Did you ever have an Advent calendar when you were younger?
If so, you probably remember the excitement you felt each day as you prepared to open another little door or window on the calendar and discover a treat hiding inside. This year you’ll be able to experience that anticipation all over again by checking out the Catholic Courier’s new multimedia Advent calendar.
The calendar, which may be found at www.catholiccourier.com/adventcalendar, features 29 digital treats. The first treat will be unlocked the day before Advent begins, and one new surprise will be unlocked each day between Nov. 28 and Dec. 26. Readers will find multimedia treats — such as videos and slideshows by the Courier staff — behind many of the windows, and recipes, crafts and children’s puzzles behind others.
"Every day people open the window they’ll get a new surprise," explained Karen M. Franz, editor and general manager of the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico newspapers.
The newspapers’ editorial staff began working on the project this past August, after Franz received an e-mail about a digital Advent-calendar framework being offered to Catholic publications by Maryland-based Advertising Media Plus. The agency was offering the online calendar software, complete with a range of canned content for each window, at a fair price, so Franz asked the Courier’s new media coordinator, Gina Capellazzi, to look into it. Capellazzi agreed that the calendar would make a good addition to the Courier’s website, and the editorial staff soon began meeting to determine how best to customize the Advent calendar.
"I said it probably would be good if we added at least a couple pieces of local content to the canned material AMPs provides, and next thing I knew the balance had become flipped, with mostly local content and a few pieces of canned content," Franz remarked.
"The content they gave us was OK, but we thought we could do a whole lot more," Capellazzi explained.
In the end, the Courier’s staff ended up producing 75 percent to 80 percent of the calendar’s content, sometimes by simply enhancing material provided by AMPs, she said. For example, if the original treat behind one window was that day’s Scripture reading, the Courier’s staff replaced the text file with an audio recording of the same passage being read by a local person — including Bishop Salvatore R. Matano — and a slideshow of related Courier images playing in the background.
"It actually kind of took on a life of its own. Last year we had this huge Pray 24 (multimedia) project that was proposed and produced by the editorial staff, and that was really popular," Franz said. "But we needed something different this year. And our extremely ambitious editorial staff went crazy again, producing all this marvelous Advent content."
Capellazzi said she and the other staff members involved in producing the Advent calendar were looking for a way to put their various talents to use while doing something different and creative. She said she hopes the calendar will drive traffic to CatholicCourier.com so visitors can see what else the Courier has to offer beyond the print edition and also learn what’s going on around the diocese.
The Advent calendar features content from each of the three regions of the diocese — Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Monroe County — as well as treats geared toward various ages and some aimed at the diocese’s Spanish-speaking population.
Capellazzi said she especially likes the videos, particularly one of former chef Father Joseph Marcoux, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Ithaca, preparing an appetizer.
Producing the calendar has been a lot of work, but Capellazzi said she believes the effort will be worth it.
"A lot more work went into it than I actually expected at the start," Franz said, "but I think people are really going to like it, and I hope they will pass it on to their friends."