Drummers Drumming

I arrived back to my apartment about fifteen minutes ago. There are two suitcases and approximately seventy bags and boxes waiting to be unpacked, not to mention the kitchen table full of Christmas and birthday presents that need to be put away from before I left.  Oh, and the Advent wreath.  And yet I sat down to blog.  It’s okay – I’ve unpacked one bag, watered my plants, and put baby Jesus in the manger.  Lots of accomplishments.  (The shepherds barely got in their alone time with Baby Jesus before the magi arrive tomorrow.  Whew, that was a close one.)

When I noticed in the car that it was the 12th day of Christmas, I realized there was a blog post that just had to be recorded for posterity today, and so the boxes and suitcases can wait.

We have been doing “Advent Angels” for the past few years at my place of employment.  I really enjoy things like that — such a small activity that can really bring a community together if it’s done well.

The first year we did it, I didn’t mean to have as much fun with it as a I did, but it kind of got away from me.  I had one of our A&P professors, and I knew he was the type of person I could have some fun with.  I found a dreidel when I was wandering around the store looking for little presents, and since I’ve always wanted a real dreidel, I bought it for him.  I left him a note saying, “In case you are Jewish, Happy Hanukkah.”  The present ended up causing him some distress, because he actually thought his Advent Angel didn’t know he was a Catholic!  haha!  When he lamented to me about his lack of evident Catholicity, I decided to run with the whole thing… he ended up getting presents for Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day (a Buddhist holiday), Our Lady of Guadalupe, etc.

The highlight (NOT my idea) was for the winter solstice (“in case you’re a pagan…”) where another professor (who will remain nameless) and I built Stonehenge on his office floor with bricks.


 Luckily, he was a great sport about it all and couldn’t wait to find out who his crazy Advent Angel was.  I presented him with a mix-and-match 6-pack of beer for his final present, with each beer corresponding to one of the previously-celebrated holidays, plus an official Popener blessed by Pope Benedict- since he really is a Catholic. : )


I took a break from creativity last year, although I did make my final present, so maybe I should say I took a break from pranks.

This year I decided it would be fun to have a theme for all the presents. I decided to give whomever I drew out of the hat gifts based on the 12 days of Christmas.

Once again… things got a little away from me.

The first day I typed a little note that said:

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me

replacing “Christmas” with Advent Angels and “true love” with Advent Angel

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

I put it on her desk with a pear and waited to see if there was any reaction.

I had drawn the name of one of the Sisters, and one who just happened to have an office almost directly across the hall from me.  No reaction on the first day.

I went to Target that night and anxiously looked for things that would fit the theme.  I was drawing a lot of blanks.  I found a few winners, but how was I going to adapt things like swans and drummers?  There were only so many things I could find made out of chocolate.  Hm.

On the second day, I repeated the note, crossing out Christmas and true love, and then I crossed out “two turtle doves” and wrote “Two doves and a turtle,” leaving her two pieces of Dove chocolate and a DeMet’s chocolate turtle.

My shopping trip at Target had been somewhat successful– I had found that there are Christmas Peeps, and they just so happen to come in packages of three.  So three French hens became “Three Peppermint Hens.”

Now came more birds, and I was really drawing a blank.  Luckily that day I ran into Jean Marie, one of the best pranksters most creative people our college employs, and I told her about my brilliant idea that was hitting a major roadblock.  She came to the rescue for day four…

My dear friend Molly is receptionist-extraordinaire at the College, and so I dictated four messages to her, which she wrote out on “While you were out” message pads.  Cardinal Dolan phoned, wantingSister to come on his radio show … Cardinal George wanted advice on his successor … Cardinal O’Malley wanted her to throw out the first pitch at the Red Sox Game … Cardinal DiNardo had a question about his cowboy hat.

Molly delivered the messages, and Sister didn’t miss a beat.  I could hear her laugh and compliment the creativity of her Advent Angel (the first of a few misplaced compliments!) … four calling birds.

Day Five was an easy one … I left the same note as the first three days, but left the phrase “five golden rings” intact, plus added clip art of five gold finger rosaries and a note that the Rosary would be said that day for her intention.

The weekend came so I could breathe.. but there was no rest for the weary.  I had geese and swans and maids to think about.  Thankfully, Molly was completely on board by this time.  I really don’t know what I would have done without her… this definitely wouldn’t have been as fun as it was…

Monday was the transferred feast of the Immaculate Conception, and I took the day off to celebrate.  So Molly, being the incredible person she is, not only made the present, but delivered it, too.  I had written Sister a note from the six geese a-laying that they had left her a present in the fridge.

