Advent calendars are one of my favourite Christmas traditions. My mom grew up in Germany, and every year our family there would send each of us kids a special Advent calendar. They were beautiful works of art, with pictures rather than chocolate behind the doors. In my mind, the holiday season started when the parcel containing those calendars arrived, and I remember counting down the days until we could start opening the doors. Two of the greatest joys in my life, my nephews, will be spending a considerable amount of time at my house this Christmas season, and I wanted them to have the same special Advent experience that I remember having as a child.
As I was thinking about what kind of calendar to make or buy, it occurred to me that the number of letters in the alphabet coincides almost perfectly with a Christmas countdown, and the idea for an alphabet advent calendar was born. I set to work creating an alphabet advent calender.
I cut out each letter of the alphabet from scraps of wrapping paper, and glued them onto individual envelopes:
I then made a list of Christmas and holiday words for each letter of the alphabet, and came up with a craft or activity that related to those words that we could do each day. I printed the list out, and glued each activity onto a separate scrap of red paper:
Next, I covered a paper mache mailbox I found at the craft store with Christmas paper, and painted the doors red:
Each day, my nephews can open the mailbox, and find a new alphabet letter envelope in their mailbox with the day's activity on it. We will start our countdown on Tuesday, November 29th, and end on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve ending is in keeping with traditional German Advent calendars of my childhood, and also works well with our final activity. I am so excited for our holiday countdown to start, and can't wait to share and build memories with two special little people who mean the world to me.
If you would like to do an alphabetical Advent countdown with your family, here is my list of activities.
A: "Advent", "angel", and "apple" cider all start with "A", we'll make angels to hang on the tree today.
B: The word "bell" starts with the letter "B". Get out the jingle bells, and ring them with me.
C: "Candle", "cookie", "card", "candy cane", "carols", "chimney" and "Christmas" itself all begin with "C". To celebrate (another "C" word), let's eat dinner by candlelight. We can have candy canes for dessert while we listen to our favourite Christmas carols.
D: "Decorations" and "drum" begin with letter "D"; make a drum decoration for the Christmas tree. (We can use pots, bowls and spoons to play the drums too).
E: The word "envelope" starts with letter "E". Make a card for grandma then wait and see: when she opens the envelope, how happy she'll be!
F: "F" is the first letter in "fireplace", "family", "festive", "faith" and "friends". Draw a picture of one that we'll frame at the end (frame starts with "F" too).
G: "Gingerbread", "goodies" and "gumdrops" each start with "G". What's today? A gingerbread house decorating spree!
H: "Holly", "home", "happy", "hope", and "holiday" all start with "H", but so does "help". Let's help others have a happy holiday this year by purchasing and donating a toy for a child in need.
I: "I" is the first letter of igloo, ice skates, and indoor, so today we'll go skating indoors on the floor! (If you have a hardwood floor, slippery socks are all you need. If you have carpet, cover your socks with wax paper "booties", and let the fun begin!)
J: "Joy", "jingle", and "jolly" all start with "J"; we'll take funny holiday photos today.
K: "Kindness" and "Kris Kringle" both begin with "K". The movie "Miracle on 34th Street" is about both, and it's a holiday favourite of mine. I hope you will love it too.
L: The words "lights" begins with the letter "L". Whether it is the light of a candle, lights on a tree, or Christmas lights on the house, light is everywhere during the holidays.
M: "Manger", "music", and "mittens", all begin with letter "M". Find all our old mittens and make crafts with them.
N: Words that start with "N" are "Noel" and "night", so we will gather and read "T'was the Night Before Christmas" tonight.
O: "O" is the letter at "ornament's" start, and the best ones are handmade and come from the heart. Let's make handprint ornaments for the tree today.
P: "Presents", "peace", and "pinecones" are all letter "P" words. We'll use pinecones and seeds to make gifts for the birds (and after we hang our pinecone bird feeders, we can warm up with peppermint hot chocolate too).
Q: "Q" is the first letter in "quilt" and "quiet". Bring your quilt to the tree and we will snuggle beside it.
R: "R" is for "Rudolph" and "reindeer" and "red", and Rudolph shaped toasts for lunch will be fed.
S: "Sleigh", "Santa", "stocking", "star" all start with "s". With sparkles and craft supplies we'll have a holiday card making fest.
T: "T" is for "tree", "tradition" and "treat". Today we'll bake holiday cookies to eat.
U: "Unwrap" starts with the letter "u"; but first there is all of the wrapping to do. Get out the paint, other art supplies too: making our own wrapping paper is what we will do.
V: The word "vacation" starts with letter "V". With beach towels, balls, and tropical tunes, we'll make believe how a tropical Christmas would be.
W: "Wreath" and "wrapping paper" both begin with "W". Put them together, and make a wreath's what we'll do. Gather the wrapping paper scraps, cut them out into holiday shapes (cookie cutters make great templates if you would like), and glue them onto an "o" shaped piece of cardboard.
X: X's and O's together mean love, and love is at the heart of the holidays. Some of the things that I love about you are [fill this in with a personal description for each child].
Y: "Yuletide" and "yarn" both start with letter "y". Follow the yarn string that starts by your door, at the end there will be a surprise you'll adore.
Z: We use letter "z"s to represent sleep and under your pillow is a present to keep. Put them on and go to bed fast, because tonight is the night Santa visits at last! [note: there will new Christmas pajamas under their pillows]
Thanks to momstown Calgary North for this great guest blog post!