DIY Advent Calendar (Holiday bucket list)

21 Nov

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season–the obligations, the shopping, the preparation. It’s also easy to completely miss out on the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.

So how do you fulfill those obligations, observe family traditions, and still experience the joy and wonder of such a beautiful holiday?

I suggest making an Advent calendar or Christmas bucket list filled with activities that will help you appreciate all that comes with the month of December.

We made an Advent calendar for the girls in 2014, when they were a little more than a year old. We wanted to countdown the days until Christmas, introduce them to our traditions, and teach them about the reason for the season.


I had these envelopes printed at a copy shop in 2014 and have used them every year since then. I hang them on a decorative clothespin garland in a place of prominence.


I make a list of things we want to do in preparation for Christmas–things like watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” donate to Toys for Tots, bake cookies, decorate the Christmas tree, and make gifts for the girls’ caregivers or teachers. I’ve always made sure to include family traditions, charitable acts, crafts and/or gift-making, special treats, and movies.


Then, I print a blank December calendar and strategically schedule out our activities, based on when a particular event might be happening, or when a charitable organization needs donations, etc.


Once it’s all planned out, the setup and execution are really easy: Print (or write) out the list of activities, and cut out each activity; place each one in its corresponding envelope. Then, hang up or display the Advent calendar. Finally, open up the envelope on the corresponding day and enjoy 24 days of heart-warming activities with your family.


Pro tip: Keep the December calendar handy, so you can prep for the next day’s or week’s activities and generally stay on top of things.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Drink hot cocoa
  • Drive around the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights
  • Shop for and donate a blessing bag for a homeless person
  • Have dinner by candlelight with Christmas carols
  • Have snowman pancakes for supper
  • Build a gingerbread house
  • Bake Christmas cookies
  • Shop for and donate a toy to Toys for Tots
  • Collect and donate items to the local animal shelter
  • Drop coins in a Salvation Army kettle
  • Write a letter to Santa Claus
  • Watch ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
  • Put together the nativity
  • Read the Christmas story in the Bible
  • Make a gift for your teacher
  • Watch ‘Elf’
  • Make Christmas cards for your grandparents
  • Help decorate the Christmas tree
  • Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’
  • Leave cookies and milk for Santa
  • Shop for a gift for your sister
  • Donate to a food pantry

Look for local Christmas events, such as visits with Santa Claus, Polar Express train rides, and movie showings. Think about the things you did as a child to celebrate Christmas. Consider also the things you might have to do (e.g. shop for or make a teacher gift) and make them into family activities. Think of those less fortunate and make an effort to help them. And of course, remember the reason for the season.


Enjoy and happy holidays!


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