Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday Traditions: Book Advent

Once again we are counting down to Christmas in books. I described our book advent calendar, for which I wrap up one (or more) books for each day from Dec 1-24, last year. I label each package, which is wrapped in some plain green newsprint-type paper (which is used for putting under hardwood floors--gotta love living with a carpenter--not sure if this stuff is available at your average hardware store or not, but if it is you should totally invest in a roll; this is the third year we've wrapped 24 books with the same roll, as well as other presents here and there, and at least part of the roll is under our floor), with the date (so the Hanukkah book comes out on Hanukkah, and the Night Before Christmas comes out the Night Before Christmas) and the name of kid who is to open it, to prevent fistfights (one hopes).

This year I created another undercover crate (more Flower Fairies!) to hold the wrapped books---from there I suppose they'll move to the open bookshelf and get read more than once, perhaps.

I was up late Monday night attempting to wrap 24 books/book pairs without tape (because of my anti-plastic shtick, I haven't bought tape all year--the irony is that my husband was sitting at the computer estimating how much it would cost to fill his customers' houses with plastic--have I never mentioned this is what he does for a living? Kinda makes my roll of tape seem insignificant, but it's the principle of the thing) when I realized I could go to bed with only about half of them wrapped--I had 24 days in which to finish after all--and who would notice? Of course immediately upon getting up, E began pawing through the books, causing the red yarn I had used to hold the paper on to slip off some of the packages, and noted, "I don't have the most!" and when Z got up, he did the same, asking, "Is this all of them." Damn preschool, why did they have to teach them how to count?

At bedtime when it was E's turn to open the first book, Z had a huge crying fit and I threatened to unwrap them all myself and forget the whole thing. Do you ever wonder if, despite your best intentions, you do more harm than good and should just sit your kids in front of the TV with a big bag of Doritos?

Usually family or friends give each kid an advent calendar (or more), but this year they didn't. I briefly considered looking for one when I was out on Sunday, but then I reasoned I'd have to buy three (taking turns can be really really hard sometimes), and I just didn't feel like adding one more disposable thing to my life right now. I saw some kits at the fabric store for making little pocket wall hanging calendars, which I might consider doing in the future, but that still leaves the problem of one or three? As well as what to put in the pockets? I want to get away from the idea of this time of year being about stuff, so I definitely don't want to give a gift (or even a piece of candy) to my kids every day for the 24 days leading up to the biggest greedy day of them all. Maybe putting a piece of our winter village in each pocket, which I saw here last year (I think we actually have an old felt pocket calendar that was C's growing up that I could use)...or maybe we can just be content with our book advent.


  1. YAY! Last night we also started our "CBC" as my fella C likes to refer to this tradition. (That's Christmas Book Countdown for the rest of you.) We wrapped the books in recycled brown paper from the massive quantity of bags we've saved. It reminded me of the beginning of school back when I was a kid making book covers from the brown shopping bags. Now we don't have the beautifully spiffy container that you made. Ours are simply in a plastic toy bin that I commandeered.

    Actually, I wanted to talk with you about gift wrapping ideas. I was all keen on trying not to wrap any presents this year in wrapping paper. I had seen another blogger use all play silks. But I am struggling a bit with it all. The boys can understand that we are trying to use all recycled materials but I am trying, trying to keep the Santa magic alive still (schoolmates are undermining). Will "Santa's gifts" wrapped in recycled/reusable materials be a give-away (you know my sons)? Also, if we did the play silk thing could they enjoy the unwrapping part in the same way? I am picturing them getting frustrated struggling with the knots required. Give me some ideas about wrapping presents this year, keeping the fun & magic of the morning unwrapping, but still being environmentally conscious...

    Sorry for the long comment.

  2. Sara--I definitely agree that half the fun of getting presents is unwrapping them, and play silks, while pretty, lack that crinkly-wripping-whee-fun. For the boys' birthdays, I used that plain off-white paper that came in all of the packages I ordered online--I smoothed it out, rubbed some crayon on it, and then artfully folded it around everything to avoid tape (I was already out of tape back in May). They all seemed perfectly happy with that (no squacks of "What? No Transformer paper?). For Christmas, though, it would be nice to have something more festive. We have a little bit of Christmas paper left, but probably not enough for everything, so I'm not sure what I'll do. We have a huge stack of plain newsprint that C picked up at the swap shop--I could potato stamp it all, but that sounds like a lot of time/energy I don't have right now. How about cloth drawstring bags, that you could make a production of mailing back to Santa after the holidays so they won't be surprised when they turn up again next year?

  3. so funny - i haven't encountered this problem yet! for years, i've only wrapped in leftover paper bags, newspaper or re-cycled gift bags but it didn't occur to me that at some point the kids are going to "recognize" my approach as being very similar to Santa's! I don't suppose you could convince them that Santa has gone "green" this year?
    you know, one thing i do is that i bring a giant bag down to M's family and as the kids and everyone tear the wrapping paper from their gifts (because the rest of the family thinks i'm cuckoo with the recycled stuff) i gather it up and take it home to be used throughout the year. but perhaps that sort of thing could be hidden away and only used for the following Xmas and the presents from you could be the plain old brown stuff?

  4. I remember once my mother used the "Santa" paper from the previous year and I recognized it--she told me that Santa sent it to her to use. I think that made me happy.

  5. I love the Advent of books!

    Here, presents from Ma and Dad are wrapped, but Santa presents are not - they are found out in the open in all their glory.

  6. P said we could simply share that we asked Santa to use only recycled paper in our home.

    We made drawstring bags for some of the birthday presents this past year but it may be cool to make a mess of them and then do the "send back to Santa" performance you suggest.

    Now do we have enough brown paper bags to cut up?

    Oh and Andrea-- you are so much more hardcore than us. Still using tape here.

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  8. This is a great idea. I'll have to remember it for next year. And yeah, the whole sitting them in front of the tv with a bag of Doritos is becoming more and more tempting.

  9. I love the Book Advent. What a wonderful idea! We do have an advent calendar this year...and the kids are taking turns. I'm surprised at how it is helping Ruby and Oscar with their counting by 3s, since they get a turn every three days.

    Re wrapping: for YEARS we have used towels for almost all family gifts (hard to give a towel-wrapped gift at a kid birthday party and then ask for it back). Most of our bath towels are white or green and we use (and often re-use) ribbons to keep it together. At Christmas we do use some paper...but now even our parents/sisters/brothers expect us to arrive at their houses and wrap our Christmas gifts in their seasonally appropriate towels. Pillowcases also work and washclothes/teatowels for smaller items.

    Growing up Santa NEVER wrapped our presents. I also thought it was funny that my friend's gifts were wrapped. Just another idea (Santa going "super green")


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