HUNT COLUMN: I like a good Advent calendar

Published 2:03 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

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I like a good Advent calendar, and it’s almost time to use one. When I was growing up, these calendars were not much more than small, flat posters you could stick on the fridge in preparation to open one numbered window a day starting on December 1 and continuing through Christmas Eve. There would be some kind of seasonal picture under each window. Pretty simple, but there was something magical about purposefully thinking about and marking the progression of the season every day.

Although the simple calendars are still around, the idea has certainly evolved. Nowadays you can find three-dimensional options with tangible goodies inside, and these can get pretty expensive. They can contain chocolates, cheeses, teas, candles, ornaments, toys, beauty products, perfumes, jewelry, wine, or even fishing tackle, just to name a few. 

Last year I treated myself to a coffee pod of the day calendar, and this year I have purchased a Book Lovers Advent Calendar. I’m not sure what to expect, but it will be fun to find out every day. However, I do take note that the new trends in Advent calendars provide ways to indulge ourselves rather than reminders of the Christmas story.

So I have a suggestion for marking the days of Advent in a more meaningful way. I’ve always enjoyed stories of random acts of kindness, and I undertook a practice with that in mind a few years back and stuck to it for a couple of years until Covid interfered. 

I challenged myself to do a small kindness for someone, a stranger if possible, every day in December. This is not expensive unless you want it to be. 

Paying for the person behind me in the drive-through was probably the most money I spent in one day. (If you haven’t been the recipient of a drive-through blessing, or given one yourself, I’m sorry you don’t know the exhilarating feeling you get from being on either side of that transaction.) 

In my car, I kept a wad of one dollar bills and some index cards that I had written messages on. I gave the bills to fast food workers — who were especially pleasant and efficient — as personal tips. 

I was overwhelmed by the way a worker’s face would light up when I told them I was tipping them for that reason. Such a small thing to make someone’s day. I would put index cards under windshield wipers, with generic messages such as “You mean the world to someone” or “You make me smile.” That would keep a stranger guessing but in a good way. I would carry around some wrapped candy in my purse to give to a child I might encounter (with the parent’s permission, of course).

The index card method is a really easy way to work in a random act if you’re challenged for ideas or opportunities on any given day. It’s also really simple to leave small, anonymous gifts for coworkers if you go to work every day: for instance, a candy bar with an “I appreciate you” message attached. 

On days you stay at home, it’s easy to send a Facebook message to someone saying you were thinking of them and mentioning a particularly fond memory. Or, even better, pen a Christmas card with a personal message to someone you’re not in regular contact with. If you have school-aged children, send a note and/or a small gift of appreciation to their teachers. 

If these are things you probably wouldn’t have done if not for the Advent challenge, they certainly count. It’s a practice that might just stay with you throughout the year, and you’ll be doing your part to make the world a better place.