I don’t recall doing an advent calendar growing up, but we (catholics) always had a little visual countdown with our advent wreath at dinner time. Every week leading up to Christmas, a new candle on the wreath is lit signifying Christmas day (and sweet baby Jesus) growing closer. Lighting (and blowing out) the candles was an event. Dad always lit them, but who would get to be the one to blow out the candle at the end of dinner? I begged for it every night. The glow of those purple and rose colored candles in the middle of the table added to the magic of the month. My parents light their candles every December to this day, and it’s a tradition that I want to continue with my family, but this year, fire is just something I can’t commit to yet with our tiny ones at the table
For now, opening little boxes topped with trees and filled with a small strip of paper with a holiday activity is such a sweet evening ritual to look forward to. It really makes the countdown to Christmas an event, and puts that whole “good cheer” and “merriment” of the season right in our midst. Within each box, I wrote a little Christmas activity to do on that day. I make sure to put all of our favorite Christmas movies and treats in the boxes. Some (especially weeknight activities) are easy, some more involved with a bit of planning.
In a year or two, when the boys get a little bit bigger, I’ll start subbing in more activities for the good of others (Donate toys! Volunteer! Buy a gift for a family in need! Send homemade Christmas cards to a nursing home! Bake cookies for the homeless shelter! Etc. etc. etc.) and more outings as our kids age (Go to the Nutcracker! Drive around to see the Christmas lights! Go ice skating!). But for now, we’ll settle for a watch of The Grinch on the couch before bed, or a night of wearing Christmas hats with Christmas tunes tinkling in the background.
In the rush of coming off of travel and Thanksgiving being so late this year, I didn’t even put our Advent calendar out until the 5th. But the 5th was just as good a day to start as the 1st, or even the 10th.
I made our advent calendar last year, and love it just as much this year. I got everything from Michael’s when they were having a 60% off sale (as they are this week!) and the only other supply I needed was a sharpie and a hot glue gun, which I had at home.
I used this set of 21 bottle brush trees from Lemax. To fill in for the other 3 boxes, I used this set of pinecones and a little bag of silver bells. Berries would be nice too. Make sure to set your trees out in the order that you’ll glue them to the boxes to make sure the heights are appealing to the eye. Try to vary the heights a little.
The boxes are small kraft paper boxes from the jewelry section at Michael’s. These are very similar. I wrote the numbers on the outside with a thin Sharpie and then simply hot glued the trees, pinecones and bells to the tops. Inside, tuck your activity and set up on a long table, or windowsill for little hands to open when the day arrives! In the spirit of full disclosure, Charlie did pull a bell off of a box today, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with another dab of hot glue.
To store, I have a sturdy little cardboard box that I tuck them into at the end of each season, and you could even tuck them away after the day passes, but I kind of like looking at them all lined up the whole month. They are a decoration as much as they are a calendar!
No doubt, the holiday wants and needs of your family are different than my own, but here are 24 ideas that I tucked into my own Advent calendar this year. The dates may shift, activities may pop up unannounced and some may not even happen (Naps! Meals! Work! Foul moods!), but that’s the beauty of the holidays, isn’t it?
1 – Set up the advent calendar, and fill with all our favorites!
2 – Choose Christmas books from the library!
3 – Watch The Grinch – the original, very Dr. Seuss-y version, of course.
4 – Put up the nativity.
5 – Put out shoes for St. Nicholas Day.
6 – Go out to get our tree & decorate!
7 – Our town’s Christmas tree lighting.
8 – Outdoor lights go up!
9 – Christmas hats & Christmas tunes blasting
10 – Make Peppermint Bark.
11 – Watch White Christmas!
12 – Visit our church’s Christmas Village.
13 – Make a tree shaped pizza!
14 – Bake Christmas sugar cookies!
15 – Watch Elf!
16 – Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps and one million marshmallows.
17 – A seasonal coffee treat from Starbucks.
18 – Make salt dough handprint ornaments.
19 – Charlie’s holiday performance at school! (There is nothing on this list that I’m looking forward to more than this.
20 – Homemade egg nog with a little splash of something to warm our bellies.
21 – Wear red and green!
22 – Make a batch of wassail for the Metrokas’ arrival!
23 – Wrap presents with Christmas movies on!
24 – Appetizer night at home and mass, of course.
Can’t even believe that we only have two weeks to go!