‘Dairy Free advent calendar’. I saw this sign in a shop window and wondered what on earth it was about. Then I remembered that advent calendars are supposed to contain chocolate. So if you do don’t do dairy, you need ‘dairy free’ chocolates. Makes sense I suppose. But I’ve always been a little bit puritanical about advent calendars with my children. The joy was supposed to come from the excitement of opening a window and discovering a picture. Not about yet more chocolate, or consumerist stuff. So for the first years of parenthood we had to source old fashioned advent calendars in our house – ones that only had pictures, which was a challenge in itself, until the year that I forgot to buy one. It was the 30th of November and we had nothing to open the next day. What do do? Well we made our own.. and it became a family tradition. There was a fair division of labour. I drew a picture for the front, the boys drew 12 small pictures each, I cut out all the windows and stuck the little pictures behind them and they took it in turns to open the windows. Since they had done all the drawing, the surprise was in the ordering of the pictures, which were completely random (honest). It started off with drawings with a Christmas theme – Christmas puddings, trees, Santa Claus, then we moved on to pictures of their cuddly toys, one year we had random musical notes to be played on Christmas Day as a new composition – it didn’t quite catch on in the Christmas charts but it was a nice idea. Then, as they got a bit more cyncial about the whole process, the windows started to contain pictures of random stuff : toasters, light bulbs, bits of string – the trick being to have the Christmas Eve picture as inappropriate as possible (though not rude, I didn’t allow that). One year we tried instructions for festive activities ‘make a mince pie’, ‘sing a song’, ‘make a Christmas decoration’, but that developed a little into crazy things ‘put a Christmas hat on the cat’, ‘stand upside down on the stairs’. One year we did one for my parents with appropriate festive instructions in each window (eat a mince pie, go for a walk, text a grandchild) and once we made one with a different cat in each window.. But what is a poor old half empty-nest mother to do when they grow up and leave home and don’t want to do advent calendars any more? She inflicts them on her blogging followers.
Here’s how to do it.
Make your own advent calendar
- Two large pieces of strong paper, blank on at least one side (A2 is a good size)
- Blank scrap paper for drawing (or you could use old Christmas cards of catalogues or pictures of any kind)
- Pens, pencils, crayons, felt tips, paint etc as desired
- A craft knife,
- A piece of board or thick newspaper for cutting (so that you don’t destroy your best table)
- A metal edged ruler (or something to guide your cutting in straight lines)
- Glue (stick type)
- Sticky tape
- A cube shaped object (roughly 1″ or 2cm cube) – we used to use children’s bricks but graduated to ink boxes
- Black or dark coloured marker pen
- Draw a picture on one of the A2 sheets – or make a collage – or something appropriate to your needs*
- Using the cube shape, draw 24 squares in pencil, evenly spaced across the picture
- Using the craft knife, carefully cut round 3 sides of each square to make a window, taking care not to carve your best dining room table
- Fix the second A2 sheet to the back of the picture, using the sticky tape along one edge only
- Carefully open each window and draw the square shape on the backing sheet behind the window**
Using the cube shape, draw 24 squares onto separate sheets of drawing or scrap paper and get your small people to draw whatever they like in each of these squares, or cut out appropriate festive square shaped pictures, or write instructions in tiny writing to do things like decorating the cat, or standing upside down
- Cut out each of the 24 pictures/instructions and (keeping it secret from the rest of the family) stick a picture on each of the squares on your backing sheet.
- Randomly, assign the numbers 1-24 to each of the windows on the front sheet and draw the numbers in marker pen, carefully closing the windows as you do so. If you wish, you can fix it so that the 24th is something special, appropriate (or inappropriate depending on you family’s sense of humour)
- Seal the whole thing using sticky tape on the remaining three edges
- Wait for the 1st of December and enjoy your advent calendar
* Just a little footnote – I know that Christmas and advent are religious festivals – all of the above can be easily adapted more or less to fit your religious and family preferences
** left blank for your anticipation!
*** and what does this have to do with gardening? The clue is in the picture