My love for Christmas advent calendars is progressively turning into an obsession. It started as a child when my mother introduced me to the store-bought cardboard version that contained chocolates. I suspect this was her way of coping with the “How many more days is it to Christmas?” question I posed to her multiple times a day. Now though, chocolate advent calendars are a relic of my childhood, and I am finding more creative ways to count off the advancing toward our most celebrated holiday of the year.

I’ll admit, I went years without thinking about advent calendars at all. My children weren’t as taken with them, so it wasn’t a tradition we returned to annually. No, it wasn’t until five years ago that I found an adult version of this childhood memory and ever since, my desire for creative expressions of this tradition has grown.

In a season full of Christmas baking, cookie exchanges, parties laden with rich foods, and the holiday feasting as the grand finale, I found myself struggling with weight issues every December, no matter how disciplined or not in other months of the year. When I avoided those indulgences, I discovered that a lot of the celebration and joy diminished from the holidays.

It was the same with spending. I feel like we have been on a spending budget forever, and I’m going to be brutally honest here, my “Christmas money” is often spent well before Christmas Day. We barely bother with gifts anymore. If I wish to buy something for myself anytime in the vicinity of December, I will purchase it with the amount I know is allotted towards my gift. Sometimes I will wrap the box, if there is one, and open it Christmas Day, but most of the time, there is no box. I’m not complaining. It’s a practical reality that my husband & I have lived with most of our married life. With gifts and stocking stuffers lacking, the whole “gift” thing is not a huge part of celebrations.

I’m also not much of a Christmas decorator. We have minimal space for knick-knacks, so other than a few key traditional items pulled out of storage, our holiday decorating is relatively minimalistic.

Christmas Advent Calendar Tea Exchange

Building on Disappointment

Christmas of 2015 changed all that. I was browsing Facebook, and someone posted a picture of a limited edition David’s Tea Advent Calendar that featured a mystery assortment of daily teas. I LOVED the concept and quickly did an internet search to see what it would cost.

It was SOLD OUT!

Really? I was so disappointed. In that place of frustration, a new tradition was born. I decided to organize a Christmas Advent Calendar Tea Exchange among my Facebook friends. Before I knew it, I had 24 women signed up, and we launched our first exchange.

How it works:

Every participant submits 25 servings of their favourite tea (holiday flavours are especially welcome, but any particular favourite is acceptable). Each tea serving must be “wrapped” in some unique, ornate way so it can be displayed, often hung, as a Christmas-themed decoration. Also, each tea must have the person’s assigned number visible so that they can be easily organized, displayed and consumed in order from 1-25.

Gathering Tea Submissions from Participants Before Deadline

It was so exciting to see the enthusiasm and creativity that each person put into designing their “tea decorations”. As the tea submission deadline approached, I was given bags upon bags of decorated teas and the room I stored them in smelled wonderful.

Assembling Tea Advent Packages

When I was finally ready to assemble the advent packages, it was an assembly line. My job was to make sure every participant got their assortment of decorated teas from day 1 to day 25. It sounds straightforward, but there were always hiccups of some kind.

Arranging for Pick-up and Creative Displays

Once the assortments were ready, they were picked up and taken home by the contributors. That was when the real fun began. Everyone chose their unique way to display the teas and soon, photos were circulating in the dedicated Facebook group but also on personal Facebook walls. Then the wait for December 1st began.

Managing the Daily Advent Via Facebook

Starting December 1st and each day after until Christmas, I would create a file in our dedicated Facebook group marked with the date and participants could open that file whenever they were ready to consume the tea. The data contained the name of the beverage and information about it, so everyone knew if it contained caffeine or sugar and could plan accordingly. By keeping that information limited to a file, it allowed those who waited until later in the day to keep the element of surprise even if they were among the last to open their tea package.

Community Tradition Through Sharing

Having a little surprise to open every day renewed my childish delight and excitement in the holiday season again. I hosted the event again the following year and was joined by yet another full group of enthusiastic participants. I realized, though, that carrying the weight of hosting every year was not realistic for my busy lifestyle. I announced that I couldn’t continue to organize the annual event and invited anyone in the group who was up for the challenge to take over the following year. To my surprise and happiness, someone did volunteer to host our third year, and then another volunteered to host our fourth. This fifth year it was hosted by a mother-daughter team! Our little Christmas Advent Calendar Tea Exchange has taken on a life of its own and become a true community tradition.

I found this sharing of hosting to be refreshing, and it has allowed me to enjoy the exchange during years where even participating was a challenge. It is one of those ventures that sounds inviting in late October when participants commit and day numbers are assigned. In mid-November, as the tea submission deadline approaches, I always find myself questioning why I am so intent on complicating my life with shopping for tea and decorating supplies along with the chore of “creating” the tea packaging. There is always the pressure to do something fun, unique and more festive than the year before. Later, as I’m hanging my lovely assortment of teas from the garland over my fireplace, I decide it is all worth the effort.

