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Family’s Advent Calendar Holds Treasures and Memories

"As a family we’re not into materialism, so the challenge is to find things that aren’t just tchotchkes and sugar"



A Christmas gift from Grandpa that keeps on giving.

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

For kids who celebrate Christmas, the weeks leading up to the big day can be torturous. But thanks to their maternal grandfather, Adella and Sydney Hoyt have an Advent tradition that is itself worth waiting for. Eight years ago — the year that their mother, Brenda, had Adella — Brenda’s father, Ron Hanning, gave the family a special gift, a handmade wooden Advent calendar. 

The children’s father, Corey, is of German descent and grew up with German Advent calendars with chocolate inside. But the calendar his children’s grandfather made takes that tradition to a whole new level. 

The calendar is a set of drawers, one for each day leading up to Christmas. On the front of each drawer is a tiny, elaborate painting. Some of the paintings are Christmas-themed; others are drawn from the family’s life. One depicts a Dalmatian, for instance, in homage to Brenda’s dog, while another has a frog on it because Corey likes the web-toed amphibians. 

“The calendar is clearly handmade,” says Corey. “The boxes are wonky and don’t quite fit, and they’re all different sizes.” 

Inside each drawer, Corey and Brenda put little treasures — bracelets, rings, chocolates, stickers, shells, polished rocks and other small things they stash away during the year. 

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

“We don’t like to give them too much sugar,” says Corey, “and as a family we’re not into materialism, so the challenge is to find things that aren’t just tchotchkes and sugar.” 

Each year, Adella, 8, and Sydney, 6, draw even or odd days, then take turns opening a drawer and getting the treasure inside. The final door they open together. 

“The last one we do up,” says Corey, “just because it’s Christmas Eve.” 

This year, both of Brenda’s parents passed away. This will be the Hoyts’ first Christmas  without them. But the love and care their grandpa had for them will live on in their holiday traditions through the bright pictures and crooked drawers of his homemade Advent box. 

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