It’s not what you’re thinking. This is not a blog about football championships. This is about a bowl game that will get you to and through the holiday season and past the daylight-deprived days ahead. I’m talking about Advent Bowl.


Oh good, I love Advent Bowl!


Me too, 9. This will be the third year of playing my winter survival invention, a game that strives to keep me from falling down the rabbit hole of darkness, depression and gloom. Because even optimists can fall into the seasonal disorder trough. You know how cold troughs can be at this time of year. We all remember that winter when the concrete horse trough iced over several inches thick, right?




That was the year Grandpa broke the ice with an axe.


The very one, Lily. Remember how thick the winter coats were on our ponies? Wee Chocolate looked like a haystack.


Cold winter with Wee Chocolate, c. 1968. We really could have used a bowl game that year!


I kind of looked like a haystack too. I never did like that coat.


Maybe not at the time, 9, but from the perspective of years, I think you and Wee Chocolate look pretty cute.


Back to Advent Bowl. It’s a game of randomly drawing and completing tasks. There aren’t many rules, but it’s critical that the tasks you choose are designed to lift your spirits. You don’t even have to call it Advent Bowl. Feel free to substitute any winter holiday of choice. The goal is, bring on the light!


So far this discussion is a bit abstract. Can you back up to the basics?


Yes I can, Lily, and I’d like you to help me. Let’s do a Q and A. What’s the first thing you think people need to know?


Is there an actual bowl involved?


Good question! The answer is yes, no, and maybe. My bowl is a cut glass candy jar that belonged to great-grandmother Eugenia Abraham, a festive vessel, yet solid. I make a special space in the living room for the bowl, put a winter-appropriate cloth napkin under it and set a candle nearby. Every morning of Advent (or interval of choice), I light the candle, draw a task from the bowl and challenge myself to complete the task by the end of the day.

Advent Bowl 2020!

That’s my personal ritual, and I think it’s a dandy. But to answer your question, Lily, the bowl itself can be literal or metaphorical. You could pull your tasks out of a top hat or a gift box or a salad spinner if you wanted to.


Will you tell us more about these tasks you create?


Happy to. For me, the things that are most likely to lift my spirits fall into four rough categories:


  1. Holiday-specific things, like going to a special concert or play or movie, playing Christmas CDs or getting an evergreen wreath for the door.


  1. Things to do for others, from taking a donation to the food bank to writing a letter to someone I’ve been out of touch with to let them know I’m thinking of them.


  1. Self-care things-Go for a walk, have a long soak in the tub, etc.


  1. Self-indulgent things-Try a new and promisingly gooey brownie recipe, have a mug of eggnog with a shot or two of brandy, chow down on a glorious batch of homemade mac and cheese,


We could use a lot of number 4 stuff.


The funny thing is, 9, when I make up my task list it usually comes out reasonably balanced between the categories.


Maybe it’s time for a change?


Maybe so. Maybe we’ll divide the 24 days up between us, 8 each for you and Lily and me. That’s part of the beauty of the bowl game: the tasks are 100% customizable.


So, we’ve talked about the bowl itself, and the tasks, which I type up on the computer, print out, and cut into strips. The strips are then folded twice and dropped into the bowl. Starting December 1, I draw one slip per day, Whatever I draw, I challenge myself to do that very day.


The daily challenge aspect is important to consider when creating your tasks. For example, if you enjoy attending live holiday performances you probably don’t want those in your bowl because they happen on specific days that might not coincide with the day you draw that task. On the other hand, with streaming and cineplexes, seeing a holiday movie is a task that could be completed on any given day.


You will also want to consider the complexity of the tasks. The first year of Advent Bowl I assigned myself to make felt ornaments using a holiday cookie cutter as a template, to be attached to boxes and plates of matching sugar cookies made with that same cutter as gifts for friends. It sounded simple- -after all, I could do this when I was a kid. I’d already purchased a small assortment of holiday cookie cutters and had selected the star as my template, also the felt in a pale wintry blue. Should be a snap if I gave it a couple of hours in the afternoon or evening, right?





Quite wrong, Lily. I hadn’t factored in how I’d decorate the ornaments. Tiny blue and yellow glass beads and sequins were required and had to be purchased. And what were these ornaments to hang by? I finally solved that with loops of florist wire sewn into the tops. But the worst stumbling block was threading the needle with sixty-year-old eyes. It took me something like two weeks to make it all come together.


Another bowl game caution: you may want to avoid a task that requires a special time of day. I drew “take a friend to lunch” on the day I was participating in an historic tea and fashion show at a local museum. It was a sold-out and fabulously fun event, and all of us models had our vintage-appropriate hair and makeup done by professionals. Salon time started at ten; the fashion show started around 2 P. I was starving after such a fashionable adventure but I wasn’t going to invite an actual friend to meet me for lunch at maybe 3 P or more likely 4 P- -not if I wanted to remain friends.

The price of beauty: punting to make the bowl game goal! Kirkman House Museum, December 8, 2019.

If you find yourself in this situation, remember a critical rule of Advent (or whatever) Bowl: punt! On the way home I stopped for a BLT at Clairette’s, Walla Walla’s home-style cooking mecca. I’d changed into my regular clothes but was still sporting my 1920s hairdo and makeup too severe for street wear. Everyone but the waitresses kind of shied away from me. On the inside, I chuckled. One party of lucky diners was going to have their meal paid for by an unidentified patron. Never would they think it was the weird-looking woman with the BLT. Did these strangers, a middle-aged couple locked in serious conversation in the booth behind mine, actually qualify as friends? On a cosmic level, I believe so.


I hope you’ll challenge yourself to a bowl game this holiday season. A little bit of thought and preparation (like picking up the eggnog before the game starts) can go a long way toward making your bowl game a happy bowl game!


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