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Create Your Own “Countdown To Christmas” Advent Calendar

Advent calendar

Even though it’s a few days into December, there’s still plenty of time to put together a fun and meaningful advent calendar for your family to enjoy! We’re not talking about the paper ones from the grocery store with the questionable chocolates inside…we’re talking about 3 1/2 weeks of fun holiday activities and service projects that your family can enjoy together! There are a million easy (and not so easy) ways to make an advent calendar out there, this is one of the easy ones! :-)

Advent Calendar

I used the adorable Limited Edition Advent Calendar Kit made by Silhouette for mine, but you could fashion one for yourself fairly easily! All you need is a spare frame (the bigger the better!), some screw-in hooks, and some picture-hanging wire. String five wires along the picture frame, secure them to the hooks, put 5 clips (or clothespins) on each wire, and you’re ready to make your own customized advent calendar! 

Advent Calendar

Now it’s time to figure out what you’ll be using for your “dates”. I decided to use the cute template that came with the Silhouette Advent Calendar Kit, but you really could let your imagination run wild here! Little boxes, envelopes, or fun holiday shapes would all work!

Advent Calendar

Once you’ve created and decorated each date to your heart’s desire, it’s time to add an activity or service project to each date. (I loved the idea of doing a service project each day, but I wasn’t sure it was feasible to come up with a simple and meaningful project for 24 straight days. So I decided to compromise and alternate service projects and family activities!) If you’re in need of inspiration for activities and/or service projects for your calendar, adrielbooker.com has a great list of both!

Advent Calendar

Since I used these cute little envelopes, I wrote a project or activity on small slips of paper and put one in each envelope. If you aren’t using envelopes, you can just write them on the back of each date (but tell the kids, NO PEEKING!). :-)

Advent Calendar

And that’s that! You’re ready to “countdown to Christmas” with your family in a meaningful and memorable way. And as an added bonus, you also have a darling piece of holiday decor to hang up in your home! I’m all about a good two-for-one!

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  • Advent Countdown Frame » Stephanie Messick Blog | Wedding and Portrait Destination Virginia Wedding Photographer says:

    […] for my 2014 clients when she told me that she was reminded of me when she saw a blog post by “One Good Thing by Jillee“. She featured a Countdown to Christmas idea with activities ranging from service to family […]

  • We love going caroling. We go one night with a group from church to their neighbors and then share treats and hot chocolate. Another early evening we go as a family to a local assisted living home. We have it timed right so we do it after their very early dinner but before their equally early bedtime.

  • We always shop for two kids from our local Interfaith agency. Love going shopping for the kids and imagining their faces when they open the gifts on Christmas! My very favorite Christmas tradition is the late candlelight service at church. Sitting in the choir loft, singing “Silent Night” and looking out at the congregation as the candlelight is spread is simply beautiful!

  • I never pass a red kettle without dropping something in. Sometimes change, other times cash. The best times are when my grandson is with me and is the giver. Teaching him to help others is a joy!

  • One of our favorite activities is simple, but our kids love it… riding around looking at Christmas lights and driving through Dutch Bros. to get steamers.

  • One of my holiday traditions is hand-making Christmas cards for my family and close friends! It’s been harder to keep up now that I’m working but I’m hoping to get my husband involved in it this year :D

  • I love taking my kids to buy for someone else. More affluent years we’ll get Christmas for a family, tighter years it may be a Christmas Angel or donating toys to Toys for Tits. Either way I involve my kids in the selection and giving. We got to volunteer in a Soup Kitchen Christmas Day one year when we went to my Mom’s for Christmas, that was a great experience too.

  • Every year since my baby was little we have gone to area nursing homes with gifts and goodies! Eighteen years later we still go and enjoy the people who helped shape our world and give back to them as much as we can.

  • My family makes homemade decorations for the tree, Yao give as gifts to family and friends. We love to get together to bake cookies and make fudge as well. We are a military family and very excited to be spending Christmas in the USA this year.

  • One of my favorite holiday activities is to make hot chocolate with peppermint candy canes crunched up in it, and drive around town with the family to look at everyone’s Christmas lights! Really puts me in a great Christmas Spirit!

  • We started sleeping in front of our Christmas tree when our children were younger (they are now 33 & 30). When they come home for Christmas, we still sleep in front of the tree!

  • We enjoy shopping for presents for needy school children and there families where we live. We also participate in Operation Christmas Child. This year we enjoyed having our adult son shop for a box with us.

  • We love to go to the symphony Christmas concert that they have every year. It really gets us in the Christmas spirit. We also love to go caroling since me and my husband are singers.

