Each day in December leading up to Christmas, we took it in turns to open a little envelope that was stuck to each calendar square. The contents of each envelope was for each family member, not just one, and each had an emphasis on serving others.
Once a week on a different day each week, we had a ‘wild card’ envelope. The activity for this day involved some kind of message to do with service, plus instructions as to where to find a hidden treat somewhere in the house.
There was no compulsion to complete each activity, it was left entirely up to the individual whether they participated or not. The treats on wild-card days however, were only for people who completed the activity on that day.
Most envelopes (template from looking at the shape of a commercial envelope, opened up) were made from a variety of Christmas wrapping papers from years past, or cut out of brightly coloured pages from magazines. The envelope for Christmas day however was made from plain brown paper, to symbolise the humble nature of the Saviour’s birth.
As the last envelope to open on the calendar was the one for Christmas day, for the remaining days until the end of December we invited the children to either catch up on activities that were set them in previous envelopes, or to simply choose an activity from the past 25 days to repeat.
The contents of the 25 envelopes were made up by me, with lots of inspiration from church magazines, and from the children themselves (though they didn’t know it!). I took into account what day of the week it was, how busy we were on particular days, and whether or not people were at school or home.
This is how we wrapped our gifts this year - cloth bags tied up with ribbon. Very easy to make, just a length of fabric sewn up 3 sides with the top edge neatened. Gift tags made from card with shiny wrapping paper scraps glued on the back. Christmas fabric is something I like to shop for just before or just after Christmas. Last year I was fortunate enough to come across a 75% off sale at Spotlight!
Here are the contents of the envelopes in our service calendar:
1. Do a good deed for someone today without them knowing it was you.
2. Take the time to catch someone doing a good job at something, and tell them they did well.
3. Choose one of the blank squares on this calendar [there were four] and, over the month, fill it with tiny words and / or pictures that express the Christmas spirit.
4. Look in the piano stool. [There was a small package for each child containing a yogurt frog. The message had to do with bounding, jumping, or leaping into action to say something nice about one of their siblings.]
5. List ten things you are grateful for.
6. Read Mark 10:43-44. Go out of your way to serve / help someone today.
7. Express gratitude to people who help you today.
• thanks • wave • phone • smile • email • thank you • nod • letter
8. Smile at someone you don’t normally talk to.
9. Read Job 42:10. Pray for your friends today. Be a true friend to someone in need.
10. Clean a window inside and outside in the loungeroom. Do a really good job. [once this was finished, there was a treat bag under the Christmas tree for each child, containing paper scissors, a glue stick, and a sweet treat. The message was about us having our work cut out for us to help our family be strong, and that Jesus Christ is the glue that binds us all together.]
11. Choose at least two of your belongings that are in good condition, to give away.
12. Ask someone in the family to give you a pair of their shoes to polish.
13. Find a scripture that is about serving or helping others. Write it out neatly and put it up on the wall in the kitchen area. •make sure it is different to everyone else’s scripture •no bigger than A4 size •decorate it if you wish.
14. Try to be a good listener today, and imagine how other people might be feeling.
15. Read Matthew 5:44. Memorize it, and try to put it into practice today.
16. Clean a chair: get all the hide-away dirt off; make it shine! [a treat followed this activity.]
17. Look for someone who seems a bit down, and encourage them. Try to help them smile.
18. Say something you are grateful for about each family member.
19. Do something you know you should do, which you have been putting off.
20. Write or draw about some of your feelings or experiences this Christmas. Put it in your journal.
21. Play a Christmas song which is about the Saviour, on an instrument of your choice. [instruments our family used included piano, glockenspiel, voice, and cd player]
22. Say only kind and positive things to and about other people today.
23. Everyone say something good that Joseph Smith has done, and how it is a blessing in our lives. [Joseph Smith’s birthday today - 23 December 1805]
24. Each child please look up and read one of these scriptures: •Alma 5:12 • 3 Nephi 20:41 • Mosiah 5:7 • Mosiah 27:25 THEN: change your bed sheets so they are nice and fresh for Christmas day.
25. Say at least one prayer today that is full of gratitude, with no requests.
I can honestly say that keeping our vision on serving others has made this one of the best Christmases I can remember. We had a sweet and peaceful spirit in our home much of the time; certainly a lot more than usual. The undercurrent of excitement approaching Christmas day was more related to what we could do for others, than what we hoped to receive for ourselves.
Now to consider what to do for this coming Christmas!
As we began opening envelopes and enjoying the feelings that came from giving of ourselves, I thought how much I’d like to share the joy with my sister and her family. All of us brainstormed ideas her family might like to do, then we put each one into a sealed envelope with the date to be opened on the outside. Because we didn’t think of doing this before December, her envelopes began on December 14. Some envelopes were attached to a small gift.
I'll post what we put in my sister's family's envelopes later, and hopefully add a picture.
22 hours ago