Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our Advent Calendar...

Growing up, we always has an Advent calendar to help us count down the days until Christmas.  They were usually of the cute Hallmark variety, where each day a paper window was opened and a little picture was revealed.  It didn't matter if it were a kitten or candy canes or Baby Jesus in a manger - the delight was in the anticipation and the surprise.  At the end of the season they disappeared, and we looked forward to the next December 1st when a new one would arrive.

Advent calendars have changed a lot since then.  Now Lego, Playmobil, and many other companies make ones with toys or candy revealed each day.  They are adorable, but I'm not sure they fit the message we wanted to send.  In our home, Advent is the time to prepare for Christmas - both the religious and secular aspects of December 25th.  I wanted a calendar where each day we would be guided through the joy of the season without a lot of extra "stuff" - the holiday itself is filled with enough of that, thankyouverymuch.

So last year I decided that I would make my own.  Originally I started with an idea like this, but began too late (December 12th, to be precise), and abandoned efforts.  Honestly, I'm glad I did.  I love that style, but got to thinking about the years when we are away for days leading up to Christmas.  The portability of our old paper calendars was great - I needed something that could move to wherever we celebrated.

Here's what I came up with:

Getting it all put together was easier than I thought.  I found the ends of IKEA curtain panels that we cut off, and used that for the bag material.  The beauty of it was the 1" side hem of the curtain  was the perfect size for the drawstring top - reusing them saved me a lot of time and cost nothing.  After trying to use fabric paint and stamp numbers, I decided that using my Silhouette was going to give me more of the result I wanted - so these are cut out of their iron-on flocked heat-transfer material.  It was quick and easy, and I didn't have to worry about dry time or spilled paint. Then I sewed ribbon (3 alternating kinds for variety) about 3 inches from the bottom.  With two more quick seams from the serger, the bags were done.

Inside each of the little bags is one of these cards:

 Each has an activity to do for the day - planned out first on my calendar, taking into account other obligations and needs for different days. Here's the list of what's included:

Have a “Getting Ready for Christmas”
Dance Party in the kitchen
Build a snowman – even if there’s no snow
Let’s go see what the animals look like at Christmas time – we’re going to Zoolights!
Get our family Christmas Tree and decorate it
Enjoy a warm mug of hot cocoa
Drive around and look at Christmas lights
Watch a Christmas movie while snacking on some yummy popcorn
Paint Ornaments
Paint an Ornament for a friend
Write a letter to Santa
Make a gift for someone
Yummy, yummy! Candy Canes!
Bake Christmas Cookies and deliver them to someone
Go visit Santa
Help get Christmas cards ready to mail
Celebrate the Winter Solstice
Write a letter to someone you love
Help someone celebrate Christmas
Share a meal with friends
Read Christmas stories by the fire
Make a Christmas decoration for the house
Make a birdfeeder so the birds have something to eat on Christmas
Make paper snowflakes and decorate the windows
Make a list of 10 things you are thankful for – and hang it up somewhere where you can see it every day!

 Here's a shot of the bags up close:

Yesterday was our dance party - fairly well received, given that the prime dancer was running a fever of 102-103.  Hopefully today's letter to Santa will be even better! And the great thing?  When we head to my family's house before Christmas, these little bags will untie from the stair banister and come with us. They're flexible, too - each year we can swap out activities for things that are more age appropriate, and get rid of any duds. The ideas we've included are almost entirely free (we do have to buy the tree, but Zoolights comes with our membership and the wooden ornaments for painting were 50 cents each), and have very little "accumulation" with it.  We are able to include both secular and religious activities, and many can be centered around giving to others. I love it - it fits our family.

May the start of your December countdown be merry, in whatever form it takes!


  1. LOVE it. I am stealing sooo many of those ideas.

  2. This is so inspirational. One year, I am going to get this all together. I will be bookmarking this blog post to help guide me!

  3. I think you are awesome!

    Your picture looks like a magazine! :)

  4. Thank you, we are now all set for Advent with 24 cards inspired by your blog.