Seamen's Church Institute publishes online Advent Calendar

Posted Dec 1, 2011

[Seamens Church Institute] As presents gather under the tree this month, purchasers may cite their sources as Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and The Gap. The true origin of these items, however, usually starts with a story of overseas manufacturing.

This holiday season, many work behind the scenes—factory workers, store clerks and delivery people—but in order for the work of these local individuals to have any impact on the world’s economy, they must connect with each other across vast miles of ocean. From the point of production to the point of sale, gifts must make a journey coordinated by the work of the world’s merchant marine. International seafarers work aboard cargo ships delivering over 90% of all the goods imported to the United States from other countries. Their hard work makes it possible for gift-givers to give train sets, video games, jewelry and countless other holiday gifts.

This year, instead of telling the traditional story of a journey to Bethlehem, SCI has created an Advent Calendar that chronicles the voyage of goods like iPods, breakfast grains, orange juice and coal used to power electricity plants across the waters of the earth. Doors open each day to reveal a photograph accompanying an insider’s view of the water-borne journey.

The journeys of mariners take them far away from family and loved ones. At the end of a hard day’s work—days stretching end to end often for many months—they fall asleep aboard their working vessel. To connect with home, brief stops in port afford little time for a quick call or email.

SCI’s Advent Calendar asks online visitors to consider the things hidden behind closed doors—the intense, tiring labor of merchant mariners that makes present-day holiday celebrations possible. Their work bears remembering at a time when those who celebrate Christmas recall how one vulnerable family searched for a place to rest. With the help and support of volunteers and supporters worldwide, SCI and other agencies like it support mariners while far away from home.

To view SCI’s 2011 online Advent Calendar, type into a web browser.

As a special thank you gift, from December 1 to 24, SCI will send the first person to contribute online each day a free knitted Christmas ornament. In order to qualify, include the words “Advent Calendar” in the special instructions section of the online donation page at