How to Make the Ultimate DIY Advent Calendar

There are a ton of different advent calendars these days, filled with everything from from whiskey to nail polish to LEGO bricks. They’re a lot of fun, but they lack a certain personal touch. If you want to give one, or build one for yourself, here are some superior DIY advent calendar suggestions to celebrate the season.

First of all, forget what you know about the word “calendar.” Advent calendars aren’t confined the typical calendar size, and can take on many different shapes and sizes. An advent calendar has two very important features: it has to be numbered, and it has to hide gifts. Sure, you could buy one and fill it with whatever, but if you know what you want to fill it with, you can do better if you DIY. Here are some material suggestions.

Jewelry/Gift Boxes: Buy some cheap small, gift boxes from a craft supply or dollar store, decorate them with paint, stickers, or washi tape, and number them. You can keep it super simple, or you can use this printout for a designer look. Arrange them on a side table or mantle in a pleasing manner, or set them all in a suitcase for a super cute presentation.Small Gift Bags: Grab a whole bunch of colorful, festive gift bags of various (smallish) sizes and fill them with treats. You can draw, tape, stamp, or paint numbers directly on them, or you can attach numbered gift tags to the handles. Set them out in a row, string them up as a garland of gifts, or hang them directly on the Christmas tree.Envelopes: Due to their flat nature, envelopes don’t work well for all gifts, but if you wish to give twenty four days of love notes, poems, photos, or gift certificates (or a mixture of any,) they’re the way to go. Once filled and numbered, you can pin ‘em to a cork board, string them up with twine and clothespins, or clip them directly onto a garland or tree.Party Hats: Not only are party hats festive by nature, you can set them on top of gifts, making them a super easy option. If you don’t feel like buying party hats, you can also make paper cones from almost any construction-type paper, as A Lovely Lark does here.Shoe Organizer: There are two types of shoe organizers: the cubby kind and the over-the-door kind, and both make pretty good advent calendars. For the over-the-door kind (which you can see a tutorial for here), make sure you get one with opaque pockets, and just slap some numbers on there. The cubby kind is great because you can set pretty much anything in those little slots, from bottles of wine to little wrapped treasures. You can place numbered tags on the gifts, or you can cover each cubby hole with a piece of numbered construction or brown craft paper, securing with double-sided (if you don’t want the tape to be visible) or washi tape (if you do).Tiny Stockings: You can order a bunch of little stockings for pretty cheap, number and fill them, and then pin them up on a corkboard or hang them up by the chimney with care.Mason Jars: Since they come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes, mason jars are a great candidate for an advent calendar. You can write, tape, or paint the numbers on the lids, and hide the gifts in colorful confetti or festive tissue paper.Go Digital: Services like AdventMyFriend deliver a festive picture or video to friend each day. This may seem kind of limiting at first, but you can get really creative here. Beyond songs and funny YouTube clips, you can use this to reveal bigger, experience-based gifts. For example, if you bought concert tickets, you can include a clip of the artist with the message “Guess who we’re going to see!”

Once you have the format of your calendar figured out, it’s time to fill it with goodies. Chocolate is never a bad option, but there are other, more personal treats you can dole out on a daily basis.

Every year I yearn for the whiskey advent calendar, and every year no one buys it for me because it is $150. Luckily, you can show your favorite imbiber a little Christmas love by filling their calendars with any of the following:

Beer: Grab an over-the-wall shoe organizer (make sure it holds 24 pairs), stick, stencil, or paint on some numbers, and nestle various bottles of craft (or domestic) beer in each little pouch. Make sure to attach a bottle opener for easy access. Alternatively, you can buy a 24-pack of your giftee’s favorite brew and just Sharpie numbers on the cans or bottles.Wine: This one is a little pricey, depending on just how discerning your wine snob is, but it makes a big impression. You can format in a few different ways: You can just plunk it in a numbered paper bag, or you can get some craft paper, draw, paint, or stick numbers on it, and wrap it around the bottle, securing it with a single piece of tape so it can be removed without damaging the original label. You can also simply tie a little, tasteful gift tag around the neck of each bottle. You can line the bottles up on a table of mantle, or place them in a wine rack (you’re gonna need a big rack, or restock a smaller one) for maximum impact.Cocktails and Spirits: Little hotel bottles are your friend here, and these guys fit into almost any advent calendar you can construct. For an extra clever delivery system, you can nestle each bottle into a numbered shot glass (either plastic or glass). Also, don’t forget about accessories and accoutrements: Mini (or full-sized) bottles of bitters, cocktail olives and cherries, syrups, cute swizzle sticks, bottle openers, coasters and cocktail napkins are all good candidates.

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