Advent Calendars: Waxy Chocolates, Fanciness, Happiness, and Kindness.

When you were a kid, what kind of – if any – Advent calendar did you have? We had the kind that you could buy at the grocery store or Sears; each window opened to reveal a small waxy chocolate in the shape of a gift or a tree or – for Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve alone – a star. I shared this calendar with my two brothers, which meant that every three days one of those small waxy chocolates was mine, all mine.

Fast forward to today and my kids get these:

I kind of wish I had bought one for myself, the treats inside are so decadent. Don’t get me wrong, when I was a kid I’m not sure they even had anything other than those grocery store calendars. Now everything is available, calendar-wise, from booze to chocolate to Lego to ornaments. What an age we live in.

Besides the fancy Lindt ones, we also have a little wooden calendar I bought when the kids were small. At that time I would put little treats inside, when they got bigger I copied Lynn and wrote down a fun winter/ Christmas activity for each day. The kids would open it in the morning and see if the activity of the day would be sledding after school, reading Dear Polar Bear or decorating cookies. I still think this is a great idea but eventually I ran out of fresh, fun activities and if there was a lot of snow, every day for a solid week the activity would be “sledding after school” since they were going to do that anyway. I mean, December with young children can be tiring enough without having to be all creative about fun family activities, especially when you are the sole person in charge of said activities.

The last couple of years, as I no longer picked them up after school and so “sledding” was no longer the default, I would instead write down something I noticed that I liked about each boy, and put it behind the appropriate door. This was great until the crush of the season came along and I kept writing down “I liked how you were so helpful today” or something completely generic like that, eventually forgetting and writing down nothing at all. This year, I decided to delegate. Everyone, including my husband and I, writes down one happy thing that happened that day, and puts it in the calendar. At the end of the month, we are going to read them all to see what a great month it was. I think this is the best idea yet, and will be helpful when it comes to setting intentions and resolutions for the New Year. My enthusiasm for these projects tends to wane around December 16 but we are still going strong; it really helps to delegate.

I came across this from my friend Jan (HI JAN) and I think the idea of a kindness calendar is lovely; although I actually do most of these things all the time throughout the year. Well, other than buying a colleague coffee since I rarely go into a coffee shop, preferring instead my daily pot of home-brewed Kirkland Signature. I have also never taped money on vending machines, because rarely do I even notice vending machines. But the rest – yes.

Give someone a hug or compliment? Hold the door open for someone? Thank someone who serves you? Smile at a stranger? These things are all my jam. I’m constantly walking around looking dementedly cheerful, due to my massive case of Bitchy Resting Face, years of waitressing taught me to always be kind and thankful to those in customer service, I compliment random strangers on their hair or clothing (the lady in the gym with the Haute Mess t-shirt – amazing), and I am a walking, talking Hug Monster. I do think it’s important to focus on such things in December in particular though; life gets hectic and stressful and although I am Nicole the Elf, it is good for me to remember that not everyone embraces the season with open arms and screams of SANTA’S COMING, I KNOW HIM. Anyone who has seen the new reboot of The Grinch – if you haven’t, go see it, it is an absolute delight – or anyone with any kind of compassion or empathy knows that this season can be very hard for many, and a little kindness goes a long way.

I was thinking about this a few weeks ago when I was at – you guessed it – Costco. This was at the beginning of the month, and I had just seen that calendar, and I thought, I’m going to CRUSH this kindness thing. First, I rescued a cart from where it was stuck in between a parking stall and a snowbank, and as I sunnily pushed it through the parking lot, I saw a lady shove her cart in between her car and the one beside her, and drive off. I consider it a kindness that I didn’t chase after her, banging on the hood of her car while screaming You are what is wrong with society today. 

Anyway.

Once in the store I smiled only semi-maniacally, even at people completely blocking the aisle while they lined up for their free two-inch cup of popcorn and coffee. Costco was, as it always is, but particularly in December, a minor nightmare. By the time I got to the checkout, the lines were snaking their way around the granola bar and fruit snack displays. I chose a line that seemed decent, until the man in front of me was joined by his wife, who had a full cart IN ADDITION to his full cart. Oh well.

In the line beside me was a young mother, with a cart full of groceries, a little boy who appeared to be about three, and a baby. The baby started to fuss in the line and the mother looked totally panicked, rocking the giant cart back and forth in a gesture that every parent can identify with. I looked at her long line, and I looked at the man in front of me who was almost finished unloading the second cart, and I thought, what difference will five minutes make? I told her she could go in front of me and the sheer gratitude on her face was enough to make me want to let EVERY mother with a baby in front of me in EVERY lineup forever. Thank the nice lady who let us go first! she said to her little boy, who waved at me and said Sank youu. 

I would in no way turn down a Lindt teddy or reindeer, or a mini bottle of booze or a bottle of wine, but this kindness calendar thing is pretty gratifying.

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