Over the years we have celebrated a multitude of advent calendars with our family.

A plethora.

A myriad.  A profusion.  A deluge.  A plenitude.

A lot.

We’ve had candy and gifts and countdowns and pin the ornament on the tree type of advent calendars.

But this year?  This year I wanted to try something different.  Something to celebrate a season that isn’t really about us.  Something to make a small difference in a big way.

This year, I wanted to leave a joy trail.



It started small.

I bought these cards and stickers in the Target Dollar Spot aisle.  I had no idea what to do with them (seriously does anyone ever know what they are going to do with the cute scrapbook supplies that work their way into the cart?)

So they became an advent calendar.

I wrote 25 acts of kindness and then clipped them onto my mason jar rack in the kitchen.


Not just any advent calendar.

A calendar about leaving a joy trail and doing things for others every day.

Each of the notes has something (some small, some a little bigger) that (hopefully) will add a little joy to someone’s life.

Every morning we open the note, read it aloud, spend that day leaving a little joy and then?

We report our stories back each night over dinner.


I know it’s December 2.

I probably should have posted this a little earlier.

But in case you wanted to follow along, here’s what is inside each of these notes:

1. Let someone go ahead of you in line

2. Give someone a compliment

3. Write a letter to someone special

4. Hold the door open for someone

5. Tell someone thank you for something they’ve done for you


6. Walk the cart back to the front of the store

7. Call your grandmother (or another relative) and tell them you love them

8. Say something nice to someone you don’t really like

9. Be someone’s cheerleader

10. Give your advent gift to someone special


11. Smile at three of your friends in school–don’t tell them why

12. Share your dessert at lunch

13. Help a teacher in some way without being asked

14. Help your mother in some way without being asked

15. Get a donation bag ready to donate


16. Be super enthusiastic if someone has good news

17. Write a note for your friend and leave it inside their textbook

18. Text someone you haven’t talked to in a while

19. Make cookies for someone special

20. Leave two nice post-it notes for your sibling to find


21. Say something nice to someone who is shy

22. Have a no complaint day

23. Give someone your favorite book

24. Tell your mother you love her

25. Remember the reason for the season

Obviously, these are designed for middle-schoolers, but you could adjust for your own family.

The goal is to cut through the noise and cacophony of all the commercialism and it’s all about me-ism and make a small different.

Because after all, the smallest drop of joy can spread ripples…

…which can move the mightiest of oceans. 🙂

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  1. Image for Nancy @ Slightly Coastal Nancy @ Slightly Coastal

    What a great list! I'm pinning this for next year for sure! By the way, you just totally used my favorite word in the English language...cacophony. Like seriously, it's my favorite. I taught it to both my boys when they were itty bitty. I use it all the time. Instead of telling them it is too loud in the house I always say, "The cacophonous noise in this house needs to stop". Have a fantastic weekend karianne.

  2. Image for Holly Goode Holly Goode

    Love this!!!! Wish my kids were still young so we could do this. But I am inspired to leave a joy-trail this month. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Image for Donna Gerardi Donna Gerardi

    This is an absolutely beautiful way to add more joy to the world during this most joyous of seasons. I love the giving heart with in you that created this, and so generously shared it with us. As others have said, just reading this at a joy to my world. Thank you so much, Kari Anne!

  4. Image for brocanteuserose brocanteuserose

    These are amazing "to do" ideas and perfect, not just for middle school age either, I could start doing some of these a bit more often for sure!!

  5. Image for Linda Pinion Linda Pinion

    Under all that wonderful, curly head of hair you have there MUST an "energizer" BRAIN that is constantly thinking creatively! My Mother has that kind of brain, always thinking about what she can do with basically nothing/anything. You have definitely found your gift! And the best thing is you share it! Have a great day and keep that brain working for us!

  6. Image for Rebecca K Rebecca K

    Thank you! As always, you inspire us to do better and make our world a better place in which to live. Now, I need to go dry my hair! No wonder you run out of ideas, you've used them all up! HARDLY! Keep the inspiration coming. Gratefully you in the spirit of Christmas.....

  7. Image for Meta Meta

    Love the advent calendar idea! I know the Bible says DO NOT COVET but I am coveting the Mason jar rack! I have for a long time! I saw a round one on ETSY for $249. Really! Yesterday I was in Hobby Lobby and saw a round one for $17 so I bought it. I try to leave a joy trail every day. I mail 10 birthday cards and 10 notes of encouragement yesterday. My latest project is writing monthly to my first and second graders who are in college now. For December I told them to study hard and sent a Starbucks card to help stay awake while studying!

  8. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Oo, I love this idea! Would be so easy to adjust to include all ages...make and take cookies to an elderly neighbor, tell your spouse how much they mean to you, etc. and Target...I had lots of things from the Dollar Spot find their way into my basket yesterday. And then some! Can't wait to share!

