a handmade advent calendar

I have fond memories of using an advent calendar each year when I was a kid. Each day from December 1 through Christmas, my sisters and I would take turns opening up a little window (really just a thin cardboard flap) on one of our advent calendars, which we would display each year as part of our Christmas celebrations and decorations. Behind each flap was a scripture verse from the Christmas story, I think.

I hadn’t used an advent calendar since then, but this year I decided to get creative and make my own. For the record, although I made it completely by myself, my advent calendar idea is NOT original. I give all the credit for the inspiration to OhHelloMagpie, who sells this Farmhouse Garland Advent Calendar Kit on etsy.

I had been wanting to be able to make my own gift tags for a while, so I finally bit the bullet and bought a gift tag punch at Michael’s for 40% off. Without that tool, this project would not be nearly as cute, because I know for a fact that I never would have cut out 25 tags like this by hand.

So yesterday I printed out the numbers onto kraft paper (it’s that brown paper that looks like a grocery bag), using a table in Microsoft Word to create my template. I then punched out the numbers with my gift tag punch, which is the moment when I got all excited about my little project, especially because it looked so much like the inspiration photo.

I already had 24 mini clothespins on hand from a project I did several years ago, but had to buy another pack today because I needed one more! I cut a length of red ribbon and gathered up my 25 mini clothespins, and we were ready for business.

Honestly, the hardest part of this project was deciding where to hang the advent calendar. I had the worst time trying to figure out the best place to display it, but I finally settled on the dining area. I used packing tape (eek! ghetto!) to attach the ends of the red ribbon to the edge of the counter, and then clipped the tags to the ribbon with the clothespins.

Did you notice that my clothespins are different from the ones in the inspiration photo? Here, take a closer look at mine.

My clothespins are actually much wider than the ones OhHelloMagpie used, which means they’re also much heavier. And my paper cards are also a bit smaller, which means my advent calendar is very top-heavy. It threatened to flip itself upside down, but I used some extra tape (after I took some photos!) to make it more secure. Also, it’s in a pretty high-traffic area, so the extra tape reduces the likelihood that the whole thing will get accidentally yanked out of place.

The advent calendar is really close to the dining table, so I barely had any room to get a picture of the whole thing. Maybe I’ll move the table tomorrow to get a better shot, but for now, here it is.

Right after I proudly hung my finished project, Magen came over, took one look at it, and said, “That’s not much of a calendar.” She didn’t mean to insult my work, of course, so I took a deep breath and gently explained that not all calendars have days on a grid that starts with Sunday and goes through Saturday!

On the back of each day’s card, I’ll write a special Christmas activity that the kids are supposed to do that day. I’m not going to write them all in advance, of course, because I know they would want to peek — and because I haven’t thought of them all yet. I’ll write each one at night after the kids are in bed so that they can discover each day’s surprise as soon as they get up.

OK, December. We’re ready for you.

P.S. Here are the activities we’ve been doing so far. There are some days when the kids aren’t here at all, so not all activities are for children.

Day 1: eat red and green Christmas pancakes
Day 2: shop for Christmas gifts
Day 3: make a gingerbread house
Day 4: go to the Christmas parade AND pick out a Christmas tree
Day 5: watch “Olive, the Other Reindeer”
Day 6: drive around and look at all the pretty Christmas lights
Day 7: cut paper snowflakes
Day 8: guess the number of Hershey’s Kisses in a jar
Day 9: order our Christmas photo card (finally!)
Day 10: make Christmas gift tags
Day 11: attend a Christmas concert
Day 12: make hot chocolate mix (sorry, not awesome enough to share the recipe)
Day 13: assemble health kits for people in need
Day 14: wrap packages
Day 15: Christmas activity sheets
Day 16: learn the story behind a Christmas song
Day 17: watch “Polar Express”
Day 18: celebrate Christmas at Nana’s
Day 19: give gifts to Sunday School teachers
Day 20: play Pin the Nose on Rudolph
Day 21: eat a red and green dinner
Day 22: listen to our favorite Christmas songs
Day 23: drink a glass of eggnog
Day 24: attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service
Day 25: read the Christmas story from the Bible

11 Comments on “a handmade advent calendar

  1. Hi! I randomly found you on NaBloPoMo. I hope you don’t mind my butting in to comment!

    This is really cool. :) I too remember Advent calendars as a kid. They were so much fun. My parents actually bought a HUGE wooden one for the grandkids that they fill up every year with little toys and stuff. We also have some crochet ones that my mom fills up with candy canes. The best part about them is there are so many ways to make them and so many different ways to use them, whether candy, prizes or activities. They are always fun!

  2. gothicdragon415: Sure – I’m always happy to have new people reading and commenting!

    I’m amazed at how many different kinds of advent calendars people have created! Seriously, just google something like “handmade advent calendar” — and be prepared to spend a lot of time looking at all of the great ideas!

    One year when I was a kid, someone gave us an advent calendar that had a little Christmas tree ornament behind each window flap. Pretty fun! I forgot about it until right now.

  3. Pingback: Favorite Holiday Decorations from the Blogosphere!

  4. Hi,
    Can you put the activities for day 9 and day 10?

    I am starting a Holiday Ideas book for whenever I have kids.
    I really like this Advent Calendar and I made a promised to myself that everyday I will come to the blog to find out the activities you were doing to put it in my book, for later use.


  5. Rachel I’m elated that you were inspired by my advent calendar! I can’t wait to see all the fantastic advent activities you come up with 😀 Completely awesome. Love it!

    Merry Christmas!


  6. Atodus: Even if you forget to check out my blog every day, the entire list will be here by December 25.

    Evelyn: Thanks so much! I love finding ideas online and then making my own version, but I always feel a little bad when I use an idea without buying anything from the person who’s trying to sell their product. That was especially true when Apartment Therapy featured my knock-off version of this advent calendar instead of your original!

  7. I want to thank you for posting every activity. Nice job, you just earn a new fan.

    Happy New Year

  8. Atodus: Thanks! I slacked off on writing about the activities, but we sure had fun!

  9. This is too cute. I also have a tag puncher, don’t you just love it? I love mine! I was just curious, what size tag puncher did you get?

  10. Amanda: My gift tag punch is 1.5″ x 2″ — the big pink one made by Marvy Uchida. It works great!

  11. it’s great!

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