A New Kind of Advent Calendar Makes Holidays Special Again

I’ve decided that our beautiful quilted Advent calendar can help us with daily reflections this year. For the past couple of years, the boys have written what they are grateful for each day and put those slips of paper in the calendar pockets. This year, I’m going to try something new and ask the boys to reflect on the 24 questions below.

I’m going to attach a monetary award with it and give them money, either at the beginning or the end (perhaps on Christmas morning), so it’s sort of an Earn While You Reflect project. I’ll also stipulate at the end that half of their money can be spent on something of their choosing. But, the other half needs to be divided up into a saving pile and a giving pile so they learn about spend/save/give in the process. They can select who they want to give their charitable money to and we can make a big deal of them going into the organization to donate it or selecting a purpose online, etc.

Along the way there will still be little silly “candy and surprises” in the pockets, but maybe not every day. But, every day, we’ll reflect.

I find myself doubling down on searching for meaning this season that has become so overrun with materialism that it’s lost its specialness, and I so very much want to bring the gratitude and family time and treasured memory making elements from my childhood back into play for what should be such a special celebration of new beginnings.

Our Family’s Advent questions:

What wish do you have for this Advent/holiday season to make it special for you?

What are you most grateful for this holiday season?

How will you demonstrate kindness this holiday season?

What is your favorite aspect of Christmas — either something we eat or do together, or something you look forward to about this time of year every year?

What do you most appreciate about your brother?

What do you think makes your parents’ partnership and marriage successful?

What is one of your favorite Christmas memories?

If you could change something to make our family work better together, what would it be? How could you play a role in that?

What could your parents do to better support you and your dreams and goals?

Think of a time when you stood up for someone who was being picked on or having trouble or when you included someone who was being left out. What did you do and how did you feel?

In school, what challenges or scares you the most, and do you feel like you have the right tools to face it?

In school, what do you most look forward to — either a subject or a teacher or a friend — what makes it a good experience for you?

What does “Santa” mean to you?

What kind of Christmas experience would you like to have some day that we haven’t had before?

What quality are you most proud of that makes you a good friend?

What gift have you given to someone that made you the happiest when you gave it?

What gift stands out to you as being one of the most “special” you received because of how it made you feel when you received it?

What is most important to you when choosing a friend?

What is one of your most special memories of a time with your Nonni?

What is one of your most special memories of a time with your Grandpa?

What is one of your most special memories of a time with your Grandma Temple?

What is something you remember, even if faintly or through a story you’ve been told, about your Grandpa Temple?

We aren’t very religious people, we don’t go to church every Sunday. But, out of the Bible teachings you have heard and the story of Christmas, what lesson have you learned that you want to apply to your daily life?

What are you committed to working on in 2018 — what will be your priority resolution for the new year?

Jennifer (Smith) Temple was raised in Redding and is a proud Shasta High School graduate who now calls Corte Madera home. She has 25 years of public relations experience and currently works as a communications executive at Wells Fargo in San Francisco. When she’s not supporting her corporate clients and team, she can be found seeking adventures in music, travel and the outdoors with her husband, D.B., and two sons, Jack and Will. This holiday season Jennifer and her boys are making wishes, setting goals and reflecting on just how lucky they are.

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for publishing this list. Makes us proud as parents to know JT is in the world making things better. J. Harvie Wilkinson, judge U. S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, writes in his very worthy “All Falling Faiths”, “We are the Sixties Generation, who now with unaccustomed humility must beseech future generations to build back the nation we did much to tear down.” Thoughts and feelings as in Jen’s mandate to her boys are the kind of reflection and needed change in attitude Wilkinson is seeking.

  2. Jennifer Temple says:

    I’m touched you’d include this, Doni. I am inspired every day by the example my parents set, by the opportunities they made possible and by the kindness and sense of community they demonstrate. Spending these moments each morning with my boys is an effort to perpetuate what I have been so lucky to experience and is truly Holiday magic.

  3. Mary Speigle says:

    Wish all parents gave more thought to deepening their children’s understanding of this season.

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