A few Novembers ago, an empty wine box on my kitchen table gave me an idea.

Rather than buy (or make — who has time?) a traditional advent calendar, with waxy chocolates or tiny gifts we don’t really need more of, why not count down to the holidays in reverse, collecting an edible item for those in need each day leading up to Christmas?

At a time of year when we celebrate giving, yet some struggle more than ever, it makes sense to remember the true meaning of the holiday season when December 1st arrives.

Two wine boxes make the perfect carrier — with 12 compartments each, it’s a 24 day countdown to Christmas Eve, at which time they can be dropped off at the food bank, shelter or other agency. (Of course if it’s loaded with non-perishable food items, delivery could easily wait until January — unfortunately there’s always a need.)

For families, it’s a nice habit to instill — to think of members of our community who may be confronting challenges or may not always know where their next meal comes from, while we shop for our own pantries. Kids (and adults) get into the habit of considering which ingredients are affordable and useful, and what could be done with them.

The Calgary Interfaith Food Bank wish list includes pasta, peanut butter, canned fish, fruit and vegetables, pasta sauces, and other non-perishables that can be easily picked up on a shopping trip and fit perfectly into the space that once held a bottle of wine.

I like to tuck in the odd box of chocolates or nice bottle of shampoo, because everyone likes to get a little something special during the holidays — and it’s just as nice to be on the giving end.

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