DIY Advent Calendars — It Takes All Sorts

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CRAFT: Celebrate the Season
Take a look at the photo above. You’re looking at my first and only attempt at a homemade Advent calendar. Next year, I’m going to save up and spring for the $40 Lego calendar, as you, Craftzine readers, are my witnesses.
I love the idea of Advent calendars. A small gift every day for 25 days, leading up to the big, bad daddy of all gifting days. What’s not to like?
And since I work for CRAFT, I’ve seen at least a hundred and one different DIY Advent calendars, one cuter and more inventive than the next. So I was sure I could make my own. I imagined it looking like something Martha would do, or maybe Betz White or Crafty Chica. You know, nice-looking and inspiring, creative brilliance and pizazz apparent to everyone who gazed upon my masterpiece.
But my original idea was faulty, my engineering was haphazard, and the final outcome was something only a mother (and hopefully her kids) could love.
This Lego tree photo was my inspiration. An admittedly box-crazy crafter, Jeromina Juan at Paper, Plate and Plane, got me thinking about Legos and other small rectangles. But the idea of cutting out and then making Lego bricks, complete with glued-on nubs, sounded too daunting.
I wanted easier boxes to use. I thought candy boxes of different sizes would work fabulously, and be way less work than making 50 boxes from templates. Well, I might have been right, but it was still a ridiculous amount of work. And I think we can all agree my Candy Box Advent Calendar should be renamed the Burrow Advent Calendar, after the Weasleys’ ramshackle house in Harry Potter.

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The how-to is really very easy, and should not be followed if what you’re after is a respectable looking Advent calendar.
Candy Box Advent Calendar

  1. I gathered boxes of different sizes, from movie candy size to trick-or-treat size, and laid them out in the shape of a Christmas tree.
  2. Then I painted the boxes green. I ran out of my acrylic green about two-thirds of the way through painting, so you’ll see different shades of green in these trees.
  3. After the paint dried, I stacked them up. Thankfully, I had taken a photo of my layout before I painted the boxes. For the first tree, I used Velcro tabs, thinking we’d reuse the tree for a few years. Wrong! The Velcro leaves awkward spaces between layers and makes the tree very unstable. For the second tree i used good, old-fashioned tacky glue, and that worked much better.
  4. Both trees were very unstable, so I ended up shoring them up with bamboo skewers taped to the back of the tree. Much the way I’ve previously used clear thread and thumbtacks to keep real Christmas trees upright.
  5. After the trees were more or less stable, I painted red numbers on each box, and then added intermittent splotches of gold “tinsel” and silver “snow” to complete the look. All pretty much dreadful mistakes, but if I’m going for slum, I’m right on target.
  6. I wanted stars on top (mostly to hide the bamboo skewers), so I found a couple of star-shaped bath bombs and sat them precariously on top. Voila!
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Some other, much nicer do-it-yourself Advent calendars to consider include the following.
The Balloon {Popping} Advent Calendar is easily made of numbered balloons, arranged to resemble a Christmas Tree. Each balloon has a note inside listing a fun, family “to-do” for the day (such as play a board game, drink hot cocoa, dance to Christmas music). Each day, a child pops the corresponding balloon, and finds the note for the day.
And my cousin Bree made this cute Garland Advent Calendar for her son, Logan. She got the pattern from the
Happythought Etsy shop, and is filling the cones with stickers, small candies, and temporary tattoos.

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Addendum: It turns out that either my boys love me very much, or they’re just not that picky when it comes to homemade Advent calendars. Or maybe I’m my own worst critic. The Candy Box Trees are a big hit, and our house is brimming with holiday anticipation. It’s my own little Christmas miracle!

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Sometimes helpful editor and digital media director at MAKE and CRAFT.

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