How to be the Favorite Aunt. (or other relative.)

I love Christmas, mostly the getting ready for it and making it special for others. Don’t know why, but I’ve always been more comfortable giving than receiving. So, a few years ago, I got the idea of making an advent calendar for my girls, nieces and nephews that would actually allow them to open a small gift every day.

I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. There are eight kids in my immediate family, they each get 24, tiny, individually wrapped gifts, one for each day of December through Christmas eve, making a grand total of 192 presents.

Here are the basic rules, and then how I’ve learned to make it easier on myself.

First, do not spend more than a dollar on any item. You can do a couple of two or three dollar ones, as long as you keep most of them in the 25 cent range. Second, start looking for next years stuff in January. I keep an eye open for fun little knick-nacks all year, mostly toys. The trick here, is keeping them small. Here’s a sample of what would go into one gift.

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Technically, there are two gifts in each, but I do love to spoil my babies!

Now, the first couple of years, I tried to find tiny gift boxes and wrap them all with gift wrap paper. Then cut ribbon and try to tie tiny bows without the ribbons falling off. It was crazy making. Forget it. Do you have any idea how many pieces of tape it takes to traditionally wrap 192 miniature presents? Insanity will set in before you get the tree up!

So, there are two easy ways that I’ve found. One, get a whole bunch of tiny gift bags, the downside to this is, you have to label each one with a number on some kind of tag that won’t fall off when it’s kid-handled. Added work. The kids go to their advent calendar every morning and find the gift with the correct number to match the date. Great way to help little ones with learning numbers and dates, by the way! The second way, which I’ve employed this year, is to get some tissue paper, cut it into four parts in stacks, and buy a bunch of decorative pipe cleaners. They take two seconds to put on, they stay on, and you can twist the ends into fun shapes!! Then use a red, green or gold marker to write the number on the tissue. It won’t get lost or separated from the gift.

Now, line up all your gifts. I have households with two kids each, some both boys, some boy and girl, and my two girls. So the gifts may need to change a bit, and it will get confusing as you wrap and number them. For my brother’s two boys, who are close in age, I make sure they each get the same thing every day. This will eliminate stress for their parents.

For the girl-boy or large separation of ages in the households, I line up two lines of gifts, one row for each kid, across from each other to make sure it’s ‘even’ and wrap as I go. First, day one for both kids. They get put into bags, marked with each child’s name, so that I know which is which later. You will not remember, trust me, even if you are far less frenzied than I.

Make a nice cup of tea. Find a place to put your tape, pen, and other supplies where you can find them repeatedly. Start wrapping. My next advice is this. Deli wrap. It saves time and you only need a single piece of tape for each gift. Start with the paper diagonal, fold up one corner, fold in the corner to the right, flip once, fold in the corner to the left, tucking in excess, and then roll up and tape. Add twisty, use the pen to put on a number with the date, presto!!

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Here you’ve got one present. The next picture is about halfway through with the nephews’ batch. I only do one household at a time or I lose patience, and that’s no fun. You can see all the ones I haven’t wrapped beyond the pile. Notice that they are lined up to be the same for each boy, each day. If you have kids, you will understand why. If not, you will learn.

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And finally, you will have the finished result. I gave each of my beloved children a small tree and a tiny tree skirt. They set them up in their rooms, (with lights) and place the presents around the bottom. It’s a miniature Christmas, that helps build the excitement for the big day!!

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Another mistake to avoid. If you have a small one, say two or so. Don’t give candy on day one. I did this one year and my sister called me. “Great,” she said. “Now everyday when he doesn’t get chocolate, he has a hissy fit and I have to give him a time out.”

Whoops.

Babies are only worth doing if they have a sibling, who will very much enjoy opening the little packages of socks or tiny books and sharing with their little brother or sister.

It’s a lot of work, and no small expense, but in the end I know it’s worth it. the kids love to get this, it’s become part of their holiday tradition. And when my sister in Charleston called me to say they got the package and told me, “You would have thought the holy grail was in that box,” well, my heart beamed so brightly that the Christmas star came early that year.

Start early, this is something that needs to be done before December first.

Whatever you celebrate, may it be a joyous holiday for you, and may you feel the excitement of childhood in every day of your life.

Shari, November 28, 2012

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