I first encountered Advent calendars at the age of nine or ten. Our family was living in Germany for a few months, while Daddy did botanical research at a university in Berlin. Advent calendars originated in Germany in the 19th century and are used to count the days of Advent leading up to Christmas – December 1-24.
That snowy Christmas, my sisters and I enjoyed these calendars, which I vaguely recall being colourful, shaped like houses, each with 24 windows. Behind each cardboard window shutter was a milk chocolate, to be revealed and consumed on the date in question.
At the end of my column two Sundays ago I mentioned that I would think of an uplifting idea for our nation to enjoy together, inspired by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Easter Bunny egg-hunt idea, which captivated New Zealanders of all ages, earlier this year. I am proposing a national advent calendar approach, with 24 simple suggested activities (in alphabetical order) in which nationals can indulge – to brighten each day personally or collectively.
Keep this article, consult it daily from December 1 and make time to do some or, hopefully, all of the activities.
Instead of opening little windows or packages to reveal chocolates, gifts or quotes, as per many modern advent calendars, you will be opening your heart to give of yourself to those around you.
You can do the activities alone, or, for a more communal experience, spread the joy by getting together with others to carry them out.
1st: Ask someone out on a "date." NB: this does not have to be "romantic," just something that you know that person would enjoy doing.
2nd: Bake or buy a treat for someone who could do with some cheering-up.
3rd: Clean up a part of your community that needs it.
4th: Donate to a charity of your choice.
5th: Extend greetings to the nation via a radio call-in programme or a letter to the editor of a daily newspaper.
6th: Find an inspiring poem or quote, write it on a piece of paper and surreptitiously leave it in a public place (eg in a book in a library or waiting room, amidst items on a grocery shelf, etc) for someone to find. NB: this is not littering.
7th: Gather items in good condition at home that you no longer need/use and give them away to friends or strangers who may want/need them.
8th: Help improve the life of an animal that needs it (eg buy dog food, rescue from the roadside, etc.).
9th: Invite friends over for a games night, everyone bringing a game and snacks.
10th: Join up with a "permitted" number of friends and have a creative lime at which you make unique cards with special messages to send to hospitalised or imprisoned people.
11th: Kindness is infectious. Do something kind for someone (known or stranger). They will hopefully be inspired to follow your example.
12th: Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself at least ten things you love and appreciate about yourself.
13th: Make a playlist of uplifting music and burn it to a CD or send it as a surprise link via e-mail to one or more people that you know.
14th: Nominate someone as your Person of the Year for 2020 and give him/her an award of your choice, inclusive of revealing all that you value about their contribution to your life.
15th: Offer to wash someone’s car.
16th: Purchase or make simple, meaningful gifts for underprivileged children...and deliver.
17th: Quadruple the love. Call four people to say you love them.
18th: Reach out to someone who has not heard from you in a while via phone, e-mail or otherwise.
19th: Sing a song in person for someone or record it on your smartphone (if you have one) and send it via WhatsApp and/or email to one or more loved ones.
20th: Treat yourself to something special – edible or otherwise.
21st: Uplift at least one stranger with a meaningful greeting or compliment if you go out today.
22nd: Volunteer to help someone who can benefit in some way from your time and/or skill(s).
23rd: Write and send/give a thank you card to someone.
24th: X-pect today to be wonderful and it will be.
If many of us do some or all of the above in the days leading up to Christmas, it could result in widespread cheer.