home made advent calendar of promises
Children, Crafts

Homemade Advent Calendar

Last year I used a beautiful fabric advent calendar that my mum made to plan out a set of activities for the boys. Of course they didn’t all go quite as planned, but we had a great time not eating chocolate. Previous years I’ve been more organised and bought them each a little something each day – a small toy, a little chocolate treat, a book, a homemade ticket for a movie, just a little treat each day.

Last Year

Last year things were “normal” so we had trips out and performances, met my parents and visited himself’s sister. Here’s a round up of the things we got up to. If you count carefully, there aren’t 24 here, we reuse some of them a couple of times when things get a bit too busy.

  • Lunch out with Grandma and Grandad – not going to happen this year, very sad for us all
  • Choose a charity to give a Christmas donation
  • Tea in front of TV
  • Nativity performance
  • Christmas movies
  • Trip to see Santa for us all – yeah, that’s just not going to happen is it?
  • McDonald’s lunch
  • Putting the Christmas tree up
  • Screen time
  • Christmas themed home disco
  • Extra swim at the leisure centre pool instead – I’ll not complain about not being able to do this, it was cold in that pool!
  • Family walk – I’m not sure this counts as a treat anymore, we’ve done a lot of walking in the last 8 months
  • Scalextric layout
  • Christmas cards for family
  • The Night Before Christmas for bedtime story
  • School Christmas party – I might get away with using this one, assuming school is open I’m sure they’ll have class parties
  • Chinese takeaway – another one that’s not a treat anymore, the boys love a Chinese on a Friday night and we now do that almost every week
  • Making mince pies
  • Road trip day to their cousins’ house – another family gathering that we’ll have to skip and catch up next year
  • Soft play – ha ha, not a snowball’s chance on a beach in the Bahamas am I going anywhere near soft play
  • Christmas eve boxes
  • Watch The Snowman and The Snowdog

This Year

This year, I’m replanning, using last year’s list with some changes.

  • Letters to Santa
    For one thing, small boy is now able to write a letter himself and it’ll help us with any last minute ideas for stocking fillers and whatnot. But on top of that, I’ve got an idea that we should all write about the things we’re grateful for this year. It’s been a rotten year (not as bad as 2019 for us, but bad enough) and I think it will do us all some good to look back at the things we can count ourselves luck to have or to experience. I can’t take the credit for this at all, I took it from Mimi’s Thanksgiving Gratitude Tree.
  • Choose a charity to give a Christmas donation
    We’ve done this each year for the last few years. We’ve donated to our local charity for families with children with additional needs, to Duchenne UK and to a friend’s personal fundraising to support her son with DMD. Last year large boy supported Water Aid and small boy chose Shelter. This year they’ll get to choose any charity they like and we’ll donate some money on their behalf.

Water Aid is an awesome charity to support
  • Tea in front of TV
    Can’t go wrong with pizza or cheese toasties on the sofa!
  • Christmas movies
    I love Polar Express and I do wonder whether I’d persuade the boys to watch White Christmas as that’s one of my favourites as well. We don’t have a strong tradition to watch specific movies but we’ve always indulged in as many Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler adaptations as possible. I suppose with small boy being 5 now, this might be the last year that they’ll both enjoy those. Perhaps its time to start some new traditions, large boy has been pestering to watch The Grinch for a while.
  • McDonald’s lunch
    We don’t indulge in a crappy nutritional burger and banana-flavoured-no-matter-what-you-ask-for milkshake very often. But we do usually have one as a service station meal on our way somewhere over the Christmas period. I think we’ll have a really lazy lunch one day just after school breaks up.
  • Putting the Christmas tree up
    I refuse to put the tree up before large boy’s birthday. My brother’s birthday is early December too so I grew up with the tree going up halfway through the month. I just don’t want all that sparkle and the threat of glitter for any longer than absolutely necessary.