  • Thanksgiving weekend our church hosts a Gingerbread House party. The church provides the structure and the icing to hold it together, and everyone else brings in the candies to decorate them. It’s a great time and we come away with a great holiday decoration that helps get us in the festive mood!

  • I hardly leave comments, but i did a few searching and wound up here Create Your Own “Countdown To Christmas” Advent Calendar
    – One Good Thing by Jillee. And I do have 2 questions for you if you
    do not mind. Is it only me or does it give the impression like some of the comments come across as if they are coming from brain dead
    people? :-P And, if you are posting on additional online
    sites, I’d like to follow everything fresh you have to
    post. Could you list of the complete urls of
    all your communal sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  • I love that we become more intentional about our family activities & traditions so we can spend more quality time together. We also enjoy helping our young kids pick out a toy to give to another child that is of similiar age.

  • We pass around a “service bell.” Whoever has the bell on their pillow does an act of service for someone in the family and then leaves the bell on that persons pillow. The kids love it!

  • One of our favorite holiday traditions is to decorate the house. It’s so nice to have some festive decor up, brightening the house up a bit and to get us in the mood for the rest of the month. Now only if they’d have January and February centric decor for those bleak Minnesota winters!

  • I love to bake cookies and candies for friends and neighbors and we love to walk the neighborhood and check out the beautiful lights and Christmas yard displays.

  • We pick a family in need and through facebook and friends and word of mouth we collect toys clothes food ect. to give to that family. Some famlies get a Christmas Tree when they don’t have one.
    This year our family has a 5 year old little boy. The mom has brain damage from fluid on her brain. She is in a rehabilitation home but will get a pass to go home for Christmas. This may be the moms last Christmas so it needs to be a good one for all to remember. Husband had to quit his full time job to take care of his wife and son. He works a part time job to pay utilities. They have no T.V. cable ect like most of us do.

  • My mom makes “grammie jammies” every year for all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. And everyone seems to like to open them on Christmas Eve to wear to bed.

  • Love this idea for an Advent Calendar. Combining the idea of service with family activities is something that would benefit not only our own families, but would have a much wider-reaching effect. Brilliant!

  • I enjoy shopping for a child I’ve never met and packing the items into a shoebox which goes to Samaritan’s Purse ministry’s “Operation Christmas Child”. It is fun to imagine a child who otherwise wouldn’t get any gifts opening a special package at Christmastime. Our church has done this for years and I always look forward to it.

  • My favorite service project to do at Christmas is Elf presents for frazzled moms! There are always several moms in our neighborhood with new babies or lots of toddlers so I make a little gift basket with some fun items like lotion, chapstick, bubble bath, hot cocoa, a book of quotes, note cards, tea bags, a cute mug, snuggly socks, and if I know the mom well I may include a little embroidered pillow or something specific to her interests. I include a little note reminding momma that she is important and the best way to love her littles is to take some time for herself.
    It’s always fun to see the moms trying to figure out who in the neighborhood is their secret elf. I’ve been doing it for 7 years and no one has caught me!

  • Oh what an awesome gift.. I’d love to win one of them!!

    I have so many favorite holiday activities… and used to be involved in huge gift giving events for our community..
    Its hard to pick just one.. but I think I love most buying toys for little children.. its just so much fun and they get the most joy from them..

  • Each of us purchase a gift for the Santas Anonymous program that sees that every child has a gift from Santa. I enjoy this shopping trip far more than any other during the holiday season.

  • I love bundling up and walking around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights with my husband and dog, though I’m not sure my dog has quite the appreciation for decorations as we do. =D

  • Every year (for the past 9 years) we have gotten all the Fogoros girls together on the first Sunday in December (young and old) for a Christmas Brunch and Giving. We bring one wrapped ornament and draw numbers to see who picks first. At the end, we donate (said number of dollars) to the hostess’ charity of choice. Every year the hostess changes down the line to the next eldest. There are eleven girls (two of which are too young to be hostesses). I hostessed the first year and my charity of choice was The ABC House (ABC stands for All Because of Children) It’s a local charity which helps children deal with abuse both physical, sexual and mental. My husband and I were able to tour the facility and speak with the gal in charge. Sometimes, in our own little world, we forget that others are hurting. Anyway, thanks for the giveaway and the reminder that giving of our time is just (if not more) as important as giving of our money…………….

  • We are 3 generations living together. It is so wonderful when the 4 grandchildren help to cook goodies for the neighbors and their pets. We then go as a group to say Hi and deliver them!

