgot to write a post about them this year! I opened this one on Sunday and enjoyed it with the football that afternoon. It’s a small pleasure, but one I enjoy every year.

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