Christ the Savior is Born: Advent Calendar
Dec 8, 2012
As a child, one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me was the day-after-day anticipation leading up to Christmas itself. Even now, at almost 28, I love the excitement of looking forward to events almost as much as I love the events themselves.
During her first year of marriage, my mom made an advent calendar that we have used every year since then. I believe she got the idea from a friend and used her calendar for a pattern. You've probably seen one like it: a bare Christmas tree surrounded by 24 pockets. In each pocket is an ornament, and by Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree is completely decorated.
I loved this calendar. I thought the sequin numbers were so pretty and the presents under the tree beautiful. I had my very favorite ornaments that I hoped would be in my pocket when it was my turn to pull it out (which, with eight kids in the family, was only about once a week!). Each year, as we decorated the house, my heart would give a little leap of joy when my mom hung up the calendar, and I was practically wild with excitement as I waited for December 1st to come around.
Ever since getting married, I have wanted to make (or buy) an advent calendar that we could use year after year and which Aaron, Maxwell, and Bradley could look forward to just as I had done. But I felt a lot of pressure to find just the right one. I could have easily copied my mom's, but I didn't really want to. I wanted that one to remain a part of my childhood. I wanted something new and different for this new phase of my life.
I searched the internet for ideas and took note of the various advent calendars in my friends' homes, but nothing seemed quite right.
Until I saw this one:
This seemed like the perfect idea for our family. Maybe you haven't noticed, but it is not difficult to get kids excited for Santa and presents and treats, but sometimes it is hard to remember why we celebrate this time of year. I liked the idea of something like this hanging in our home to be walked by and looked at many times over the course of the day. It would make the remembering a little easier while still contributing to the fun, excitement, and anticipation.
Below, I'll show you how I made mine. I made some changes from the one I linked to above, and it is just right for our family. (And, of course, even though I've had making an advent calendar in the back of my mind all year, I was putting the finishing touches on this one the night before December 1st.)
I started with a 12x16 wooden plaque I bought at Michaels. I had a 50% off coupon, so I believe it was $7. I painted the sides a deep red.
For the numbers, I used a sheet of 12x12" scrapbook paper which already had the numbers printed onto it. I was really drawn to the simplicity of just slathering it with mod podge and slapping it on the board without having to do a lot of cutting and measuring and individual gluing.
(So, I have to admit my "simple" idea turned a little complicated when the paper kept bubbling as I was trying to mod podge over the top. I've used mod podge very rarely and am not very good at applying it. When it started bubbling, I freaked out a little because it was practically the last thing I was doing, and I knew that instead of being a family keepsake, those bubbles would make me hate it every time I looked at it. But folks, that's why I married an engineer...he really comes in quite handy when it comes to fixing my problems. I don't even know how he did it--I left the room because I was so frustrated looking at it--but the bubbles are gone.)
If you don't like the one piece of scrapbook paper idea, you could definitely just cut out your own individual squares and numbers. That's what my friend, Kathy, did. We made our calendars together, and I really benefited from her good ideas. In the end, our calendars ended up looking very different from each other.
The top part of my board is also covered with a sheet of scrapbook paper. Mike cut the letters for me on a laser he has at work (I'm not fancy enough to own a Cricut yet, but I am fancy enough to have a husband who has access to a laser. What can I say?), and then I just mod podged them on.
I put "The Savior" on a piece of thin MDF to make it stand out a little more and give the board more of a 3-D look. You probably recognize the words from "Silent Night," one of my very favorite Christmas hymns.
Now about the little squares that hang on each of the numbers. They are made out of MDF. Mike cut them to be 2x2 inches. I painted the sides the same shade of red I used on the wooden plaque.
I had 25 pictures of the Savior that I mod podged to one side of each of the squares. (Deseret Book has little packages you can purchase, although nothing this small, so they'd have to be cut down. You could also cut out pictures from the church magazines, or if you have an old Greg Olsen calendar, you could cut out the little pictures on the back cover.) I wanted the pictures to cover all parts of the Christmas story and then move forward with rest of Jesus' life.
Then on the back of each square, I put a scripture and an activity for the day. The scripture correlates with the picture on the front.