  • Screen time
    Yeah they probably get plenty of screen time (though I doubt that they’d agree), but through December we relax the limits and we’ll do some family gaming. We love the Lego games so maybe some family sessions playing Indiana Jones or Marvel Superheroes will be in order.
  • Christmas themed home disco
    Its just not Christmas without some cheesy music and suspiciously bad dancing. We’ll put on a compilation or ask Alexa to choose a playlist and boogie around the living room like idiots. That’s when I feel like Christmas is really getting going. Large boy loves Last Christmas and knows most of the words, it brilliant.
  • Scalextric layout
    Its just not a school holiday in this house if the entire playroom (yeah, we’re jammy that way) floor isn’t completely unnavigable due to a complicated Scalextric layout with associated bridges, grandstands and spectators built from Lego, Playmobil and whatever farm animals and stuffed toys the boys think are interested in race cars.
  • Christmas cards for family
    We’ve avoided sending Christmas cards to everyone we know for the last few years and this year won’t be any different. We’ll write cards to the grandparents and great-grans and to himself’s aunt and probably my aunts and uncles too. Most likely to our two best sets of friends who live far away and their kids as well. I might even write a little newsy letter and put in some pictures too this year, if I’m organised enough – which is doubtful.
  • The Night Before Christmas for their bedtime story
    I love this classic story, it rhymes and just makes me feel all cosy and warm and comforted. I don’t think my parents read it to me, so its not nostalgia. The boys enjoy it too and its one of those traditions which is easy to make and easy to forget, but so valuable and embraced by us all.
  • Making mince pies
    Himself doesn’t like mince pies particularly, he prefers puff pastry or sponge tops and I prefer shortcrust. The kids don’t like them at all. But its just not Christmas without mince pies. None of your shop-bought mince meat either! I make my own every couple of years and give it as gifts as well as using it for my pies. Here’s last year’s recipe and results: Making Stuff 10: Mince pies.
  • Christmas eve boxes
    An acquaintance made us some Christmas Eve boxes 4 years ago. They aren’t very good and need to be painted a bright colour (another thing I might do on one of my Fridays off that are oh so peaceful and provide mountains of time for crafting). Anyway, despite the crappy boxes, we fill them with new pyjamas, a book each, maybe a craft, and some bits and bobs for Santa and his Reindeer. We’ve got gorgeous plates with the boys’ names on and spaces for sherry, a pie and a carrot. We’ve managed to share Christmas Eve with their cousins a couple of times in the last few years and that’s been really lovely, this year it’ll be the four of us but we’ll try to Zoom their cousins instead.
  • Watch The Snowman and The Snowdog
    Everyone loves The Snowman right? Its got David Bowie, a motorbike, snowmen in kilts, what’s not to love? Well, unpopular opinion, I prefer The Snowman and The Snowdog. Its somehow more real, there’s that edge of pain and loss and such magical joy for the little child. Its our traditional Christmas Eve snuggle on the sofa before bedtime watching. I can’t wait for that, just thinking about it is making me feel Christmassy at last.

Getting Organized

As I write this it’s the middle of November so I’ve got 2 weeks to dig out the fabric calendar and the cards, sort out the ones we can still use and make up new ones until we have 24 again. I try to have a good look at the calendar as I decide which treat go with which days, so that weekends get the busy, fun stuff and weekdays when I’m likely to work late get the quick and easy ones (like TV pizza dinners and extra screen time).

Once that’s done I’ll figure out if I need to buy anything, there’ll be books and maybe something crafty. I’ve never done a gingerbread house before but a kit one looks manageable.

Then on 1st December, a Tuesday this year, I’ll hang the calendar while the boys are at school so they can discover the first surprise when they get in.

Do It Yourself

I can’t find the calendar my mum made out there on t’interweb. I suspect that she may have found a pattern and some numbered panels and done her own thing. Anyway, this one on Amazon looks pretty near:

Patchwork Hanging Advent Calendar Sewing Craft Kit

Do you do anything special for advent? I’d love to hear what you get up to.

