Our Family’s Do-It-Yourself Advent Calendar Tradition

At our house we do an advent calendar every year.  It’s a tradition that began for me when I was a kid and since having kids, I’ve continued it with my family.  We use a wooden advent calendar with little drawers (shown in the picture) to count down each day until Christmas.  Starting December 1st, every morning when the kids get up, they run downstairs to see what the “advent” is that day.  Sometimes I’ve put in a small gift like a pack of gum or a bookmark or some other little treat, but a lot of the time it’s a note describing an activity we’ll do together that day.

I realize that some of the excitement the boys feel as they run down to check the advent is for the things they get.  However, I also know they really look forward to seeing the notes for the traditions that they know will be in there every year (our family eating Burger King while driving around looking at Christmas lights with my parents, going to cut our tree with our friends, eating dessert first one night, etc.).  If I do too many gifty things in a row, they’ll mention that they like the activities too.

It’s been fun to see them take what I’ve done for them and pass it on too.  Last year they used an advent calendar that Jacob made in 2nd grade, and began putting notes and treats in it for me.  I got coupons for back rubs, pieces of candy, a chapstick, etc.  It was so sweet and made me feel good to see them enjoying the giving as much as I do.  Plus, I liked going to check my advent calendar each morning!

If you have other ways that your family celebrates Advent, please share.  I love the ideas.  Until then, here are some of my ideas from years past:

1.  One year I read a different Christmas/Winter picture book to them every night.  (If you’re traveling for the holidays, you might consider getting a collection of ebooks to lighten your load.  Whether you have a Kindle or an iPhone or an iPad or some other eReader, you can use the books you download.  We like how easy it is to share books between us when we’re on a trip.  I’ll add a link to the kindle store for you so you can try it out and see what you think.)

These are some of our favorite books we read every year:

Jan Brett’s Christmas Treasury
Jan Brett’s Snowy Treasury
Merry Christmas, Splat (Splat the Cat)
Russell’s Christmas Magic
Home for Christmas

2.  Another year, I bought 24 little mittens (12 pairs) for 25 cents each at the Black Friday sale.  My intention was to hang a new one up on a garland each day.  I never really pulled that one off, but I still think is a good idea.

3.  A different year my husband and parents and I stayed up late putting together a puzzle (a picture of Christmas candies), then split it into 24 baggies by section.  Each morning the boys would get a new section of the puzzle, but we didn’t give them the box with the picture until December 24th.

4.  Another idea is to write out 24 different things you like/love about your child/spouse/self and put one in for each day.  What a gift that is… I know because my parents did that for me my first Christmas when I was in college.

5.  The year I bought these cute little blocks, I realized there were quite a few of them (15), so each day I put out a new block (not in order).  It was fun to watch the kids try to spell new things with the addition of each letter.  Actually it was fun even after they figured out what the blocks were supposed to spell, because often someone would rearrange them and spell something different, making it into a game!  Obviously I filled in with something else on the other nine days, but I can’t remember now what that was.

6.  So, what ideas have you used or read about and wished you had used?  Share in the comments below!

*If you’re interested in a different kind of advent calendar, check out Otto and Eddie’s App Advent countdown to Christmas.  Beginning, December 1st, every day they are doing a new review of an app.  I don’t think it’s quite as good as our family advent tradition, but if you’re really into apps, it might be… 

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