With the last of the turkey made into soup using the broth I made from the turkey carcass, I can officially call Thanksgiving DONE! And now I can say…
This is my favorite time of year, hands down. It takes everything I’ve got to put up Thanksgiving decorations after Halloween and not just go straight to Christmas. I revert back to my 6 year old self when it comes to December time, so to be able to hold it all together, I plan a bunch of fun Christmas related activities to last throughout the month.
December 1st is often kicked off with the start of an Advent calendar. Did anyone ever actually hold themselves to eating only one of those tiny little pieces of chocolate a day until Christmas? I never could as a kid, but my daughter has been pretty good at it so far. Anymore, there are a multitude of Advent calendars to choose from – you are no longer limited to that tiny square of chocolate wrenched out of it’s plastic shell. Here are some fun ideas for alternative Advent calendars, which range from cheap to pricey, and easy to involved. By creating your own calendar, or by purchasing a fun new kind of calendar, you can feel like a kid again experiencing something new each day of Christmas time!
Toy Advent Calendars
I don’t know if these are technically new, but I’ve noticed them more and more lately and actually bought one for this year. Advent calendars are available for sale by many different toy companies, like Playmobil, Lego, Disney, Fisher Price, Play Doh, and Barbie. While these are considerably more expensive than your $1 chocolate calendar, they do provide a longer lasting, tangible reward. The calendar I chose was a Playmobil Advent Calendar whose pieces add up to make a family Christmas scene. What I enjoy about that is that the pieces can become a part of our holiday decorations and come out year after year – IF my daughter doesn’t abscond them as part of her toy collection. Either way, it’s a fun way to see a scene build day after day and make the excitement last for 25 days, rather than 24 days of anticipation for 1 big day.
DIY Drink Advent Calendar
This calendar is definitely not for kids 😉 With the help of some PVC and spray paint from a hardware store, some Advent stickers from the Target Dollar Aisle, and many, many bottles from my local grocery store (Hy-Vee has a great selection of mix & match craft beer), you can put together an advent calendar that will bring 25 nights of deliciousness.
This calendar isn’t just limited to beer, either – mine contains craft & vintage sodas in glass bottles, as well. If you’re a fan of just one beer, you can certainly fill it with 25 of your faves.
To construct the tree, I had a 10ft section and a 2ft section of 3 inch diameter pvc cut into five inch sections. You’d think 5 inches into 10 feet would work out to not require so much extra, but when you account for the small amount removed from the cut itself, it adds up. Using PVC glue, the sections were attached together to form a Christmas tree shape, with 4 pipe sections at the base for the trunk. Spray paint added the festive colors.
Next, I used the advent stickers to top each bottle cap and loaded the tree up!
My husband is really looking forward to picking his bottle each morning and putting it into the fridge for a cold drink in the evening. It was really fun to put together as well. I’m not a beer drinker, so if I were to make one of these for myself, I’d have to get a much bigger diameter pipe to hold the wine bottle and would likely need rehab after the holiday season! But for someone that drinks an occasional beer here and there and likes to sample many different kinds, this is a fun gift to put together. I’ve paired with it a taste tracker so that he can remember which of the drinks he liked, and which weren’t as great.
Santa Beard Calendar
Who else remembers the advent calendars that soda companies gave out for free where you glued a cotton ball a day to Santa’s beard? I know they are truly a thing and not just my imagination, because I’ve met one other person who remembers this, and surely two people can’t be wrong!
I wanted to recreate that memory of my childhood, but also wanted it to be more permanent than a sheet of paper & cotton balls. With the help of a friend, I had a Santa head cut out of pine. Using Rustoleum Magnetic primer, I painted the bottom half of the santa head with two coats of the special paint. This paint is loaded with iron filings that make it magnetic upon drying. One drawback to this is that it is super expensive – so find a few friends that want to do this project along with you and split the cost.
After applying & drying the magnetic paint, I painted on a Santa face. You do not have to be an artist to do this if you have carbon paper – this was not free handed! Do not let this intimidate you. If you have a santa pic that you love, just use the carbon paper between your wood & print out to put the lines onto the santa to guide your painting. Instant artiste.
Finally, using some white pompoms scored from the quite successful Target Dollar Aisle and some glue & magnets, I made 25 beard balls (need a better name) that stick to the beard, despite my fears. Success! Instant Santa Beard Advent Calendar.
There was so much excitement that she couldn’t hold still for a second picture…
DIY Jar Advent Calendar
A pretty jar, some scraps of paper, and a pen make a really simple & quick advent calendar. Cut out 25 strips of paper and determine what you’d like to add to them each day. You can either start with 25 pre-filled items and pull one each day, or fill them out as you go and end up with 25 filled tags at the end of the day. Here are some ideas of what to write:
- 25 favorite Christmas memories
- 25 acts of kindness to perform during the holiday season
- 25 types of baked goodies to make (if you have all the time in the world to bake daily)
- 25 Christmas movies to watch
- 25 Christmas stories to read
- 25 Christmas songs to listen to
- 25 bible verses to read
- 25 Christmas themed activities to kill the time while you wait for the big man in the red hat
- Have children write nice things about their siblings and read them each day until Christmas (you may want to pre-read these and remove the element of surprise)
- Any combination of the above
Alternatively, you could use this as a perpetual advent calendar by reusing the same scraps over and over again. On each scrap, leave a lot of room for writing. When you draw a scrap for the day, write your best memory of that day. The next year, you start over with new memories being written right below the previous year’s memories. It’s a great way to keep a Christmas journal that you revisit year after year.
Envelope Advent Calendar
Similar to the jar calendar above, you can use an envelope to hold a daily treasure for the days leading up to Christmas. Fix your envelope to a cute bunting using some safety pins, or just tape them strategically around your home or on your fridge.
While not diet friendly, making 25 holiday crackers with your favorite holiday treat is easy if you can save 25 toilet paper, paper towel, or wrapping paper tubes. Simply fill them with your treat of choice and wrap them in some leftover wrapping paper scraps. Then hold yourself to only opening one per day!
Even though we now have a variety of advent calendars around the house to keep us busy until the big day, my daughter insists that she still needs the $1.99 chocolate advent calendar or her holiday will not be complete. There’s no pleasing some people! This is one craft project where you can let your imagination go wild and turn anything into a 25 day long activity that fits your family, home, style, tastes, and effort levels. Remember – putting together a red & green paper chain still counts as crafting!