I am so excited about how this Christmas Advent Calendar project turned out. I have casually looked at advent calendars for a couple of years but now that Clara is old enough to really get excited about stuff I knew that this year I really wanted to come up with something special to start this tradition. I didn't intend to blog about this or do a tutorial, but since I really liked how it turned out and it honestly wasn't hard at all (I know it looks super crafty but it is all just straight line cuts and stickers - I make up for lack of crafting skill by using cute paper and embellishments) I decided to go ahead and write up my measurements and describe the method I used. Also, I realized that a garland approach was WAY better for me since I don't have the wall or surface space for an advent calendar with little drawers. Plus, this approach will store really well for next year because it is so easy to just stack the envelopes with their cards and put them in a plastic baggy with the twine and clothespins after Christmas is over.
Oh, and as a quick disclaimer, we haven't pulled out Christmas decorations yet or anything. I am only posting this now since there is still a week left in November just in case anybody else is looking for an advent tutorial and finds this one helpful.
I came up with a list of activities to do each day, although the order is flexible. I started by working in things that were already scheduled like the Ward Christmas party and the day we had tickets for the Nutcracker (some homeschooling friends of mine told me about a weekday daytime 10:30 a.m. showing by the San Jose ballet that is put on for school kids at a majorly discounted price (like kids are free and adult tickets are half-price) and I figured I would just try it with Clara and see how it goes - if we have to leave at intermission, no biggie), then went from there.
- Decorate the Christmas tree (1 Nephi 10:4)
- Write letter to Santa (Matthew 1:23)
- Make homemade Christmas ornaments (1 Nephi 11:18)
- Make homemade toffee and fudge for friends (Luke 1:31)
- Act out the nativity (Matthew 1:18-19)
- Attend the Nutcracker (Matthew 1:20-21)
- Visit the temple to see the lights (Helaman 14:4)
- Visit a live nativity (Luke 2:13)
- Watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional (Luke 2:4-5)
- Do a Christmas craft (Luke 2:6-7)
- Go to Christmas in the Park in downtown San Jose (3 Nephi 1:19)
- Have a Christmas dance party (Helaman 14:5)
- Perform a random act of kindness for a stranger (Luke 2:8-9)
- Go to a Christmas party (Luke 2:10-11)
- Make gingerbread houses (Luke 2:12)
- Take neighbor presents around (Luke 2:13-14)
- Watch a Christmas movie (Luke 2:15)
- Get hot chocolate and drive by Christmas light displays (Luke 2:16-17)
- Go shopping together for presents (this is a daddy/daughter date card) (Luke 2:18-19)
- Wrap presents (Luke 2:20)
- Play in the snow (Matthew 2:1-2)
- Write down favorite memories of Christmases past (Matthew 2:10-11)
- Bake Christmas cookies (Isaiah 9:6)
- Play Christmas carols on the handbells (Luke 2:40)
- Enjoy Christmas Day with family (Luke 2:52)
I searched Pinterest for inspiration, of course, but ultimately decided to sort of do my own thing because I didn't absolutely love any one tutorial or list of activities that I found. Also, so many tutorials that I liked were created for people with fancy die-cutters like the Sillhouette Cameo (I'm thinking maybe this should be on my Christmas wish list).
Anyway, I ended up doing a library card pocket out of large scrapbooking paper scraps that I mostly had on hand. I always buy 12x12 paper but I make an 8x8 Christmas scrapbook (that I pull out each year for the holiday as part of our décor so we can reminisce about Christmases past), which means I end up with extra 4x12 strips. But if you are starting from scratch (i.e., you are going out to buy paper specifically for this project), here is what you would need:
6-7 12x12 sheets of heavy scrapbooking paper, various prints - for envelopes (you can get 24 envelopes from 6 sheets, and some people only want their advent calendars to go to Christmas Eve, but if you want 25 envelopes you will need that 7th sheet of paper)
3 12x12 sheets of heavy scrapbooking paper, solids - for notecards
3 12x12 sheets of white paper
Assorted stickers, chipboard accents, other decorative elements
5 yards twine
6 2/3 yard ribbon
24 or 25 small clothespins
Cut 25 strips of decorative scrapbooking paper to 4x8". Fold each strip almost in half leaving a lip of about 1 1/4" at the top, then crease to form the bottom of the envelope. The back side of the envelope will now measure a little more than 4 1/2" and the front side of the envelope will measure a little less than 3 1/2". (I acknowledge right now that hand shots, especially of my hands, are super ugly. Sorry.)
Open each strip back up and cut 1/4" up each 4 1/2" back side of the envelope to the fold. Tear or cut off the 1/4" strips from the back side of the envelope, then fold paper back together on the original fold.
Carefully fold the 1/4" tab sides that are now sticking out from the front of the envelope over to the back to form the completed pocket. Secure the tabs with glue to complete the envelope pocket. I used Scotch Scrapbooker's Glue and pressed the tabs down hard for a bit so the glue could form a really strong bond. This was the most tedious part of the project for me.
After the pockets are completed, you can decorate them using stickers, die cut shapes, chipboard accents, jewels, ribbon, etc. Arrange the envelopes in the order you want them and number them 1 through 24 or 25 (depending on whether you want Christmas Day included in your calendar). Again, I mostly just grabbed numbers that I had in my scrapbook stash and didn't go for uniformity here. I even used an image of two nutcrackers for the number "11".
To make the notecards that go in each pocket, cut 24 or 25 rectangles out of scrapbooking paper with the dimensions 3x4 1/4". Since each of my envelopes were different, I tried to introduce some uniformity here by choosing three different papers (solid red, checkered red, and light green). Then cut 24 or 25 rectangles out of plain white paper with the dimensions 3 7/8x2 5/8". Affix the white rectangles onto the larger colored rectangles using scrapbooking squares or glue. Punch a hole in the top of each card using a hole puncher. Cut 24 or 25 strips of 3/8" ribbon in 9 1/2" lengths. Thread both ends of the ribbon through the hole in the front of the card, then back through the loop created by the ribbon and pull taut to create a tab to make it easier to pull each notecard from its envelope.
Write a scripture and/or activity on each card, the hang each envelope with its card on a 5 yard length of twine using decorative paperclips (I found some cute ones in the scrapbooking section at Joann's and used a 50% off coupon).
From start to finish I would say this project took me the better part of an afternoon but it was the cutting and gluing that took the biggest amount of time and I spent a lot of time on the internet looking at an inspiration board I made on Pinterest and setting Clara up with projects of her own or taking breaks to play with her or read books periodically.
I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to know of other ideas for activities/traditions that other people do, have done, or want to do for the month of December.