Christmas Advent Calendar Box

You would think this was enough, but no. I spotted various advent calendar boxes after the holidays one year at our local HomeSense (similar to HomeGoods in the US). I loved the idea of having a physical advent-designed box that could be filled with surprise treats every year without a lot of decorating. At the time, I didn’t purchase, but the idea stuck, and this year, I went in search of an advent calendar box early.

I never found the exact size box I was searching for despite store and internet searches, but I came across a quaint Advent Calendar box that I liked more than the others. It was the standard of measurement for every other box I viewed. I wrestled with whether to purchase because it wasn’t a necessity, but eventually, I caved. It wasn’t an impulse purchase. It had been on my mental list for a couple of years.

Even my husband was enamoured with the little bank of houses that marked off the advent season. I had been prepared to pay for this holiday treat with my discretionary spending money, but Shawn included it in our household expenses. I was glad he liked it too.

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Essential Oil Advent Calendar Box Event

I planned to put together an essential oil advent calendar with this box. I have a generous supply of essential oils, and this was yet another zero-calorie way I could express my holiday enthusiasm without spending new money. Most people who purchase essential oils are challenged sometimes to remember to use them. I purposed that every day in December, I would diffuse the pleasant scents of Christmas by filling my new box with tiny vials of holiday diffuser recipes.

This project started with me perusing the internet for favourite Christmas diffuser recipes. I decided that since I was putting this effort out for myself, I would go all the way and create this experience for others on my email list as well. I cut and pasted recipes onto beautiful holiday-themed backgrounds and made sure to find recipe blends that used a wide assortment of essential oils. I even made a “Shopping List” that lists the specific oils required over the 25 days and included in this list is how many drops of each oil are needed to give participants an idea of volumes. Part of the fun is the unknown. I then created 25 emails aligned with the relevant December dates and set up the whole sequence to activate when readers signed up. I didn’t mind putting all this effort into an event that can be repeated for many years to come with minimal effort except to swap in new recipes and make the emails better as new ideas emerge.

Once my reader’s email sequence was ready, I filled my tiny vials with the recipes and sequestered each Christmas blend to its corresponding house in the advent calendar box. The work completed, now I am free to enjoy the results. Even now, I am typing this blog post with the beautiful spicy scent of Christmas Cheer wafting from my nearby diffuser. Here’s a sneak peek of today’s diffusion.

If you are reading this, it’s not too late to join in so long as December 25th has not arrived. Every night before I go to bed, I deactivate the day’s recipe so that new joiners are sent emails starting on the day in December that they join. The previous recipes are locked in the vault until next year.

Grandma’s Christmas Advent Calendar Box

The essential oil advent calendar box was the inspiration for a Christmas-themed and faith-based short story that I decided to enter into Amazon Kindle’s PenToPublish2019 contest. It’s a quick read that is ideal for families who are looking for an entertaining, yet authentic reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. If you haven’t downloaded your copy of Grandma’s Christmas Advent Calendar Box yet, you can order it here.

If you enjoy this fictional short story, you will want to read Thanksgiving Thistles.

Dadvent Calendar Idea

Even my husband is catching on to the idea of creating his own Christmas Advent Calendar Box! 

Reminders to Care for Others

All joking aside, some fantastic advent calendar ideas are circulating on Facebook that have a more spiritual focus than teas, essential oils and beer.

I love these ideas that prompt advent enthusiasts to donate food or do random acts of kindness.

Remembering the Reason for the Season

I especially like the idea of reading a chapter a day from the book of Luke in the Bible that highlights the reason we are counting the days of December to Christmas in the first place!

Whatever way you decide to celebrate your Christmas, whether, through decorations, gifts, parties, advent calendars, and other wonderful traditions, I pray that you will love, be loved and know LOVE this Christmas. Let us remember in all the festivities, the reason for this season is Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Here are some simple action steps you can take to get engaged with this article:

🗓 Share this Facebook post to be entered into my monthly Tim Horton’s Gift Card drawing
🗓 If you want to see how to create and run your own local Christmas Tea Exchange in the future, join our private Christmas Advent Calendar Tea Exchange Facebook Group
🗓 Download my Christmas-themed, faith-based short story: Grandma’s Christmas Advent Calendar Box
🗓 Sign up for our Essential Oil Advent Calendar Event!🗓 Feel free to comment below
🗓 Like and share this article with sharing buttons at the top of this page

Thanks for reading!

Melissa Cassidy 

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