An inspired, experience-filled Advent calendar

DIY advent Calendar

My friend Melissa comes up with the most creative, inspired ways to celebrate with her family. I love the traditions she creates (like this sweet half-birthday cake!), and the way that she incorporates charity and gratitude and, of course, fun experiences into so many of their family holiday rituals.

It was last year, just after Christmas, that she and I became friends and so it was around that time that I did the typical, new-friend Facebook lurk and discovered her photos from her advent calendar. Rather than placing small gifts into 24 boxes (though that’s always lovely and appreciated as well), she had experiences. I was so impressed and vowed I would ask her to share about it before this year.

Here’s what she said…

Beautiful DIY advent calendars (and how to make your own, filled with experiences)

“I look forward to the holiday season all year long: Christmas music, decorations, hot chocolate, etc., but the calendar always seems to fill up, a hectic pace ensues, and then all of a sudden I blink and it’s over. And I didn’t do half of what I had intended.

“When we started growing our family, I wanted to be intentional about celebrating Christmas all season long. An Advent calendar seemed like a great idea but… a little overwhelming. Looking on Pinterest I found hundreds and hundreds of options. Yikes!

Advent Calendar

“However, I bit the bullet, picked a DIY project, got the supplies, and made it. I viewed it as a one-time investment for years to come. Thinking up with 25 activities seemed overwhelming at first, but once I sat down with paper and pen, the list filled up quickly. Plus, there are lots of sample lists online for what one can do in the advent season.

“My advice is to have a mix of larger events/outings—cutting down the Christmas tree, walking in the town’s Christmas parade and tree lighting, visiting Santa Claus, driving around to see Christmas lights—and simple things that don’t require leaving the house—some of our favorites were having a picnic next to the tree, rocking out to “Feliz Navidad” and other Christmas songs, making paper-snowflakes or a Christmas ornament… Those activities plus a little candy treat in each container made for some happy kids.

DIY advent Calendar

“Also, it’s good to have a plan, but it’s important to be flexible. Just because you marked on December 16th that you would watch Polar Express does not mean that you have to stick with that—you can move things around to make it work for your family. Life can get crazy and there is no reason for the Advent calendar to add any sort of stress.

“I documented each day and it was so fun to look back over the experiences my family shared together at the end of 25 days. So, in many ways, the Advent calendar helped us avoid falling to the rush of the holiday season and allowed us to spend more time and make more memories together.”

Easy to make Advent Calendar

Wouldn’t this be fun? I recall seeing the photo of Melissa’s daughter smiling on the day they donated toys—as well as the one on the day they went out for peppermint hot chocolate together. I love it.

I feel like my already long (mental) December to-do list (photo with Santa, making gingerbread houses, Christmas cookies, and the like) would actually make this easier than the gift-alternative. And more memorable, too.

Have you ever made an advent calendar? I’m inspired to try.

[Melissa’s calendar not pictured, but here’s a tutorial for a similar one // Photos of DIY Advent Calendars, from top, via: The Marion House Book // Oh Happy Day // Pinterest (source unknown) // le Frufrú // OliveMePost]

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