It's almost impossible to be immune to the excitement of another Christmas approaching on the calendar. That childlike awe and delight doesn't have to be limited to a quick peek every morning, though. Advent calendars make a ceremony of anticipating the big day, and for more than a century, they've added drama and maybe a few surprises to the weeks before Christmas [source: Holidays.net].
There's some dispute about how the practice of Advent may have started, but there's no doubt that it can be great fun to add a functional decoration to the festivities that acts as a calendar counting down the days to Christmas. Although traditional Advent calendars officially started the countdown on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas and often had simple markers that were moved from one day to the next, many newer calendars begin the festivities on Dec. 1, and often incorporate containers to hold sweets and other treats.
The first step in creating an Advent calendar is to define the scope of the project. From simple grids containing 25 squares, to elaborately decorated schemes, like those using painted Christmas trees with hooks or tabs to hold treats and pictures, you can let your budget and creative interests guide you. For a quick and easy approach, you can even have your children make a yearly Advent calendar out of construction paper and place hook-and-loop dots on photos to affix to each of the 24 days before Christmas. However you plan to proceed, you'll need some common elements:
- Design a Backing -- Although you can just tape construction paper to the fridge, if you want an Advent calendar that will withstand some wear and tear, you'll have to give it a sturdy backing. Some popular choices are: framed canvas, cardboard, corkboard, tin cookie sheets, lightweight plywood and quilted fabric.
- Make a Grid -- To mark the individual days until Christmas, make daily placeholders on the backing. If young children are involved, using a grid, like a standard calendar, may be the most practical arrangement, but other creative approaches work, too. From drawing a Santa face and placing the grid in his beard, to incorporating the days into a sleigh scene with each number peeking out of Santa's bag, almost anything will do as long as it's easy to determine how the system works.
- Create Markers -- Now that you have a foundation and a plan, you need a marker for your countdown. You can create a simple marker by suspending a small object, like a cardboard snowman, from a length of ribbon. Each day, place the snowman in a different position on the grid. You can hold him in place with hook-and-loop dots, or place a small envelope on each day that the snowman marker can fit into. If you want to add some real excitement and drama, add treats, like cookies or candies, to the envelopes. As each day passes, your child receives a treat, and the marker takes the treat's place in the envelope.
There are some other methods you can use here, too. You can place photos or other interesting, flat objects for each day behind doors made of craft paper. When the doors are opened, they reveal the surprise.You can also fill envelopes with clues that reveal the location of inexpensive gifts.
The options are pretty open, and with the wide availability of scrapbooking and stamping products, you can find almost any motif you have in mind. There is one thing you should think about before you begin your project, though. Using an Advent calendar can grow into a family tradition and yours may become much more important than you'd planned, so build it out of rugged materials to withstand years of Christmas fun.