An Alternate Advent Calendar: Expressing Gratitude

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Two years ago I have made an Advent Calendar for my daughter where the focus was on mindfully spending our time together. You can see it and read about it here. Last year I have made a Gratitude Advent Calendar for her.

At the approach of Christmas, Hanukkah and other festivals, the pressure is big to buy more, own more, do more. But we don’t necessarily need to give in and follow this trend. There is so much that we have already, own already, do or are already. Mindfully acknowledging these things is already enough.

So this year, I’m preparing a Gratitude Advent Calendar again and I want to share it with you.

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I have selected 24 essential things (not necessarily objects) that we have already and sometimes tend to take for granted. Each day we will express our gratitude for having these things in our lives.

Each card starts with: Today I’m feeling grateful for…

  1. being healthy

  2. being able to see (we will light the first candle of the Advent Crown- a tradition I have discovered here in Germany)

  3. the air we breath

  4. our little family

  5. our larger family

  6. our home

  7. our neighborhoud

  8. living in peace (and not in a war-torn country)

  9. our friends around the world

  10. the nature around us

  11. the clean water we drink

  12. the healthy food we eat

  13. the time we spend together

  14. the birds and animals who live in our garden

  15. the books that we have and can read

  16. the toys that we own already

  17. being able to talk, sing, hear

  18. the freedom of speech

  19. the clothes we already have

  20. waking up in a bed each morning

  21. being able to walk, to climb, to jump

  22. being able to freely travel to other places and countries

  23. the sun, the light, the rain, the clouds, the snow

  24. being able to celebrate family traditions all together (we celebrate Christmas Eve on the evening of the 24th of December)

Some of these things may sound trivial but you see, I have lived and traveled to countries where the air was so polluted that I needed to stay indoors for weeks in a row with my baby, places where I needed to drive for a whole day long to have access to good healthcare, cities where the water was so contaminated with heavy metals that I couldn’t bath my baby. I have joyfully got pregnant and ended my pregnancies in loss a number of times. One of these pregnancies have been life-threatening to me and access to good health care has saved my life .

I have learned to cherish life and don’t take anything for granted. I have seen life as more and more beautiful after each difficult experience. Expressing gratitude for what is here and now made me see how much I have already, even in the most difficult moments.

But we don’t need to go through hard times to open our eyes to what is already there.

So each card will help us bring the attention to an element that already exists in our life. For example, on the 3rd of December: “Today I’m grateful for the air we breath”. We will probably take a walk outside and mindfully breath. Just breath. Knowing my daughter, I expect her to ask a lot of questions about the air, how we breath, what does it mean, what does the air in our body and so on. She might even mention “air pollution” as she heard us many times talking about our life 4 years ago, dealing with extreme air pollution in Beijing. We will answer her questions and together search for the answers we don’t know. The whole idea behind this Gratitude Advent Calendar is to mindfully bring the attention to one thing we have now in our lives and open the discussion on a topic with my daughter. My goal is to open our eyes and see these “little” things that usually pass unnoticed.

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This time of the year is so tricky. No matter where we go and where we look, we receive the message that we need to want more, have more, buy more.

I want to shift our perception and instead of looking towards what we don’t have yet to what is already here. Our children don’t need to own more to feel loved

“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” 
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas


My daughter teaches me every day that less is more. We will be focusing on what is already here and now during Advent this year. Are you joining us?