Pass the ... Advent Calendar?

Ever since my kids were tiny, my sister has given them each an advent calendar when she visits from England at Thanksgiving. Because she stays in England for Christmas, she doesn’t get to see the kids open her gifts at Christmas, so she likes to give them a few things during her November visit, that she has termed “Present of the Day.” Even now, as my kids are 10 and 12, they still get excited for their “Present of the Day,” which is usually a British soccer or kids craft magazine, a British candy bar, or a fun tchotchke she has picked up during her travels.

In the past, the final “Present of the Day” of each visit has been an advent calendar. They’ve gotten Lego ones, soccer cards ones, and candy ones. She often hides the advent calendars somewhere in my parents’ house, and creates a long scavenger hunt for the kids to find them. The clues are based on family stories and trivia, such as “Where did your mom dump out all the cereal and milk on the floor when she was 2” (kitchen pantry). Then they find the next clue based on yet another embarrassing thing I did as a kid.

This year, my sister visited in early December instead of Thanksgiving so she could see Becca in her play. “No advent calendar this year?” the kids asked, though they knew they were aging out of the Lego ones, and probably didn’t need a candy each day. “No, but she has something else special planned,” I said. And she did!


In her early December visit, she presented each kid with a large white-paper wrapped parcel with that day’s date on it. She explained that it is like “Pass the Parcel,” a British game we played as kids at birthday parties. In the game, kids sit in a circle and pass a package around, like “Hot Potato.” When the music stops, you unwrap a layer of the many-layer wrapped package. There is usually a small trinket wrapped within the layer that the kid gets to keep. Then the music and passing starts again. The last layer usually reveals a larger gift for the lucky final holder.

In my sister’s version, the kids were to unwrap one layer each day. The layers were each labeled with the date (so they wouldn’t be tempted to unwrap more than one each day). Some layers had other instructions, such as “Can trade if you want” or “To share” or each kid’s name. If there was no extra instruction, the gift in that layer was for either one, so it didn’t matter which parcel they unwrapped. So far, they have unwrapped a few British scratch-off cards (won 9 pounds total!), a dollar, balloon racing cars, metal sculptures she bought at an art museum in France, and a couple of candy bars.

On the “either kid can unwrap” days, the kids have decided that they can unwrap them on their own before school, since they wake up at different times. On the “to share” or “can trade” days, they made the rule that they need to unwrap them together, once they are both back from school in the evening, so they can trade or share right away.

I am always amazed by my sister’s creativity! Though the layers and layers of white paper are making a huge mess in my living room right now, they are also making memories that my kids and their aunt will share forever!