Starting a countdown calendar after Christmas Day? Well, that sounds a bit anti-climatic.
The word “advent” stems from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” Whether religious or secular, an advent calendar counts down the coming of a special event, like Christmas. Why would someone start an advent after the big day they have been expecting?
The answer is easy: it’s fun. To help ease off that post-excitement letdown that can happen after Christmas, create a little Twelve Days of Christmas holiday word scratch-off.
The Twelve Days of Christmas started long before the bird-heavy holiday carol, and in old religious traditions can be known as “Twelvetide.” It starts on Christmas Day and runs through January 5, the Eve of Epiphany (Three Kings Day in Latin America). Each day celebrates something different, such as a particular saint or event. Different countries celebrate these days in different ways. If you are not religious, it can still be a fun way to learn something new and keep the fun of the season going.
To make this activity, take an index card or other small piece of cardboard or cardstock. Use something thicker and sturdier than regular typing paper. Place a strip of masking or painter’s tape lengthwise down the middle, and then cross it with one perpendicularly in the middle. Add two more on each side of the shorter strip, and a little more tape around the “border” of the cardstock.
There should be twelve rectangles or squares to work with. In each square write the name of a term associated with any world holiday. There are plenty of fall and winter holidays to work with, but it can be from any time of year or point in history.
Words like “Mari Lwyd,” “gelt,” “Diwali,” “Epiphany,” “Las Posadas,” or even “Turtle Dove” can be fun starting points for discussions. It is always fun to sneak learning experiences into things.
Write it fancy or plain, and add color or designs with a marker if you wish. Now, to make it an easy scratch-off, remove the masking tape and cover the entire surface of the card with clear packing tape or laminate.
Use some acrylic or craft paint and mix it with dish soap (not hand soap). You won’t need much, but use about half as much soap as you use paint (two parts paint, one part soap).
Paint a thick coat over each of the word squares and let it dry. It doesn’t have to be perfectly in line with the square or rectangle.
Each day, starting the day after Christmas, kids can use a coin or spoon to scratch off the square with the corresponding number 1 through 12. They can look up in a book or through an internet search engine the meaning of the word or the custom behind it. Later, it can be the topic of dinner or family time conversation for the day.
On the “twelfth day,” they can have a little treat like a small cupcake or muffin as a congratulatory reward for learning about all twelve days. Those who celebrate “Three Kings Day” or Epiphany on January 6 might know a King’s Cake is part of the celebration, so this is the perfect way to end the countdown.
This can be left out the day after Christmas, given as a small gift in a Christmas stocking, or left next to the dinner plate. However, it will keep the fun going a little longer, on a smaller scale, and get kids back into the school year or responsibilities of the new year with one last sweet reminder that the spirit of fun that comes with Christmas or the holiday season doesn’t have to end with just a day on the calendar.
As the year closes, I hope everyone had a fun season. Whatever you celebrate, make sure your kids had an opportunity to learn, create, and be inspired. May that spirit remain with you all throughout the next year.