19 Nov

Calendar Girl

I loooooooove advent calendars. The chocolate ones are always fun (even when the chocolate’s bad) (and it’s always bad, isn’t it?), but they’re barely in the same category as a good old-fashioned DIY advent calendar stocked with hand-picked treats and activities to get everyone hyped up to eleven with crazy-eyed, jazz-handy holiday spirit. When I was little we had a felt advent calendar in the shape of an angel, and I was constantly trying to peek in those twenty-four teeny pockets. I’ve been waiting decades to have a kid old enough to try to peek into his own advent calendar too.

The first two years I made an embarrassing janky one out of papers clipped to a string with clothespins, and last year I broke down and bought a pre-fab one because I knew I’d never get around to making my own with an infant on my hip and a preschooler chewing on my ankles. I just finished compiling a round-up of homemade advent calendars for Work It, Mom (shameless plug!), and I found so many good ideas–and pretty ideas–I’m genuinely annoyed the post wasn’t around last year. Where was I when I needed me?


You can see them all here, and seriously, they’re worth looking at even if you don’t like advent calendars or Christmas or happiness and joy.

I haven’t yet finalized my Master List of Advent Awesomeness, but here are a few things on tap for this year:

–hot chocolate date
–jammie drive to see the lights on Candy Cane Lane
–ice skating (it was a BIG hit last year, much to my shock and amazement)
–Christmas window clings I got at Target for $1
–some other crafty thing I got at Target for $1 but I can’t remember what it is and it’s in a bag in the other room and this chair is so comfy
–tea party in front of the fire
–write a letter to Santa

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–take toys to the fire department for charity
–color some random holiday picture I print off the Internet at the last minute
–watch a Christmas movie (is five old enough for Elf?)
–watch another Christmas movie
–build a snowman (we’re going to Salt Lake this year, and so help me god we will find some snow for the boys to play in)
–visit Santa’s reindeer (there’s a reindeer farm not far from my parents’ house; how cool is that?)
–sing Christmas carols around the piano
–see Christmas lights at the Oakland zoo
–see Christmas lights at the Salt Lake temple
–read new Christmas books
–make graham cracker kids and try not to eat them all in one day

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What am I forgetting? Other people always have the best ideas.

If you like this, you might also like my other winter/holiday/Christmas crafts. Click for the list!


  • I love your ideas! And thank you for the inspiration for those of us less-craftily inclined (read: lazier) than you! We’ve never done an advent calendar, but our oldest is four this year, so I’m thinking this may be the year to start. I have to know… What are graham cracker kids?

    • Four is PERFECT. And what I love about making these yourself is it can be as complicated or lo-fi as you want/have the time and energy for. Even if every day is something small and ordinary like “color a Christmas picture” or “read a Christmas book,” the excitement comes from the calendar itself–anticipating that little treat every day–or at least that’s how it was for me and how it is for Wombat. You should totally do it!

  • The Nutcracker! The Nutcracker! Or at least a viewing of the movie of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker?

    These are great ideas. I love Advent, and every day during Advent Felicity gets a little something in a sparkly red bag (The Advent Bag). Usually it is a book or two (the same ones every year, sometimes one or two new ones thrown in), or a DVD to watch (Charlie Brown, The Grinch), but there are also activity things and crafts. Some of ours:

    Make an Advent wreath (paper plate, tissue/construction paper, toilet paper tubes)
    Make Danish woven hearts to put on the tree (I got a kit on Amazon for super-cheap)
    A bunch of city-specific things, like seeing the Rockefeller Center tree and store windows, visit Santa at Macy’s, possibly ice-skating (F recently announced she wants to try it — I suspect it will be a disaster)
    Choose and wrap gifts to donate to Toys for Tots and to our church’s program for underprivileged families
    Decorate a felt Christmas tree with felt ornaments (a craft prepared by my mom)
    Bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbors in person
    The Nutcracker (obvs)
    Assemble and light the angel chimes

    • Ah! The Nutcracker, of course! Last year we watched the 1986 movie (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091658/) and Wombat LOVED it. I’m totally going to see what local productions we could see too, though, since he’d totally dig that.

      I’m totally going to steal your idea to take cookies to the neighbors (so I won’t eat them all, for goodness sake) and make a paper Christmas wreath. I will not, however, relinquish control of our angel chimes because that’s been my favorite Christmas task forever. (On years it was my brother’s turn, I’d let him put it together and then immediately take it apart so I could put it together too.)

  • I spraypainted a twiggy tree branch last year and stuck it in a pot full of rocks (best part of Christmas was the rocks, according to B) and hung 24 little tags on it with activities. Unfortunately we were living with my parents for three weeks while our kitchen and floors got a makeover, so all of Advent was kind of a surly, Eastern Bloc kind of malaise. THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT! We go see the short version of Polar Express in 4D (snow, hot chocolate smells, pine forest scent, moving seats, roller coaster!) and hot chocolate dates, we go to see African-American Santa, cookie decorating, making garlands, finally stringing the felt balls we’ve been making all year, Festival of Lights, presents for orphans… OOH, I can’t wait! Except I can. Until after Thanksgiving, because I am avoiding eye contact with all Christmas displays until after the turkey has been put in the stockpot. I mean, come ON, People! Right after Halloween??? Inappropriate!

    • Making felt balls all year long? YOU ARE A GENIUS, SARAH. (I miss your blog!)

  • I really want to make one this year that I’ll keep for more than a year. Last year I did paper bags, and while the kids loved it I’d like something a little more lasting. If I can find some time to do some sort of sewing! ha!

    • It’s funny you say that because last year I was all about getting a permanent advent calendar (because getting the same one out every year was a huge part of the fun for me growing up), but then I got all Pinterested up and there are so many cute ideas I kind of want to make a different kind every year. Obviously the only practical solution is to have multiple calendars, isn’t it?

  • Even Trader Joe’s has just plain milk chocolate in the Advent calendars. For a dollar, it’s fine, but COME ON someone must make a delicious dark chocolate version.

    For a few years running, I went to a performance of Handel’s Messiah on my birthday, since it’s everywhere in December anyway. I was VERY lucky for the couple of years that the BSO did “Too Hot To Handel,” a gospel version of the Messiah, very nearby to me.

    I met some reindeer (okay, fine, caribou) at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2009. They were adorable and I wanted to snuggle them but they were sleeping. And, you know, behind a fence.

Have at it!

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