Maybe this Christmas, less is more!

Sometime in our lives as parents, our children write embarrassingly long list letters to Santa. The items on the list can make a parent wonder where they went wrong. Won’t just one gift do?

David Bly encourages us: “Your children will become what you are, so be what you want them to become.”

As the season of love, peace, goodwill towards our neighbours and those less fortunate is upon us, it’s heart lifting to see youngsters like Samantha who turned her eighth birthday party into a gift fest for Christmas Cheer. (The Christmas Cheer charity in Barrie will provide for nearly 6000 people at Christmas this year). Where does a spirit like Samantha’s come from?

David Bly says it comes from her family.

Nikki Glahn agrees. In fact, as she listened to friends and colleagues talking about their Christmas buying budgets last year, it sparked a business idea that is now in full flight. “They’d be spending more than they could afford on Christmas because they’ve got kids and kids expect presents,” says Nikki.

“It struck a chord with me and made me stop and reflect, “is this where we’ve gotten to? And is this where we want to go?”

Stuff turns into greed.

With that mantra, Nikki set out to simplify and meaning-fy [my word] the season. She launched her business, and her website, Growing Great Families, and is beginning with the Scandinavian treat-filled Advent Calendar as her basic idea.

Many of us grew up with Advent Calendars, but they didn’t all have gifts in them.

Nikki put a twist on the calendar idea so the emphasis each day is time spent talking about topics that don’t normally come up. Each day on the calendar is a link to the Advent Calendar on her website. Each day offers a story, with core values that families can talk about. Each day also offers crafts, recipes, a charity of the day to expose families to charities that need support, and six or seven other links created especially for this Advent Calendar.

The story for the day can be read on screen, printed off and read when the family is comfortable and together. It can turn into a meaningful ritual.

The neat thing is that a family gets a physical Advent Calendar with doors that open with directions behind each door. Each calendar comes with its own pin number so the family can use its unique number to explore a world of activities that benefit the whole family.

Nikki calls this the Interactive Family Advent Calendar. You can order through the website. $9.95 gets your family started on meaningful leadup days to Christmas. Maybe also to wanting less and loving it more.

The physical copy arrives in days and even if you’re late ordering, you can still open advent doors between Christmas and New Years.

Nikki also offers a virtual calendar for $7.95 where families actually go to the computer to click on their door and use their unique pin number to explore their family activities.

These Advent Calendars are for sale in just one location in Barrie, at Bloom Health on Bell Farm Rd.

So I went to the website to see just how user friendly it is. The site even lets me ‘test’ a door and experience all the links that come up. There’s a recipe link for candy cane cocoa, there’s a link to simplifying Christmas, there’s a link to Family SOS, a featured charity for one day.

Nikki has orders coming from across North America as well as some overseas individuals who’ve come across her site. She sees this as just the beginning and this Advent Calendar is really her campaign launch. Next year she’ll add other activities for families.

“I believe if you start down a path of gratitude and an understanding of the bigger world, it’ll never totally curb the gift list, but it will influence it,” she says.

What a great idea! Thanks, Nikki.