…A container of egg salad. (Thanks to my friend Sister Matthew Marie for that idea… this was a group effort, to say the least.)

On the 7th Day of Advent Angels, Sister found a note on her desk from the 8 maids of milking.  They informed her that it was too cold for the seven swans of swimming, who had continued swimming to Florida.  They left her a present of Milka mini candy bars – 8 of them, to be exact.  (Those were found that fateful Target night. I couldn’t believe there were actually 8 of them in the box.)

And then it all got a little crazy.  For the 9 Ladies Dancing, I was planning on making a cutout — the ones you can make where you cut one little person and unfold the paper and they’re all linked?  I was going to make a cute little banner of them (9 ladies, of course) and put it on her door.

Molly wouldn’t hear of it.  9 Ladies Dancing?  We were going to have 9 ladies dancing.

It was all very exciting… Molly found 8 volunteers (we decided I should participate, to get Sister off my scent… she seemed pretty convinced it was me, after I had exhibited similar creativity two years earlier.  The funny thing was… none of the creative ideas had actually been mine!) and we met at her desk at 9:55 in the morning.  We had decided the nine of us would do a kick-line while singing Jingle Bells on the sidewalk outside her office window.  We had someone call Sister to look out her window, but she ended up coming out to witness the event. We kicked, sang, and then headed inside as if it was the most natural thing in the world.  Nine ladies dancing.

For day 10, I had long ago decided that I would write a sweet note saying something like, “I only know one Lord, and when He leapt down from Heaven on the altar this morning, I prayed for you.”  Nice, huh?

Yeah.  That wasn’t going to fly, especially after Sister expressed in an email that she was scared to see what was in store for the next day.  Well, that’s a challenge Molly wasn’t going to take sitting down.

It went something like this:

Joannie: “We’re never going to find ten male faculty members willing to leap! They’re either in finals, or they’re not even here because they’re finished.  Do we even have ten men that work here!?  This is crazy.”

Molly smiles with a gleam in her eye

She had ten “volunteers” within the hour.

So the following day, ten men were gathered at her desk at 9:55, awaiting instruction.  Sister was out of her office, so they re-convened at 10:55.  Sister was in a meeting in her office, so the location would be the same– the sidewalk outside her office window.  Instructions were fairly straight forward — after we get her attention, leap, jump, hop — anything … and then walk away.

I had to hide inside the main building and look through the window so that she wouldn’t see me.  I might have pictures documenting the event, but I should probably protect the guilty parties, so I’ll refrain from posting them.  I am definitely in debt to the ten bravest men at the college.  Sister loved it.

(One upstanding member of our administration was involved, and he happened to be in a meeting when 9:55 rolled around.  The other person at the meeting reported later that he looked at his watch and seeing the time, jumped, asking Ron, “Are you a leaping lord!?!”  Ron, being ignorant of the whole scheme, admitted that no one had ever asked him that before.  He wasn’t quite sure how to respond…)

I spent the next few hours asking everyone I saw if they played the bagpipes.

Sister was out of the office for a few days, so 11 and 12 were delayed.   Since I was unsuccessful finding a bagpiper (although I made myself laugh just picturing Sister sitting in her office and suddenly hearing the drone begin…), we ended up making a collage on her door of 11 famous men smoking pipes.  (once again, the idea wasn’t mine… the idea was my friend Liza’s and Molly found all the pictures!  At least I put them up, I suppose. ha!)


I didn’t bother searching for twelve people to serenade her with drumming … I figured that was as likely as the bagpipers.  So I had to get a little creative — no note on the twelfth day, just evidence that maybe the twelve drummers had paid her a visit and left their instruments behind:

IMG_6684(Diet Coke cans, if you were wondering.)

Despite trying to throw her off the scent, I don’t think she was too surprised when I walked into her office holding her final present (a little Nativity scene carved into a evergreen tree, since she collects Nativity scenes).  I thanked her for being a good sport about it all, and it was fun to reveal all the people who had helped make the whole thing possible.

I have to admit… I’ll never hear that song the same way again.

It’s time to start scheming for next year!

Happy Christmas, all!


2 thoughts on “Drummers Drumming

  1. Megan says:

    Oh good! I was wondering how it all turned out. The drum cans were cute! And I just love the imagination and teamwork that went into turning out a fun gift for sister.

  2. romancingreilly says:

    You are awesome. I am rocking Sebastian to sleep and tried not to
    Burst out loud laughing at the thought of the kick line and ten leaping lords.

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