(I am not saying merry you-know-what, it’s still November FFS)

76 thoughts on “Homemade Advent Calendar”

  1. I love this idea – such a cute tradition to do! It’s so creative to have a different experience each day, I especially like picking a charity one ๐Ÿ™‚ x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a lovely sentiment! I remember as kids always being jealous our friends got chocolate advent calendars while we got one photo one between us that always happened to be the nativity scene. Wish our mum had been as creative as you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Advent calendars are a newer concept to me- my family never practiced this as a tradition, but this is an idea I can get behind! A meaningful and purposeful advent with tickets instead of trinkets and more candy… Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The homemade advent calenders look so personal and special. I love your ideas and activities, esp the boys choosing their own charity they want to support. That Scalextric pic sure brought back a lot of childhood Christmas memories for me – one of my older brothers fav thing to get at Christmas for a good few years!!! Lol. Helen ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww I love these ideas I also love how the advent calendars are reusable rather than having to buy new ones every year that seem to contain more plastic to hold the small chocolates than actual chocolate.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Truly one of the best advent calendars I have seen. My children grew up with 24 small stockings on a string that had goodies in it each day. They all love this and now are incorporating it into their families. However, using family related activities is brilliant! Love the ideas of choosing a charity, Christmas disco and mince pies…which I have never tasted but will be using your recipe! I may just make this type of advent calendar here at my house for the grandkids! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the homemade advent calendar! What a sweet and thoughtful gift from your mom. It sounds like such a creative alternative to candy everyday!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These are all such lovely ideas and are making me feel very festive! I like the idea of spending time with your family, rather than on material things. I had a similar fabric calendar growing up, but my mum bought it one year in the Christmas sales. While we didn’t have experiences in each one, it was lovely to see what mum had put in each day. Looking back, I appreciate all the time it took mum to put 25 individual sweets in each pocket, for three kids. These are all beautiful experiences, and your end comment made me laugh. Thank you for sharing! ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This seems very sweet. I don’t think we’ll have much of a Christmas this year. presents and such, but without grandparents or friends it’s gonna seem lonely.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great alternative to the usual advent calendar! Love that this has included time together as a family, much more valuable than the usual material things! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love that this is based on time together versus material things. The holiday has become SO materialistic and commercial based in recent years. It’s important to remember the importance of family, friends and loved ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I absolutely LOVE this post. You are so creative.

    I especially like the idea of writing to Santa about things weโ€™re grateful for. What a lovely idea.

    I had cut down on the number of Christmas cards I was sending but Iโ€™m rethinking for this year. It might be a good way to spread a little joy and cheer at a time when we need it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There are different kinds of creativity though. You have a creative mind!

        I have a post coming next week about low waste alternatives to advent calendars. Would you mind if I linked to this post?

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Now this is my kind of Christmas advent calendar post! When we were little, we had a home made calendar that all five of us children shared. We had chocolate coins in each pocket and would spend time together making Christmas games up and doing little plays. Some of my happiest memories of Christmas.
    In a world where you could be unboxing big brand minis for ยฃXXXs, I’d rather be you!

    Rosie

    https://www.loverosiee.co.uk

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi SS&GP. What an absolutely awesome idea! I wish I’d had something like this as a child – don’t get me wrong, I quite liked the chocolate at the time, but this would have been so much better. Your children are very lucky ๐Ÿ™‚
    Just for reference, the best Christmas film is Die Hard (although I appreciate that it may not yet be time to introduce your younger boy to this just yet!).

    Liked by 1 person

  14. These are such wonderful, feel-good ideas for the family…love, LOVE! I am inspired to create my 1st one – perfect year to start ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  15. After binge watching bloggers open make-up advent calendars – this was such a nice change. I love the ideas you’ve shared – such a holistic schedule upto Christmas. Hope you have fun! โ™ฅ๏ธ

    Liked by 1 person

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