Advent calendars have certainly evolved over the years, leaving behind those flimsy cardboard calendars filled with often stale and ambiguously shaped chocolates. (Was that supposed to be a reindeer or a goat?)
Advent calendars trace back to 19th-century Germany, where families marked the days leading up to Christmas by lighting candles or hanging religious images. The first printed advent calendar, as we know it today, was created in the early 20th century, featuring little doors to open each day through December 1 to 24.
Over time, these calendars have become more creative and diverse, opening the door to a wide array of imaginative and personalized options.
“You can get as creative as you like or keep it simple. The true magic is in creating fun, family-friendly ideas to get into the holiday spirit,” says Sarah Gunn of Gunn and Co, who specializes in holiday decor.
Last year, Sarah’s family counted down to Christmas with adorable DIY paper bag advent gingerbread houses. “The larger ones can hold colourful socks, small toys or sweet holiday treats. The smaller ones are perfect for a message from the Elf on the Shelf or a note with a suggestion for a holiday activity that the whole family can enjoy together.”
To create a quick and easy version of these gingerbread houses (pictured on the next page), fold over the top ¼ of a brown paper lunch bag and decorate it with a white paint pen and other embellishments. Then hole punch at the top, and tie closed with twine or red ribbon. Better yet, turn it into a crafting session; kids love decorating for the holidays, especially if hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies are involved.
Another easy and budget-friendly advent calendar can be crafted using holiday gift tags. Number each tag from one to twenty-four and attach them to a length of ribbon or twine, which you can hang on a mantle or wall. Write an activity for each day on the back of each tag using pencil or sticky notes – so you can reuse next year or shuffle activities as needed. Refer to your calendar to ensure you save the big adventures for weekends or when everyone is available.
Remember, no peeking! The element of surprise is a big part of the fun.
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