Having grown up with homemade, personalized advent calendars, there is certainly something memorable and meaningful about opening a door, or reaching into a pocket, each day when you know someone specifically planted that chocolate or saying with you in mind. Here are some of our homemade advent calendar ideas.
A Felted Christmas Tree
As a child, my sisters and I had a flannel tapestry-like wall hanging, with two rows of little pockets along the bottom edge. Each row had 12 pockets, one for each day of advent. In each pocket was a little felt “ornament” that we would take turns pinning onto the felt “tree.” Of course, the little foodies that we were, Mom also tucked in little dark chocolate nonpareils. Nothing beats chocolate before breakfast during the holidays.
Inspired by this childhood favorite, try creating your own homemade version of a hanging Christmas tree calendar. Instead of making ornaments to pin on the tree, sew on pockets that you can decorate like ornaments, and number. Then, stuff each pocket with a treat. Don’t like chocolate? You can also tuck in dried fruits, or any wrapped fruit candy.
What you need: Two dowels, each 18 inches long; red felt, at least 18 inches wide, for background and pockets; green felt for Christmas tree; scissors, needle and thread for sewing; string and nail for hanging.
1. Cut a piece of red felt approximately 20 inches wide by 36 inches long. With the remaining felt, cut out 24 1½-inch squares for pockets.
2. Sew pockets for each dowel on both the top and bottom ends of the tapestry. Thread the dowels into each pocket and sew shut. Cut a hole on either end of the felt, just under the top dowel. Thread a string through each hole and knot on top of the dowel, creating a loop by which you can hang the tapestry.
3. Draw a Christmas tree about 28 inches tall, and 18 inches wide, on your green felt (or use a template). Cut out the tree.
4. Sew the tree onto the red background.
5. Scatter your 24 red pockets around the tree, then sew them on. After you sew the sides and bottom edges, to create pockets, you can number and decorate these.
If you’re a crafty person, this unique advent calendar with printed envelopes hung clothesline-style is interesting. You can create your own packages, filling each with your pick of foodie treats, whether it be sweet, savory. You can also wrap up a gift card for a seasonal food or favorite beverage.
What you need: String for clothesline; 2 nails for anchoring ends of clothesline; 24 clothespins; 24 envelopes (decorate or number, as you wish); 24 treats for stuffing envelopes.
1. Determine where you want to hang your clothesline – maybe over the mantel, or along a wall. Mark a 5-foot span, and nail in a nail on either end, each the same distance off the ground.
2. Knot the string to one nail securely. Before cutting off a segment, run the string to the other nail, allowing for some excess so that the line sags a bit, and enough to tie the second knot.
3. Fill your envelopes with your treats, and number them accordingly. Hang the envelopes to the clothesline with pins.
I love the idea of hanging 24 little stockings in a row along a fireplace mantel for each day of advent. If you have young children and are looking for a fun holiday activity, decorate your own. Sew your own stockings out of felt or flannel, if you’re feeling crafty. Or, you can purchase white baby stocks and decorate your own with glitter, buttons, rick-rack trim, whatever strikes your fancy. Inside each little sock, tuck in a little something for each day, maybe a foil-wrapped sand dollar, or an activity, trip, or treat that you can take the child to do – like a gift certificate for them to “cash in." Other ideas include breakfast in bed one weekend, making homemade hot cocoa, pizza and movie night in with mom and dad, or gingerbread making with friends. Don’t feel pressured to reinvent the wheel here (or indulge your kids with too many sweets or costly activities); intersperse some activities you already have planned, like decorating the tree or ice skating, with some sayings and sweet edible treats.
What you need: 24 baby socks; 24 small nails or thumbtacks; 24 treats.
1. Decorate the socks as you wish. Tuck a treat into each.
2. Choose a wall, mantel, or window sill where you’d like to hang the socks and tack each one up in a row.
For something a little less involved, but just as original, try making a segmented Christmas Centipede. Inspired by Christmas Crackers, where little toys and tricks are wrapped inside a paper tube like candy, you can make a long chain of treats, with one segment for each day of advent.
1. Overlap three sheets of tissue paper (by about 6-8 inches) to create one long rectangle about 6 feet long. Fold this rectangle in half vertically so it is half as wide. Or, unroll 2 lengths of plastic wrap and stack them on top of each other. Cut 25 4-inch segments of curling ribbon – this is what will secure your centipede shut.
2. Place your 24 treats along the length of the tissue, close to one edge, allowing for an inch or two between treats.
3. Starting with the edge closest to your treats, carefully roll the treats into one long log.
4. Starting at one end, tie off each treat with a segment of ribbon, like a sausage. This is where your centipede will take on a segmented look. Continue until all treats are tied off securely.
5. When the time comes to “break off” a day, simply cut off one segment, taking care that both ends of the centipede are still knotted shut with ribbon.
Cookies in a Row
Instead of decorating cookies to eat this holiday, why not use them for decorations? Creating an edible advent calendar with sugar cookies is really quite easy. When baked at a lower temperature and for a longer time, sugar cookies will last a couple of weeks, and are durable enough to be hung from a narrow ribbon or string. Our edible cookie calendar was inspired by the autumnal doughnut eating game, where apple cider doughnuts are strung in a line and each person has to eat one with their hands behind their back.
What you need: 30 Baked sugar cookies (see note below), decorated as you wish; string or fishing line; 24 eyehooks or nails for hanging.
1. Before you bake each cookie, make sure that each cookie has a hole through which to thread a string.
2. Once each cookie is cool, decorated, and dried, tie fishing line or string through each hole in the cookie and knot securely.
3. Choose a span of wall, or maybe part of the ceiling, where you’d like to suspend 24 cookies.
4. If using eyehooks, screw them in at 1 1/2-inch intervals. Then securely tie the loose end of the string attached to the cookie to each eyehook. Feel free to stagger the lengths of string so one cookie is at a different length than its neighbor.
5. If using nails, first tie the loose end of the string to each nail, again making sure that neighboring cookies are not hanging at the same height (there will be a collision). Then nail in the nails along the wall or ceiling at 1 1/2 –inch intervals.
6. When the time comes to eat a cookie on a given day, your child can either munch it right off the string, or cut the string with scissors, for something a little less messy.