Advent calendars are extremely popular in Germany, especially ones filled with small chocolates and small toys. But for the last few years, I have really been wanting to break away from the candy and toy centered calendars and explore something more heartfelt and meaningful. I once read that “things” will quickly be forgotten. But when you create an “experience,” people will remember it for years and years.

A few years ago, we bought a cool felt Santa advent calendar that I really love and have been using over the years. But you can easily make your own with anything from paper bags to slips of paper…or just make a list on your computer or a sheet of paper where you cross things off each day.


photo credit: Rosa Pomar via photopin cc

photo credit: Rosa Pomar via photopin cc

Tasks for Your Homemade Advent Calendar

  • Read a Christmas book– We read a lot of Christmas-themed books during advent, and have really been appreciating our visits to the public library since we are back in the States. Check out several books, pull out the ones you already have and maybe even buy a few. Then wrap them up and put a number on them which corresponds to your calendar. Or just pick one out at random.
  • Watch a Christmas movie at home — This could be something you already own or a new movie. We also love to find something on Netflix or Amazon Prime which takes a lot of the hassle out of it. Make some popcorn and hot chocolate and you are set. We usually do this 2-3 times during advent.
  • Go see Santa — Whether you do this at the mall, a community event or just with family, this can be a whole lot of fun for the family. Plus you can
  • Have a night out — One of our new favorite things to do together is play mini-golf. So we have that option in our advent calendar. But your family may want to go bowling, see a movie, have dinner or do some other activity instead.
  • Go to a neighborhood Christmas celebration — We have all sorts of Christmas events in our city, from tree lighting ceremonies to parades. Figure out when they are taking place and participate in them.
  • Drive around and see the lights — This is a great thing to do really close to Christmas because the majority of people who will be decorating have had the chance to do so already. Plus, it really makes you feel Christmas-y, regardless of whether you are living in a warm climate like Florida or somewhere with snow.
  • Bake cookies, bread and other goodies — Kids love helping in the kitchen and it’s never too late to start a Christmas tradition of baking with them.
  • Create Christmas crafts — There are tons of different things you can do, from ornaments to decorations. I always loved these thumbprint lights but Pinterest is overflowing with awesome ideas. So get started and use them for special gifts for family and friends — or for your own home!
  • Bless your neighbors — Now that you have a kitchen full of baked goods and crafts, head over to your neighbor’s house and leave them a Secret Santa gift. If you fear they might not get eaten, go with something else small which can be used to decorate with for the holidays or which will brighten their day year round. (More on this concept in a later post).
  • Bless others — With so many new gifts arriving on Christmas, this is the perfect time of year to donate a few toys, clothes, shoes and more to those who are less fortunate. If your kids are old enough, you might even want to donate some of your time at a local charity serving food, packing stuff up to be sent

These are just a few ideas to get you going — but there must be hundreds of them out there. In fact, here are 50 Magical Family Christmas Traditions which may help you get further inspired. Be sure to stay and check out this blog a bit. There are so many wonderful ideas.

And while you are at it, why not create an advent calendar of activities to do with your spouse. Or these random acts of kindness (I LOVE these!)

By the way, since we moved back to the US, I have seen the Elf on the Shelf everywhere. I have been thinking about getting one, but I often see people having their elves do naughty things. And the Elves have a habit of just keeping us good enough. So when I read this post about Kindness Elves at The Imagination Tree (the blog I mentioned above), I was intrigued. Now I’m going to have to start looking around for a different sort of elf for us to use and integrate into positive reinforcement!

What sort of family traditions to you have with your loved ones over the holidays?