Here is the list of the scriptures I used. (I am Mormon, so some of the scripture references are from The Book of Mormon and The Doctrine & Covenants, just in case you're scratching your head thinking, Who is Nephi?) Numbers 1-19 go in chronological order. The last six were selected specifically so they could be used at any point during December. Some of the activities can only be done on certain days, so I needed a few flexible scriptures I could throw in as needed without disrupting the flow of the Christmas story. Does that make sense? I'll explain more in a minute. Here are the scriptures:
1. Luke 1:26-38 ("Behold the handmaid of the Lord")
2. Matt. 1:16,18-25 (Joseph)
3. Luke 2:1-5 (traveling to Bethlehem)
4. Luke 2:4-7 ("she brought forth her firstborn son")
5. Luke 2:12 and 2 Nephi 19:6 (wrapped in swaddling clothes)
6. 1 Nephi 11:13-20 (the virgin Mary)
7. Luke 2:8-14 (shepherds abiding in the fields)
8. Luke 2:15-17 (shepherds go to Bethlehem)
9. Luke 2:25-35 (Baby Jesus presented to Simeon)
10. Matthew 2:7-12 (wise men)
11. Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 (leaving Egypt)
12. Luke 2:40 and Doctrine & Covenants 68:28 ("and the child grew")
13. Luke 2:41-52 (Jesus converses with the learned men as a young boy)
14. Matthew 13:54-57 ("Is not this the carpenter's son?")
15. Matthew 3:13-17 (John the Baptist)
16. John 13:4-5, 12-17 (Jesus washes His disciples' feet)
17. Matthew 26:36-44 and Doctrine & Covenants 45:3-5 (Jesus suffers in Gethsemane)
18. Luke 24:1-9, 36-39 and 1 Corinthians 15:19-22 (the Resurrection)
19. John 14:1-3, 6 and Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24 (the Millennial Savior)
20. Luke 15:4-7 and John 10:14 (the Good Shepherd)
21. John 9:1-7 (healing a blind man)
22. Matthew 5:1-3, 14-16 (the Sermon on the Mount)
23. Matthew 19:13-15 and Doctrine & Covenants 50:40-42 ("Suffer little children")
24. Mark 4: 36-41 ("Peace, be still")
25. John 14:18, 27 ("Let not your heart be troubled")
Now for the activities, I was very adamant that they be fun or meaningful without being complicated. This was an absolute must for me. I wanted this to be something I looked forward to as much as the kids, and I knew if I filled up the days with craft after craft, then I would dread the advent calendar, and I really didn't want that. So I went simple, sometimes excruciatingly simple (notice "sing Christmas songs" and "make hot chocolate and stir with candy canes"--I knew we could do those things even on our busiest days). Also, I didn't want to add in a bunch of extra stress in an already busy month. So I took the things we would already be doing (making treats for our neighbors or going to the family Christmas party) and stuck them on a square. You'll also notice that some of the activities are date specific, meaning that they only happen on a specific day in December (like the First Presidency Christmas devotional). This is what I was talking about earlier; I wanted to be able to put in these time-sensitive activities on the dates they went on without disrupting the flow of the Christmas story. So I assigned scriptures to those activities that were more just about the Savior's role or personality rather than a specific point on the timeline of His life.
1. Write a letter to Santa
2. Drive around and look at lights
3. Make paper snowflakes
4. Make hot chocolate and stir with candy canes
5. Make gifts for neighbors
6. Deliver gifts to neighbors
7. Make Christmas ornaments
8. Do a random act of kindness
9. Write a letter or draw a picture for someone
10. Sing Christmas songs
11. Christmas movie night
12. Dance to Christmas music
13. See the lights on Temple Square
14. Go out for a Christmas treat
15. Read stories by the Christmas tree
16. Choose a toy to give away
17. Wrap Christmas gifts
18. Give gifts to teachers
19. Visit an elderly friend or relative
20. Christmas shopping
21. Attend a live nativity (specific date)
22. Watch First Presidency Christmas devotional (specific date)
23. Special Christmas activity (specific date) (Every year I like for us to try something new or do something we don't do every single year. That's why this one is so vague. This year we'll be going to Zoo Lights.)
24. Ward Christmas party (specific date)
25. Family Christmas party/act out the nativity (specific date)
Mike pounded nails in the wooden plaque and drilled little holes in each of the squares. I put all of the squares in a little treasure box. Each morning, I lay the one for the day on top (the others are covered with a tissue). Aaron and Max take turns opening the chest, and taking out the square and hanging it up. This has become such a fun part of our morning routine, and they both can hardly wait to see what the picture is and what we'll be doing during the day. (So far, I think the "Christmas movie night" has won as being the activity they were most ecstatic over. Poor, deprived children.) I'm just happy because it has fulfilled everything I was hoping for in an advent calendar. No, it doesn't involve any candy, but it takes in the things that matter most during this time of year.
P.S. If you have any questions about how I made any part of this, feel free to send me an email or ask in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer!
This post is linked to Organize and Decorate Everything.