For me, Christmas time officially starts on December 1st, when I pop open the first box of my advent calendar.
Of course, there’s a multitude of more or less subtle signs that remind us that a certain special time of year is getting nearer, and I appreciate all of them too: the lights, the carols, the smell of cinnamon and spices everywhere. Not to mention, what’s not to love about mulled wine suddenly being not only acceptable but a necessity? The struggle to stay warm is real, guys!
Advent calendars have always been a big part of my Christmas celebrations, so I was absolutely crushed when my mother suggested that I was too old to buy one.
Silly arguments—and accusations of being a Grinch—aside, a chance to save some money is always welcome. So how could I do that without compromising the countdown to Christmas at the same time? Easy: I should make one myself!
Now, I’m most definitely not a DIY genius; in fact, I can barely cook a meal without doing some kind of damage. The list of accidents I’ve had (or caused) in a kitchen ranges from mishandling a knife, to accidentally setting a dishcloth on fire. But I promise you this project combines the most rewarding results with the least amount of skills needed. The potential for things to turn horribly wrong is very low too.
What I did was simple:
Step 1 – I got a template for envelopes;
Step 2 – I got myself a few sheets of decorative paper;
Step 3 – I made 24 envelopes and wrote the numbers 1-24 on them;
Step 4 – I filled the envelopes with either a chocolate or a note, and there it was: I had an advent calendar!
Here are a few hopefully helpful tips on how to find everything you need:
– Stencils and templates for envelopes are super easy to find on the internet, so google away, and then print out what you like best! Or, if you’re feeling proper, you can easily buy plastic ones in craft stores. Personally, I really liked this one.
– You can use the type of paper you prefer, and you can even grab the chance to recycle old wrapping paper or scraps. The only detail worth paying attention too is the thickness of the paper: it needs to fold easily, but it shouldn’t be too delicate.
– For the final touches and decorations, you can use whatever you like or have at home. Since, as I said, I wasn’t blessed with a talent for handicraft, I kept it simple. I alternated glitter and glue, to crayons and colours, to glue and yarn, and you can see the results in the pictures.
Get creative and experiment with different techniques!
As for what to put in the envelopes, you have an array of options in front of you: you can treat yourself to daily chocolates, or snuggle up with a warm cup of tea from a blend you haven’t tried before. You can also grab the chance to try something new and substitute actual food with a recipe to try out. (FYI: Cocktail mixes are recipes too.)
Another idea I tried out last year, with the valuable contribution of my little sister, and found to be lovely was writing down notes with homework for the day. It gets more interesting if you pick things you don’t usually do: baking a treat; rocking around to Christmas songs in an actual dance party (even two-minute ones count); reading a short story set around Christmas time; watching a Christmas movie, or something from your childhood.
You can pick actions that get you out of the house, too: going ice-skating, visiting a museum or an art exhibition, sightseeing in a touristy spot nearby you haven’t been to before. And, last but not least, why not grab the chance to give back too? From buying a meal for a homeless person, to volunteering for a day or a weekend, there are plenty of ways you can help someone in need, and make their day. It’s Christmas, after all. Shouldn’t it be about giving to others in any way we can?
Once you’ve made your envelopes and filled them, all there’s left to do is pick an arrangement to showcase what you’ve crafted. You can lay the envelopes out in a composition and have it serve as a centrepiece, or you can hang them with clothespins and some twine, among decorations.
And of course, since Christmas is not just about unwrapping things, make a ritual out of it! Turn the opening of the envelope into a moment to share with your loved ones, or a special time for self-care at the end of the day, and make Christmas a month-long affair!