  • Every year my daughter and I make cookies for all of the neighbors living on our county road and deliver them. We have been doing this for over 20 years and still love it!!

  • we like to donate toys to kids during the holidays… and drive around to look at all the lights in the neighborhood. Thanks for the chance! The advent calendar is adorable!!

    • Okay, so I should have read the instructions a bit better! A family tradition that we have is to read the Christmas story from the bible before we open our gifts. We take turns reading, and then my husband says a prayer. We have also begun serving as a family at a neighborhood church that puts on a lunch and clothing/toy giveaway. It’s a fun time for us.

  • I have a mini-tree that I decorate for my vintage small dolls. In years past, my granddaughter and my daughter have helped decorate it . When it’s done, I set up my collection of Ginny dolls, , and Little Miss Revlons, and take some pictures.

  • I love baking goodies: for my neighbors and their pets. I put them in separate boxes or bags and leave different ones each week on their porches or decks where they are sure to be found. I sign a small note that says “Santa has his eye on YOU and yours!”

  • my kids are sick today, so this will be something fun and constructive they can do. I printed out a list of advent Bible verses to be read each day, and I will write the reference for each one on the corresponding envelope. I love the idea about the gift cards to bless someone else. Not only are you spending money on them, but your time as well. What a great idea! Also, since I do not have any screw hooks, I am going to see if I can just staple some wire to the back of the frame instead. I do think I have clothespins – they may even be the tiny ones! And I can use wrapping paper to decorate plain cardstock.

  • Favorite holiday tradition: giving the kids new pj’s and a holiday book on Christmas Eve to enjoy before bed.
    Favorite service activity: taping quarters to toy machines at the grocery store to gift a little stranger.

  • We snowshoe into the mountains and chop down our own Christmas trees with our kids and my parents. It’s been a family tradition in my family for years and now my husband and children love to do it too.

  • Ashamed to say we don’t have any yet and I have Great Grand Children. Would like to begin and the advent calendar looks like it would be a good start. Could really use the craft machine as I am craft challenged, not very creative on my own.

  • My favorite is simple just riding around the neighborhood in the car looking at Christmas lights with my family. We usually wear our warm pj’s and drink a ton of hot chocolate. We always have a blast!

  • Every year, I make ornaments for all the little ones in our family. They used to be ceramic ornaments, when I taught ceramics, but now they are made from fabric and other materials. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  • Our favorite tradition is one we started recently. I have 3 small girls and that means lots of toys and clothes… The girls get to pick out their gently used clothes and toys and pick a family that might benefit from them. Then they put them all together, we make cookies, and drop everything off together, anonymously!

  • One of our favorite family traditions is to gather around the living room together on Christmas Eve to read the account of Christ’s birth aloud from the Bible. When the kids were little, we’d dress them up and act it out – now we just read it and talk about it, then everyone opens up one package – new Christmas jammies.

  • I try to do something everyday for the month of December with my two little boys. It may be watching a Christmas movie, drinking hot cocoa with a candy cane, reading the story about Christmas, etc. We also buy toys for children in need. It is fun watching my boys pick them out, they put a lot of thought in it.

  • Go to the nursing home and visit the residents there. They are so starved for attention (especially during the holidays) and love to have anyone visit!

  • We love to gather around our tree and look at the lights together and read the Christmas story from the scriptures! What a wonderful season this is!

  • we love to roast marshmallows and make smores in the fire pit out back. enjoy the cold air, plus the warmth of the fire, and some hot chocolate. perfect!

  • This isn’t quite a tradition yet but this year I will be volunteering at a food bank. I am a stay at home mom to a daughter born last year. This is my first Christmas on only my husband’s income. I’ve had a hard time with that because I love buying gifts for people but we just can’t do that. I decided if I can’t give gifts then I will give my time!

  • My mother ran the food bank here for years & would collect extra stuff & money to be able to give out free Thanksgiving & Christmas boxes with a turkey or ham & all of the fixings for the holiday meal, enough for your size family. Our family has always worked the couple of weeks before the holiday & on the holidays, themselves, my mother lets police & social workers what she has left so we get periodic calls up until midday on Christmas, organizing and giving out the boxes to everyone who signed up for one & some that didn’t. The last couple of years my mother has also had some toys, children’s clothing & a little money donated that we’ve been able to help a few people who were stuck at the last minute. All of the Christmas programs around here have done their thing, the end of Nov. Or beginning of Dec. I was one of those families in need a couple of years ago & it never crossed my mind to look for help until about 10 days before Christmas when it became apparent I wasn’t going to be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat. I was astonished & heartbroken that people were organized enough & admitted to themselves they needed help so early.

