Alternative Advent Calendars

posted by Gina

This is a Christmas-centric post. For those of you who do not celebrate Christmas, I apologize. A number of these ideas could be repurposed to count down towards other events, or just as a festive anticipatory game.

So I realize this is several days after the first of December, but hey – if you’re like me, you’re just starting to realize you better get in gear for holiday type stuff. I love decorating more than pretty much anyone in the world, and even I can’t get it together for the first of the month.

My sister’s house, the day after Thanksgiving. I can’t live up to this.


When I was a kid, we got those punch out advent calendars every once in a while, with every window hiding a tiny chocolate. I’m pretty sure I also remember punching all the days out at once to get all the candy.


There’s something magic about anticipation, and counting down to Christmas morning was always a huge part of the season. December lasted so darn long as a kid – unlike today, as I’m thinking THREE WEEKS HOW WILL I POSSIBLY GET IT ALL DONE.

I present to you a number of festive, interactive, possibly-new-to-you ways to count down the days of this month. Should you choose to make one this weekend, you only have to make there weeks’ worth. You’re welcome.

Envelope Calendar


Set up a calendar of sealed or stickered-closed envelopes. What goes inside? Consider love notes (“Day 14: reason #14 I love you”), or coupons (“Redeem for one enormous smooch” or “Redeem for one 24 hour period of not hearing a single word about how messy your room is”). For something more interactive, consider co-writing: multiple kids or you and your kiddo write for each other, so everyone has their own personal goodie each day.

Here is one family’s envelope calendar – complete with ideas for daily festive activities for filling the envelopes.

The Found Object Calendar


I found this photo on, listed as an advent calendar idea, but the link it led to was broken. Which means I get to make up what I think it is! And what I think it is is fabulous: instead of pre-setting an advent calendar, create one together as the month goes. Pre-set a corkboard or wall space (or string up a wire, set up a mini tree, etc.) with a pin (or clip, or magnet) for each day of the month. Every day, have your kiddo bring home a found object or a drawing – label it with the day of the month, pin, clip, or attach it, and voila – a created calendar without the need for you to be inventive ahead of time.

and on the make-as-you-go train …

Build a Wishing Tree


Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree has been making the rounds of museums and exhibitions since the 1990s. Create a wish tree of your own to count down the days. Choose a tree in your yard, a plant in your home, build a tree, collage a tree – anything that works for you and your space. Each day, write a wish or hope on a ribbon, a tag, or a piece of paper and tie to your tree. Want to be official? Here is a link to Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree page.

Other countdown ideas? Let us know!



Author: Gina L. Grandi

Moderately well-read. Fairly socially awkward. According to Greg, 'a sentimental cynic with artistic sensibilities.' Somewhat nifty.

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