My kids have been asking, “How many days until Christmas?” ever since the stores started hauling out the Christmas stuff.
So pretty much forever.
Now that it’s actually December, I wanted to give them a way to count down the days until Christmas without having to ask me thirty times a day (not that I don’t love that).
We have done Advent calendars in the past: you know, those flimsy little drug store calendars filled with tiny bits of chocolate that fall out on the wrong days and make kids cry. I’ve had stacks of them on top of my fridge every Christmas for the past few years, and I am always so happy to throw them away on Christmas Eve because they no longer look charming and everyone is kinda bitter about the fact that we spent actual money on them.
This year (read: yesterday) I decided I wanted to do something different. With Jeff deploying to Africa just a few weeks after Christmas, these days are precious. In one sense, the countdown to Christmas is also a countdown to his departure.
There is not enough chocolate in the world to make me want to count down to that.
Instead, I wanted to celebrate each day we have together, and each day we count down to the most glorious miracle of Christ’s birth, with a calendar that focuses on the time we have as a family.
I decided to make an Advent pendant banner using Christmas card stock. Now, I thought of this brilliant idea at exactly 2:45 yesterday afternoon, and at exactly 2:45 yesterday afternoon, I realized I did not have Christmas card stock.
Off to Hobby Lobby I went. Except Hobby Lobby is closed on Sunday. Off to Walmart I went! Except Walmart was a bust. Off to Target I went (at this point, I was absolutely not going to be back in five minutes like I had promised). Target had one option for Christmas card stock, and after fighting my way through the crowds of people buying stuffed Olafs, I did not even care what the paper looked like. Christmas card stock: check!
I realized later that I could have used plain paper and it would have worked just fine. Alas.
Creating the pendants is a breeze. Each of my card stock squares was 6×6 inches, so I cut each square in half with my paper cutter (you can also use scissors). That gave me two 3×6 rectangles. I cut the rectangles from the top corners to the bottom center, giving me two triangle pendants from each square of card stock.
24 triangles later, I assembled my banner on a jute string using two dabs of hot glue on each corner of the pendants.
Viola! My Advent banner was assembled.
Now, your temptation at this point will be to make this more complicated than it needs to be. But mammas, it is December 1st and you are thinking of making an Advent calendar. The over-achiever Christmas crafty train left way back in October.
We are now in Get ‘Er Done mode.
So, you could add decorations to your pendants. You could. Don’t.
I did add two little buttons on the ends of the jute string while I was waiting for my hot glue gun to heat up, but I gave myself a good talking to when I considered adding little decorations to each pendant. That’s crazy talk right there.
However, I happened to have a scalloped, round paper punch so I did punch out 24 circles for the dates. If you do not have a scalloped paper punch, do not panic. This step is completely optional. You could write the dates directly on the banners, or add bits of ribbon or strips of paper for the dates.
I affixed each date to a pendant using a big glob of hot glue to give dimension to the date circles. Once they dried, I ran my finger under the edge to make sure the date circles popped up a little.
Then, I simply wrote the dates on with gold Sharpie, flipped the banner over, and added a fun Advent activity to the back of each pendant.
Could not be easier.
A simple, gold-Sharpied clothespin helps us keep track of the days. Just move it over one day as you count down to Christmas.
Now, if you have trouble thinking of Advent activities, you’re probably trying to get on that over-achiever train again. Stop it. Christmas does not have to be crazy, bigger-than-life, or expensive to be wonderful. In fact, your Advent list can include many of the things you already do during the Christmas season:
*Watch The Nutcracker
*Go to the church Christmas program
*Have cocoa and candy canes
*Make a gingerbread house
*Read The Night Before Christmas
*Make gifts for teachers and friends
*Deliver cookies to neighbors
*Attend a Christmas concert
*Take the Polar Express to look at Christmas lights
*Go ice skating
*Make a Christmas craft
*Read the Christmas story
*Look at pictures of past Christmases
*Sip eggnog around the Christmas tree
*Make homemade marshmallows
*Watch Frosty the Snowman
*Read How the Grinch Stole Christmas
*Volunteer at a local charity
*Play in the snow!
*Reenact the Christmas story
*Draw names and do something nice for another family member
*Open ONE present (this is our activity for the last day of Advent–Christmas Eve!)
You get the idea. The goal is to be intentional about spending time together, doing the things you love to do, creating memories as a family. Each day, have the kids write about the activity on the back of that day’s pendant. After the Christmas season is over, you’ll have a memory to cherish.
And isn’t that better than cheap chocolate? Any day.