    Anyway, that’s how we spend our Christmases. My goal, however, when I get on my feet better is to fundraise & collect donations just for those people that show up at food banks desperate or that the police or social workers run into.

  • My husband and I create “care packages” and distribute them to the homeless in our community. We pick up things from the dollar store and at local church events…
    toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, socks, hand sanitizer, soap, mouth wash, bandanas, crackers, candy bars, playing cards, aspirin, cough syrup, cough drops…we go to many events and get “shopping bags” for free from fire departments, senior presentations, County Fairs and of course, government handouts.

  • My husband and I have 3 yon kids and are excited to start our own family traditions. This calendar idea is a great way to try many things. Thanks for the idea! !! As a child my favorite activity was making cookies.

  • We help out with operation Christmas child and always pick Angels off our church angel tree, but I love this idea to do small things each day. Thanks!

  • I love to do ‘Secret Santa’ gifts for friends and coworkers. I work on small handmade gifts during the year and secretly drop them off in unsuspecting ways to bring a little extra joy to faces. It’s so fun to see how touched people are to receive something in an unexpected way.

  • My favorite Christmas memories are of adopting a Salvation Army Angel and buying for them. Some years it might just be clothes but other years it would be a bicycle. I cannot see the childs face on Christmas morning but I know that they have a smile when they receive the gifts.

  • We have lots of fun making all sorts of goodies and then taking the plates to our friends and neighbors. Another thing that we usually do on Christmas eve is drive around our town and see the houses all decorated. In some areas of our city people save up their milk cartons and then on Christmas eve fill them with sand and candles. These luminaries are so pretty and ours would still be burning sometimes on Christmas morning.

  • My favorite family Christmas traditions is making a scrapbook page for each family member. I give them a topic and they tell about it and add a few pictures. Then I put everyone’s pages together and give it to everyone for Christmas.

  • Wrap up small gifts along with fruit cups, cheese sticks, crackers, etc and put them all in a gallon size zipper plastic bag. As you drive through your community hand them out to those who are homeless or need a meal and some cheer.

  • My favorite part about the holidays is Christmas Day when all my siblings gather with their kids at my parents house. Our kids get spoiled, it can be loud and chaotic, but we all have fun and the kids create amazing memories with their cousins.

  • The tradition I always loved the most was waking up on Christmas morning with my son & we would put baby Jesus in His crib, light a candle & sing happy birthday to Him! Oh I still do this on my own but it meant so much more to do it with my son. He knew that not one gift got opened until we celebrated Jesus & he always loved this tradition too! This was a tradition I was raised with & it was always and still is so very special! Merry Christmas!

  • Funny! I just finished putting together our family Advent Calendar for 2014 (only 2 days late)!!! But we’ll catch up because whomever gets to open day 10 will also get day 1 and whomever gets day 20 will algo get day 2. I bought a new calendar from Target and included different activities for each day. (I also put in gift cards to different restaurants or stores in random days.) For instance, one of us will get to pay it forward by paying for lunch for a coworker and another for a homeless person. Also someone will get to make a donation to charity. One of my favorite ones is to bring baked goodies to our local firefighter’s station.

  • I remember making a chore chart with my Mom using something very similar. We really enjoyed being able to put our own “art” design into it, which made doing the chores a little fun! =)

  • One of our family Christmas traditions is creating handmade gifts and ornaments for the special people in our lives. Now that the kids are getting a bit older, they’ve started finding and creating gifts on their own. I love seeing them take time to create something for others.

  • Our favorite annual tradition is filling up snack bags with various treats (peanut butter crackers, cookies, nuts, hard candies, etc.) Everything is individually packaged and we make an assortment of bags according to diets ( sugar free, gluten free, low sodium). My husband, three kids, & I deliver them to residents at various nursing homes throughout the holiday season. My kids look forward to it every year and it truly brings tremendous smiles to so many faces!

  • I love to gather items for a family or individual in need, and deliver them anonymously. We don’t always know how it was received, but once I was present when a mama told a group of our mutual friends about what we’d given her family, and how the donors seemed to know her children’s likes intimately. It made us very happy!

  • One of our family’s favorite holiday traditions is to go to a rest home in our neighborhood for mentally handicapped adults and do church service the Sunday before Christmas for them. We lead them in the music, the boys bless and pass the Sacrament, we give talks, etc. Even our youngest children have participated. We get the opportunity to go during the year also and we have for years. We’ve made friends there and going at Christmas is always a special time.

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