Remember when the season of Advent involved finding a numbered door and opening it to reveal a small Christmas related picture? Or perhaps you had the advent candle wreath or garland as a tradition in your household or a daily candy fix.
The advent calendar is a twentieth-century innovation (1971 for Cadbury’s first chocolate calendar), but in the twenty-first-century adults embraced the joy of a daily treat before the big present-giving festival of Christmas. You can spend anything from a modest £10 to a few pence short of a £1,000 for an Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar from the Master of Malt.
All these are insignificant compared with the Diamond-a-Day calendar for £100,000. In buying an adult advent calendar, you can spend a fortune, and you can find almost anything packaged into 24 small gifts from pork scratchings to Lego.
Why DIY Advent Calendars?
Given the choice of craft beers, gin, gourmet popcorn, scented candles and beauty products already packaged for Advent, why would you bother putting together an Advent Calendar yourself? A homemade Advent Calendar wins over a lower budget calendar because:
- It shows you invested time and money in creating the activity.
- You can give more and spend less.
- You can tailor it to the recipient.
- It spreads joy for you and the person receiving it.
Creating your own advent calendar isn’t always going to be more economical than buying one–the less you want to spend, the more creative you need to be with the surprise you provide. But you can set a budget for the whole calendar or a per-item basis, and you can produce a delightful grown-up calendar filled for a minimal amount.
A classic advent calendar comes with custom packaging, but you need to plan your presentation.
Ready-Made Calendar Boxes to Fill
If your budget and time permits, you can buy a ready to fill calendar to decorate yourself. Everything from a stack of drawers, fabric bags and numbered envelopes. The initial outlay can be as much as buying filled calendars, but you can reuse it next year.
The disadvantage of a pre-made calendar is that the internal space is small and restricts the present size.
When you are thinking of alternative ways of creating your calendar, you have plenty of diy options:
- Keep it simple–wrap each tree ornament with standard Christmas wrapping paper and use a stick-on number or attach gift tags. You can put them in a basket, stocking or decorative bag.
- Explore packing materials–crafts people buy their paper, muslin bags and cardboard cartons cheaply and in bulk. Shop where they go.
- Make your own–mini containers and envelope pouches, simply make with paper tape, glue, fabric and ribbon. You can go for simple use once packaging or luxurious heirlooms.
Filling the Box
Although the anticipation and excitement of the contents is thrilling, ultimately there needs to be a goody inside. Your budget, time and skills determine what you use in the individual envelopes. The 24th needs to be the best, and it also helps to include a hero prize or two amongst the others. A handcrafted item like a useful but beautiful oak bottle opener or an aromatherapy necklace is lovely for your Christmas countdown to end advent with a pleasant surprise.
You can provide memorable advent calendar envelopes with minimal outlay. One or a combination of the following 17 ideas lets you package 24 mini surprises for the special people in your life:
Each day hang a new question, riddle, or puzzle to solve on your tree. These present well in tiny envelopes or folded printed slips of coloured paper in a pretty glass jar with number stickers. You can make them up yourself, download a printable template from the internet or buy a pack of questions or a book.
This idea lends itself to a theme–Christmas, literary, movies or whatever topic interests the recipient.
You can create a model or give a mini tutorial and the right sized paper for completion by the giftee. You can access an easy tutorial for free or invest in a calendar or a book. Start with a simple design for number one and work up to the most complicated for Christmas Eve. You can theme it with Christmas designs or general entertainment.
Repackaging a tin of sweets, pick and mix, individual chocolates, or healthy snacks into a daily treat is enjoyed by most recipients. If you enjoy baking, you can create your treats like different shaped gingerbread cookies or a muffin on a Christmas theme.
Excellent packaging for kids sweet treats includes gold and silver tulle bags with ribbon or numbered vessels.
Tiny Toys and Puzzles
Most grownups enjoy a return to childhood. The prizes need not be keepers–they provide a bright spot in the grey days running up to the Christmas festivities. You can find a bulk load of small things like metal puzzles, and party and wedding favours for an affordable price.
A moderate budget opens up your calendar possibilities. If you have crafting skills, then you can create the calendar content, but with internet shopping, you can source almost everything you can think up once you settle on the theme for your homemade containers.
