I grew up adoring the tradition of putting a daily embroidered ornament on a felt tree. My brother and I took turns each day, each vying for the opportunity to put the last ornament, a star, on Dec. 25th, on the top of the tree.
I wanted my kids to have that same love of counting down the days until Christmas but wanted to have my own twist. I loved the idea of doing a little activity each day in preparation for the holiday. I was inspired by an advent calendar created by the great scrapbooker, Ali Edwards, who used scrapbook supplies to create her activity advent calendar.
Using jewelry boxes, I set about to create my own. I enlisted the help of the hubs to prepare a piece of wood for the backing (as this was something I wanted to use year after year) and the boys helped paint the prepared board. The girls helped me paint the box tops, covering any lids or boxes that had print or any type of decoration previously on them. Then the fun part began as I decorated 25 individual, uniquely shaped and unequally proportioned boxes. These boxes were then tacked down using furniture tacks and a glue gun was used for extra reinforcements.
I made lists of activities and fun little items that I could put into the crafted boxes. We determined that the kids would rotate opening the boxes but the activities would be such that would include the whole family. Using a mix of family fun and service-type projects sprinkled in with little gifts to make the countdown special - our Advent Countdown Calendar was created. The following ideas are all based around a Christmas song and/or book.
Our 25 Unique Advent Countdown Calendar Ideas
Dec. 1 - It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Welcome Elf on the Shelf. Get out the decorations and listen to Christmas music while we deck the halls! Download a new holiday song on iTunes.
Dec. 2 –The Heart of Christmas Think about the real meaning of Christmas. Talk about hope and how Christmas is the season of “giving” not receiving. Talk about ways we can help others in our community this month.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas Make a Christmas Card and/or care package for a soldier.
Dec. 3 – Do You Hear What I Hear? Unwrap a Christmas book to read together. One of our favorites that is still appropriate for older kids/teens and adults is the Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale by Angela Elwell Hunt about the three trees who dream of what they will become someday – a holder of treasure, a fine ship and a mountaintop beacon. The trees forget their dreams over the years yet each eventually gets its wish in a powerful way, unlike what they imagined. The message is that we may not get what we want because something better is in store for us.
Dec. 4 – We Three Kings – (Bearing gifts we traverse afar.) Find a toy, game, book or movie that you have outgrown to pass on to someone else. Clean out our closets of unwanted clothes and coats. Donate those in good condition to a shelter or charity.
Watch a Christmas Special with hot Caramel Apple Cider and popcorn.
Dec. 5 – Joy to the World! Put shoes out for Sinterklaas. Create a holiday playlist on iTunes and burn a CD for a family member or friend.
Dec. 6 Old-Fashioned Deck the Halls! Make orange and clove decorations and string popcorn and cranberries like the days of old.
I find the kid-crafted ornaments the absolute best!
Dec. 7 - Have a Grinch Night. Complete with the Grinch movie, Grinch Punch and green goodies. Make a Who-feast with Who-Hash, Who-Pudding and Who-Roast Beast. Don't forget the Grinch Green Smoothies or the Spinach Sorbet for dessert.
Dec. 8 –Silent Night Celebration of light Candle light dinner. Talk about the real meaning of Christmas and the star that shined the way for the wise men to find baby Jesus. How are you being a light in your world? Reach out and love your friends and family. Come up with ways to let your friends and family see His light shine in you.
Dec. 9 – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree - Ornament Making Madness! Make ornaments out of applesauce and cinnamon or salt dough ornaments while having a dance session to Christmas carols.
Dec. 10 – We Wish You a Merry Christmas! Random Acts of Kindness – Do a random act of kindness at school today. Make these adorable Rice Krispie Christmas Cottages
or decorate Gingerbread Houses or Gingerbread men and women.
Dec. 11 – Walking in a Winter Wonderland – Read the book The Mitten by Jan Brett while making treats for the animals. Go for a winter hike and leave the animals their gifts.
Come home to a hot cocoa bar with homemade marshmallows cut into hearts.
Sing a song outside at night to a shining star and remember loved ones who are no longer here to celebrate with us. (Let Heaven and Nature Sing!)
Dec. 12 – What a Wonderful World! Research and try a holiday tradition from another country. Consider making tacos or Lime Chili Steak with Homemade Tortillas in honor of the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.
Dec. 13 – Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Make Snowman Pizza on Christmas Movie Night (use white Alfredo sauce, white cheeses, olive eyes, mouth and buttons with a carrot nose and maybe a red pepper scarf). If you can’t have a snow picnic, consider a picnic under the Christmas tree!
Dec. 14- Frosty the Snowman Day – Serve Melted Snowman Soup (Potato Soup with Bacon eyes, carrot nose and olive mouth), Snow Balls (doughnut holes decorated with candy corn nose and chocolate chip eyes). Have a snowball fight with white fluff balls/pom-poms. Make snow globes.
Dec. 15- Baby It’s Cold Outside! Find our old coats and deliver them to the local coat drive for the homeless.
Assemble pairs of socks with granola bars and toiletries for the homeless and the next time you see one at a stop sign, you will have something to share.
Dec. 16 – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas! Make teacher gifts and gifts for those who help us! Homemade Caramels and Candy Canes with melted chocolate shaped as a heart. After making the goodies, go out for a Christmas treat or special Starbucks drink.
Dec. 17 – All I Want for Christmas Is You! Give a “Secret” Gift to someone. Knock and leave it on their doorstep. Write a love note or message and hide it under someone’s pillow.
Have a fondue night and invite a friend for dinner.
Dec.18- Rudolph’ the Red Nosed Reindeer Night Have a special "red dinner" We made Spaghetti and salad with strawberries, fruit punch and a Red Velvet Cake as our red meal items in honor of Rudolph’s nose. This year I want to try pancakes with bacon antlers and a cherry nose.
Dec. 19 - Little Drummer Boy – his gift to baby Jesus was very simple but came from his heart and had great value. Gifts from the heart are the best you can give. Give the gift of yourself to others by helping someone else today.
Dec. 20- Our Polar Express! All Aboard! Tonight’s the night to see the lights! Here’s your golden ticket. Get in your jammies and we will get our Blizzards at DQ and drive around admiring and voting on our favorite Christmas light displays.
Dec. 21 – White Christmas North Pole Breakfast – play a Christmas classic movie such as White Christmas, make funnel cakes and a special frozen fruit smoothie. Don't forget the whipped cream!
Dec. 22 – Santa Claus is Coming To Town! It’s Santa’s Workshop Day to make crafts and gifts!
Dec. 23 –Dream a Dream Have the Annual Camp Out under the Christmas Tree
Dec. 24 – It Came Upon A Midnight Clear Open early present (Jammies) and read the Christmas Story. Leave out cookies and a special beverage for Santa and the reindeers.
Dec. 25 – O Come All Ye Faithful! Happy Birthday Jesus! Put baby Jesus into the manger and celebrate Christmas.
Dec. 26 – Angels We Have Heard on High - In honor of St. Stephen, light a candle for all the men and women in armed services.