Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Advent of A Meaningful Christmas

From the bean of Green Bean.

Every Christmas, a wooden Advent calendar graces our mantel. It is an expensive one I bought years ago when I thought nothing of shelling out big dough and loads of carbon to ring in the season. B.G. (Before Green), I stalked the Oriental Trading Company catalog for plastic treasures to fill the twenty-five days of Christmas.

Not this year. Or last.

I've found a way to keep the magic of the holiday without trading the meaning for cheap thrills. Every day of December, my boys take turns opening up a little numbered door. They find dimes, nickles, fair trade chocolate, a tiny homemade cookie, but they also find memories. A promise for an extra book at bedtime or a walk down "Christmas Tree Lane" to gaze at the lights. An announcement for a late bedtime complete with hot cocoa, a winter picnic in front of the fire, or a planned trip to grandparents' home.

Behind those doors lurk heirlooms as well. Modern heirlooms consisting of a Christmas train set. This will be our fourth year with Thomas hiding behind one of the doors but the boys are already remembering how they pulled Thomas (and Percy and their respective cars and coaches) out last year. In that way, even past Christmas extravagances have new life and meaning.

This is just one of the ways we've embraced the joy of Christmas, without the jingle. What holiday traditions are you transforming this year?
This post will be included in the Green Moms Carnival hosted by The Smart Mama on December 15th. To submit your greening the holidays post, send it to greenmomscarnival(at)gmail(dot)com.


Joyce said...

That really is the coolest Advent calendar I've ever seen! I love your ideas for what to put behind the doors.
I think we're mostly giving more to charity this year, not that we won't also get gifts for the person whose name we draw. The Salvation Army here is requesting help, both with money and volunteers, so that's the direction we're headed.

Electronic Goose said...

Those sound like great little gifts! We're changing up what we give to others--it's all homemade food, music mixes, and tickets to do things rather than STUFF. We also changed our extended family's tradition of individual Secret Santa gifts to family Secret Santa gifts.

Anonymous said...

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Green Resolutions said...

We're just starting to create family traditions, and I love this idea.

My friend Jodi posted a great idea last year:

"I’m going to individually wrap the kids Christmas books that they already own, plus the 5 new ones that I got super cheap on Amazon. Then, each night at bedtime, we will light a candle and they can choose one book to unwrap. Then we will read it together as a family. Now, I do not have enough books for them to unwrap a new one each night of Advent, but my kids are still young enough that they enjoy repetition, so that will not be an issue."

Rejin/Urban Botany said...

This year we are working on a project to send seeds to Haitian farm families who lost last year's crops in the floods. For $20 our family can provide the seeds for a year's worth of crops - and at the end of the harvest the seeds will be banked for the next planting season. I can't think of a more meaningful gift to give.

Green Bean said...

Joyce: What a wonderful gift and how great that you've got everyone on board. We're just giving to our children and some homemade gifts and photos of the boys to relatives. I don't think the boys are quite ready for The Salvation Army or maybe The Salvation Army isn't ready for them. ;-) They're a bit on the rowdy side. Maybe in a few years.

Electronic Goose: Ohhh, music mixes. Forgot about those. Wonderful personalized idea with little carbon footprint. Nice one.

Passionate Green: Why thank ya! I'll have to pop on over to accept.

Green Resolutions: Oh man! That idea rocks. Unfortunately, we unpacked all the Xmas books already and have already read them 2x to the boys already. File it away until next year.

Rejin: That is a fantastic gift. Do you have a link for more information?

Lisa Sharp said...

I've been wanting one of these but I'm hoping to find something handmade on and then fill it with things more like you posted. Way better than the paper ones you throw out each year!

Green Resolutions said...

Just saw this video and thought of your post:

If the link, doesn't work, go to
And click on "Are you a conspirator?" to the right.

Anonymous said...

You know its such a simple idea to put in "certificates" for things like a picnic but I never thought of it- thanks! We don't actually have an advent calendar and I don't remember having one when I was a child but it's a good idea instead of trinkets that are likely to get lost.

Green Bean said...

Lisa: You know, I always forget about Etsy but that is a really good idea.

Green Resolutions: Fantastic video. Just posted it here.

Badhuman: Thank you. So many of our traditions can be remade to be less focused on giving of gifts and more on giving of time.

Robot Nine said...

A Playstaion will not fir in those little drawers.

Donna said...

Hey, I noticed that wonderful advent calendar on your mantel on Saturday! You've got some great ideas on how to fill it.

Going Green Mama said...

I love how you're using your Advent calendar this year.
In our house, not much is changing. We'd decided already to stick to the three gifts per kid idea (after all that is what the Wise men brought). We decided early on that we want our kids to remember we did stuff rather than got stuff at the holidays. So this year, the 3 yo will have a play date where she and her buddies will decorate cookies.
We also have a stocking tradition that came from my husband's family - a large apple and orange and a candy cane are always included.

Green Bean said...

Robot Nine: Precisely! And that's the point.

Donna: Thank you! It was great to meet you. :)

Going Green Mama: Hey, we do the 3 presents too - one heart's desire, one to grow on and one to wear. We do something similar for stockings too.

Mindful Momma said...

What a wonderful advent calendar - I would love to find something like that! I haven't done the advent thing yet because I am a little leary of the kids having an expectation of a gift everyday. Also I haven't come across a reusable advent calender that I liked. But just today a friend brought over the cheap chocolate kind for my boys. Of course they went wild! It's not all bad but now the secret's out and they'll probably want one every year. Hmmmmm...

suzannah said...

i love your ideas here and that you've turned the focus from knicknacks and trinkets to family time and memory making. lovely.

CindyW said...

I LOVE your Advent calendar. I get the first dib if you ever ever want to get rid of it :)

Both my parents and my husband's parents have given us the money - "make sure you get whatever they want for them."

Fortunately our kids are still young (6 and almost 4). So what they want is highly highly influenced by me :)

Mother Earth aka Karen Hanrahan said...

When mine were little I totally would have loved this idea. It's memory making, tradition all wrapped up in home, sustainabilty and mostly lots and lots of love.

Diane MacEachern said...

We fill our advent calendar with chocolate (though, I have to admit, there've been years when the kids opened two or three days on one, just to get the yummy candy. I love holiday traditions!

Greening Families said...

What thoughtful presents! It sounds like you are building rich holiday memories. Thanks for all the good ideas!


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