For the Crafter
You can buy small craft kits from Hobbycraft or put together components for their handicraft of choice. Most hobbyist already own most of the tools they need, but there are always gadgets, accessories and materials that add to their stash. It’s personal, fun and practical but do your research in advance to make sure you don’t make the mistake of buying oil paints for an artist that works in watercolour.
Use a theme
A theme makes putting together a diy Christmas countdown calendar much easier, and you can go with a general theme or one tailored to your loved one. To start you off with some inspiration and how to find small affordable keepsakes:
- Gardening–packets of seeds, plant label, gardening string, flowerpots, small tools, garden ornaments and accessories like gloves and kneelers.
- Outdoor workers–thermal foot coverings, hand warmers, chapstick, cup a soup, gloves, hats and high energy snacks.
- Office workers–desk accessories with a quirky theme like shaped post-it notes, fancy paperclips; executive playthings; fancy teas; mugs and snacks.
- Bakers–fancy cookie cutters, cake decorations, small bottles of flavourings and a host of useful gadgets.
- Foodies–exotic ingredients like herbs, spices and jars and tins of hard to source foods.
- Bathing–bath bombs, rubber ducks, soaps, scented candles, sponges, face cloths and body scrubs.
You can make a calendar theme around a colour by seeking small objects featuring that colour, an animal, or a material.
Spread One Piece Over December
Some larger things lend themselves to repackaging into something bigger. Good examples of these suggestions are:
- Jigsaws–you can get them custom printed.
- Lego kits–for the inner child.
- Nativity scenes.
- Plastic models.
- Dolls House.
- 3D Puzzles.
It will help if you put in the extra effort to ensure that each day is a complete step in completing the entire project. On the first day, you may have to include glue and tool kit, depending on what tutorial you choose. With this type, they have the fun of creating the finished tutorial in time for the days leading up to Xmas holiday.
Small stocking filler items also work for the countdown. You can spread a pack of two pairs of light up Christmas socks over two days and split up packs into parts. Once you get into it, you can look at repackaging everyday bits as fun stuff.
There is a small surprise every day, which means not every item has to be big, bold, and memorable–it’s about showing the recipient you know them and if they love Marmite, including a small jar on day three will make them smile. Adding anything unique adds to the feeling that you spent time creating this experience just for them.
If you do not have holiday budget restrictions, then you can build a stunning package. Assuming you are not in the league of gifting a diamond a day, some potential luxury calendar inspiration include copying traditional advent calendar concepts and doing it better.
Thoughts include all the standards but with a bigger budget to play with:
- Craft beers.
- Coffee beans.
- Luxury teas.
- Accessories–wallets, purses, silk scarves.
- Gourmet foods.
- Useful gadgets.
- Entertaining games and puzzles.
- CDs, DVDs, and games
You can still go with a holiday theme, add in some trivia questions and some hand made goodies. For the experience, it really is the thought that counts more than the price tag. Advent boxes are more intimate than any other Christmas gift because you only go to the effort of a box for people who mean a lot to you.
Specialty Advent Boxes
Some years are landmark years–your first Christmas as a couple, a student away from home or the year your loved one retires. An Advent box is an easy way of showing how much another person means to you. These perhaps echo the life event that your loved one is sharing or experiencing.
For that first Christmas, it can contain 24 unique glass Christmas tree ornaments or 24 love poems accompanied by heart-shaped chocolates. The student away from home will appreciate luxury food stuffs to make a change from pot noodle or a supply of fresh stockings mixed up with some fun games.
Make it Unusual, Make it Yours
Creating, giving, and receiving a calendar is magical for an adult or kids. The commercial world is happy to match your needs with a pre – packed offering on a theme. But the small daily gesture to a loved one lends itself to joy and laughter.
Doing it yourself when it comes to boxes for young and old shows the depth of your feelings–but leave the geese, swans, and French hens in the farmyard.
Are you looking for a Hero Souvenir?
Are you looking for that big surprise piece in your collection of ornaments for the tree or for the star of Christmas Eve? Consider some of our exquisitely handcrafted goods made here in the UK–wooden rings, stylish cuff links, aromatherapy diffuser pendants, wooden jewellery, bottle openers, and elegant pens.
If you want to give your heart this Christmas, consider wood from the heart of the forest expertly turned in our workshop.
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