Saturday, December 21, 2013

Countdown Traditions

Now that my children are grown and there are no grandchildren in sight, I have become quite nostalgic for a few of the Christmas traditions that we no longer practice.  One of those traditions is the daily opening of an advent calendar leading up to Christmas day.

I came across our battered, old, homemade calendar tree while decorating this year.  Its colour is all faded and half of the little decorations are missing but I still love it. We made it 16 years ago, the boys choosing little magazine pictures to be turned into ornaments while I emptied out and glued together 24 matchboxes.  We cut and  glued until our little tree was finished and the boys looked forward it every year.  They took turns opening the little drawers - the older boy opened his on odd numbered days while the younger opened his on the even numbered day.  It worked for us but some families have opted to get a calendar for each child. 

 Our little tree hasn't been brought out for a few years because the boys aren't....well, they aren't boys anymore. I think I'll leave it out this year.

Although the tradition of advent calendars may have its roots in Christmas,  it is a ritual that families of all different faiths have adopted.   In fact, the calendar could be used to countdown the days before any big day in a child's life such as a birthday or visit from a beloved grandparent. 

However, in keeping with the idea behind this blog, and without further blather, here are examples of some of the ways our families help their children countdown to the big day.

One of our teachers sent this to me. She has two active boys, one in our primary program and one in elementary.

"This is Ev's Lego advent calendar.  Each day has something new to build. They are a little more on the pricey side, I think they're around 30 dollars(gift from grandma).  You can also get Playmobil advents which are my favorite but the boys love their Lego. They're both easy to find at any local toy store (Kool and child) and toys r us has the Lego themed ones every year."

 The next photo was sent to me by another of our teachers.  Her son is in his last year of high school and still likes to take part in this practice.

"Here is a photo of the family advent ritual we use to count down the days to Christmas. 

On the last day of November each year we sit down as a family and make a paper chain. We cut 24 strips of a mixed selection of red, white and green construction paper, then glue, tape or staple them together to make a chain. It is optional for parents to write a message on the inside of each strip, and more meaningful as your child begins to read. The method of connecting the strips seemed to depend on our son's age and what tool he was most interested in learning to use at each particular age. 

We began this ritual the year Jack was born and he began helping when he was 2 1/2 years old. I grew up with 3 siblings, so each of us had our own chain hanging in our bedroom.
Beginning on December 1st, each night at bedtime, Jack removes one link on the chain. As the month progresses, the chain gets shorter and becomes a visual impression of the time remaining until Christmas eve, when only one chain link is left.

The chain invites many opportunities for counting the links that are still hanging. It also becomes a marker for how tall Jack has grown since the previous year as he becomes able to reach the higher links without a stool or his parents to lift him up. If you leave the torn links in a pile on the floor under the chain, you also create  a visual impression of the difference in the number of days.

This tradition has been in our family for over 50 years." 

S. and C.'s mother sent this picture to us.  You may remember the boys from these postsThey are both in one of our primary classrooms now, and their mother teachers in the other.  Their calendar is a beautiful felt tree complete with a box of felt ornaments.  Each ornament appears to be numbered and finding the correct one each day helps reinforce numeral recognition.

Finally, E's mother very kindly sent us a photograph of the advent calendar they use at Christmas.

"This year Christmas is definitely going to be more exciting for E. Having the advent calendar this year helps her understand the countdown to Christmas. She asks everyday which number can she open! She never forgets! An excellent tool for learning number recognition & patience (a big one for this age)."

On behalf of the children and families of  Discover Montessori School, I wish you all a very merry Christmas, happy Holidays, and a wonderful new year!

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