Counting Down to the Holidays

Have you noticed the Christmas decorations are going up everywhere? The big box stores have had merchandise out since early October. This past week as I drove to Grand Rapids; Ada, Cannonsburg, and Cascade townships were stringing up lights and flags on downtown lampposts. I know at our store we are gearing up for the upcoming holidays and counting down for Christmas. All these are signs that build up the Holiday excitement. And to put it frankly I am getting excited about them also. I have always loved the holidays – the smell of pine, twinkle lights and the family all together. I was a lot like the little girl in the new Hallmark commercial – Christmas is in 41 days, 5 hours, 12 minutes and . How does she know this? Hallmark has a new ornament that has a countdown clock. How great is that – to even know the seconds. That had leaded me to think of al the different ways to countdown to Christmas. One of the most popular ways is an advent calendar.

There are many different kinds – a hanging poster with doors that open to small gifts on a string to an herbal wreath with four candles. I thought I’d share a few ideas to help countdown and make it a new family tradition. My mother when I was little made an advent calendar using a bell and a long ribbon. On this long ribbon she had stitched 24 small ribbons to it and filled each ribbon with a different small gift, note or piece of candy. I must admit my brother and I liked the note that stated, ‘Tonight you choose what we are having for dinner’. It was a sure bet we were getting our favorites that night! It was a special way of counting down with small surprises each day.

When I moved into my first apartment, I made my first Advent herbal wreath to celebrate the seasons. Earlier that year I heard a lecture from Don Haynie about Herbal Advent wreaths and was intrigued by the idea. There are many plants that have symbolic meanings that are included in the evergreen wreath. Then 4 candles are added to the wreath. One candle is to be lit the fourth Sunday before Christmas with another added each following Sunday. This makes a beautiful dining room table centerpiece the whole season long as long as you put a platter under it and keep it watered.

Another idea is evergreen or twig wreath on the platter then add four of your favorite candlesticks and candles for a quick DIY centerpiece. Greenville Floral offers holiday classes for wreaths and other table decorations starting before Thanksgiving if you’d like to make your own.

Another idea is one takes a little more work but it is a great early gift for a Grandparent or family member that lives faraway. It is an Advent Calendar using photos. I cut a piece of mat board to roughly 16” x 20” and covered it with decorative paper. Then using a large paper punch cut 25 solid pieces of paper 2” x 2” then using one size smaller punch 1 ½” x 1 ½” cut out photos of family members. Using photo tape I glued the two together and wrote the numbers 1-25 on the back then arranged them on the board. Using photo corners is one way of holding the photos and allowing them to be flipped each day I stuck them to the board. Decorate the top board anyway you wish, I used stickers to spell out ‘tis the season for family’. You are done and ready for a family member to greet you each day of December.

There are many more ideas; Martha Stewart Living November 2011 has an article about advent calendars and instructions. I’ll also have more information on my blog for links to Don Haynie and step-by-step instructions for the photo advent calendar. If you have any other ideas you’d like to share please comment on the blog, I’d love to hear them and pass them on. Happy Holidays let the counting begin.