  9. Image for Amy K Amy K

    I love this idea for teens, well and kids too. They live in their own little world and this is a good way for them to see there is life outside their cocoon. My kids are all grown now but I would have been all over this idea back in the day. Thanks Karianne.

  10. Image for Ellen Ellen

    Marvelous, simply marvelous!! This is without a doubt the most magnificent Advent calendar ever! I am constantly amazed by your creative thinking. Even more amazed as the fantastic ideas tucked into all of the corners of your brain tumble out. Sometimes you out do YOU, this is one of those times! What could be better than an Advent calendar that "leaves a joy trail"? Thank-you for sharing and reminding us when you can be anything to just "be nice"!

  11. Image for sandi sandi

    You never fail at being inspiring! Since we live in Europe we "do" Advent from the time a kid can breathe almost---this is a new idea for me to use w/my grandson. Thank you again!

  12. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    A wonderful idea. I'm pinning it to my Inspiration and Prayer board. I love the idea of smiling at people and giving compliments. Being nice takes no effort at all. Have a wonderful day!! I believe you bring sunshine wherever you go.

  13. Image for Jill Wendt Jill Wendt

    As everyone has idea ever!! You are so creative and I love reading your post. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  14. Image for Lisa Lisa

    THIS is so it❤️?❤️ Can you tell me where you got your mason jar rack? I love that too ? Thank you's from Michigan , Lisa?☮️?

  15. Image for Loryl Loryl

    Are you sure you weren't a life coach in another life?? My bestie used to do these things everyday of her life. To spread joy is a great gift and your suggestions brought tears to my eyes. I try to honor my friends memeory and do joyful things everyday but your sweet reminder was perfect for the season. And after 25 days, who knows. Maybe it will become a habit for all of us! ❤️

  16. Image for Kris Kris

    Great idea! I try to change up our Advent calendar (not the physical calendar, but the readings we do daily) each year to keep it fresh. This is a fun and different take on it. Maybe next year ...

  17. Image for Cindy Baugh Cindy Baugh

    Had to come here for a little break from all the devastation my little piece of the world is experiencing. As you probably know, Sevier county in Tennessee has experienced a horrifying week. So much loss and sadness. My own family was unscathed, and for that we are grateful,but we have friends who lost everything. But we are Tenneseans and we are all doing what we can to get the pieces picked up again. Thank you for providing a sweet, pleasant read today.

  18. Image for Jae Jae

    Positively awesome! Seems as if there are just too many bad manners and me ism in the world. What a great way to remind us all how important common courtesy and making life better for all is. Good manners and random acts of kindness go so so far making a day brighter for both giver and recipient. You made me smile just reading this, and I resolved to pass that smile on. Thank you.

  19. Image for Kathleen Kathleen

    Oh, KariAnne! It's perfect ~ and yes, everyone wants to do this one, because it's really as wonderful as you probably imagined. I actually have the black Mason Jar rack ~ I use mine for "business display" ~ and another smaller, galvanized one that is a light fixture believe it or not! (I just haven't had it installed yet, because I'm afraid its size may overwhelm the breakfast area.) I will Pin this on my Advent Calendars Board, go to Target's Dollar Spot tomorrow (finally!), and then put one together for hubby and me! But more importantly, back to the Advent Calendar ... the 25 suggestions you used can easily be customized for young couples, older kids, the empty nesters that we are now ~ any age. We can all benefit from creating a Joy Trail during this Christmas Season: what more joyous event is there to honor by our doing so?! Blessings ... kj

  20. Image for Lanita Anderson Lanita Anderson

    Oh my goodness....I LOVE this idea!!! Thank you for sharing - what a great idea for putting on the true spirit of Christmas and the real reason we celebrate! Happy Weekend...

  21. Image for Lynn Lynn

    A wonderful idea! Kids need to know life is not all "about them;" these 'little things' teach them about living a quality life. Your blog is amazing.

  22. Image for Preppy Mountain Farmer Preppy Mountain Farmer

    What a beautiful idea. Thank you so much for sharing this. My household can use a reminder of the true spirit of Christmas right now.

  23. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    I love this idea, Karieanne! I am going to share it with my daughter, so that she can add it to their family Advent celebration! Thanks for sharing with us.

  24. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    What a fantastic idea!! Good reminder for all of us....even those of us that are way way past middle school! ;)

  25. Image for Julie Blanner Julie Blanner

    That's so cute - I'm going to integrate some of those ideas for ours this year. Speaking of, I guess it's time to start! It's one of our favorite Christmas activities. Happy Holidays!

  26. Image for gina gina

    This is the greatest idea for my high schooler. He has trouble making friends and some of these ideas just may give him a reason to spread joy. Thanks!

  27. Image for Olivia Olivia

    This is the sweetest idea - I love this! I don't have kids yet, but it's definitely being filed away as a tradition I will absolutely do whenever the time comes! Thank you so much for sharing!

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