Like most kids, Christmas was always the answer I gave when asked what my favorite holiday was. For some kids, this was merely because of the gifts they received at that time of year, but for me, it was because of the wholesome feelings that came with the Christmas season and the magic and love that seemed to fill the air. It was, and probably always will be, my favorite time of year.
Looking back, I've realized that part of why I love Christmas so much is because of the traditions I grew to love and look forward to from year to year. And interestingly enough, my favorite traditions were ALWAYS our advent calendars and Christmas countdowns!
Now that I'm a mom, I've found that my kids are the same way! There's just something so exciting about counting down to Christmas--even for adults! So if you're looking for some fun ways to help you celebrate Christmas all December long, look no further!
Here are some of my FAVORITE advent calendars and Christmas countdowns your whole family is sure to love!
Traditional Advent Calendars
Christmas is Coming! An Advent Book!
If you are like me and love to pack in as many different activities as you can before Christmas, this book is for you! This advent book gives you a different craft, activity, song, or even recipe the whole family can enjoy together!
Toss it on your coffee table on December 1, and open it up each night as a family to bring everyone just a bit closer this Christmas!
Due to the variety of activities within the book, every member of your family, no matter their ages or interests, will be reaching for this book each year. The illustrations are also timeless and beautiful, making this book an heirloom you'll pass down from generation to generation!
Build Your Own Advent ft. the Gathre Advent
I love the brand new Gathre advent calendars because you can reuse them from year to year and fill them with whatever you want! This allows you to truly customize it for the person or people it is intended for! Fill each pouch with similar items each day, or fill with a random assortment for some variety and fun!
The Gathre advents come in two different colors (Ivory and Grove) as well as two sizes (small and large) so you can get just the right look and size for your home!
Need some ideas on what to fill your Gathre advent calendar with? Here are some of my favorite things to put inside:
- Play dough (My favorite is the Land of Dough cups and glitter rolls!)
- Mini stuffies, such as our adorable little Wee Winter Penguin from Jellycat
- Small toys, such as our Plan Toys Mini Camera or Tonies
- Christmas candies
- Art supplies/crafts
- Sweet Christmas message/story
- Christmas song
- Printouts of various Christmas activities to do each day (visit New Darlings blog for a free printable!)
Picture Credit: Robert and Christina from New Darlings Blog
25 Days of Kindness Advent Calendar
Starting a 25 days of kindness/service calendar is a great way to help those in your family reach out and serve others during this time of year. As I've gotten older, I've noticed that December can be a really hard time for a lot of people-- whether it's because they don't have family close by, or they work retail and have a lot of stress as Christmas approaches. Whatever the reason, serving others at this time can be just what someone needs to feel whole at this time of year.
Although this isn't a physical advent calendar with treats or trinkets, it can be one of the most memorable experiences for both you and your kiddos this year! And it's sure to put a new smile on someone's face every day.
Fill out your own calendar together as a family with things you can do each day, or download a free printable like this one online!
Photo Credit: Blessed Homeschool
My kids and husband love the chocolate advents you can find at most local grocery stores. They're fairly inexpensive, allowing you to get one for each member of the family. Although the quality of the chocolate is often subpar, there's just something nostalgic and fun about the chocolate advents!
For young children, these advents are especially fun as they open the cardboard flap to find a new chocolate shape each day! My kids love to guess what shape they will be pulling out and often turn it into a guessing game. From bells, stars and presents to Santa and beyond, Christmas advents are one of the best (and cheapest) advents you can do to make December extra special this year!
Christmas Chain Craft
I would be amiss if I left out the traditional Christmas chain when talking about ideas for Christmas countdowns! You know the classic red and green chains we all made back in elementary school? But you don't have to stick with traditional even when making a traditional countdown craft!
Be extra creative and turn your paper chain into a fun holiday character such as Rudolph or Frosty! Simply cut strips of paper in a variety of colors and pull out the pom poms, pipe cleaners and googly eyes and you've got the cutest and most unique paper countdown chains!
Photo Credit: Mod Podge Rocks Blog
This snowman countdown craft is adorable for kids of all ages, but I love it especially for preschoolers/kindergarteners for reinforcing counting and numbers! Make the snowman on December first, then have your little one rotate the carrot nose each day to count down to Christmas day!
All you need for this craft is a paper plate, colored paper, a brad, pen, glue and scissors! Check out Coffee and Carpool for a full tutorial here!
Photo Credit: Coffee and Carpool
12 Days of Crafting
Again, some of the BEST countdowns to Christmas include crafting! But if you want more than one craft, a 12 Days of Crafting kit may be just what you're looking for! You can find these at many craft stores, or make your own by gathering Christmas craft/activity kits from the dollar store, craft store, or wherever you like to shop!
I personally love this Mondo Llama Christmas countdown kit from Target! It's a great activity to do together with your child to countdown each day leading up to Christmas!
Photo Credit: Target
12 Days of Books Countdown
My kids have always been obsessed with books! So when I heard the idea a few years back to do a Christmas countdown with books, I was all in! Each year, I pick out 12 Christmas and winter-themed books and wrap each one individually. I then placed them under the mini Christmas tree my kids have in their room. Each evening starting on December 13th, my kids open one of the gifts together. We then read the story together before bed!
If you want to do even more, feel free to double it and do all 24 days! Since books can get expensive, I like to do this with only 12 and use it as more of a countdown as Christmas approaches. If you can't afford to buy all new books, be sure to checkout your local thrift store! You can often find great books for very cheap. And they don't all have to be Christmas themed for it to still be a fun tradition for your kiddos!
For your spouse or older kids, try a variation on this 12 days countdown with a fun new pair of socks each day, unique Christmas candies, or even just wrap up 12 Christmas movies that you can watch together each night!
Photo Credit: Jenn from the Purposeful Mom
Religious Advent Calendars
Art to Heart Glad Tidings Advent
The Art to Heart advent is the advent my family would do each year. Each day of December, my siblings and I would take turns adding another fabric character to the display. We'd each carefully select which character we'd be adding, and then place it in just the right spot.
This is the perfect advent for those that love to sew and craft. You can purchase the pattern and pick out your own fabric and buttons, allowing you to create an advent to fit your style and aesthetic!
This would go well with the Gathre advent. Place one piece in each of the Gathre pouches along with a piece of candy for the perfect holiday advent!
Photo Credit: Nancy Halvorsen from Art to Heart
25 Days of Christ Set
The New Tradition 25 Days of Christ set is another one of my favorite religious advents! We made a similar set a few years back in my church group, but you can now purchase the set online that includes ornaments and a pamphlet with New Testament scriptures and videos that go along with each ornament! I love this set because it not only focuses on Christ's birth, but his life as a whole!
This set also makes a GREAT family activity. Purchase the unfinished kit and paint and assemble it together, making the kit extra special and personal to you! Along with the Art to Heart Glad Tidings advent, this makes ANOTHER great set to go with your Gathre advent wall hanging, hint hint ;)
Picture Credit: New Tradition Crafts
No matter how you celebrate Christmas, implementing an advent calendar or Christmas countdown is a great way to bring a little more magic into your home this season. For our family, these new traditions have enhanced our family connection, while reminding me just how magical and beautiful Christmas can be. The excitement I see on my kids' faces each day is a great reminder to me to slow down and enjoy the season for what it's meant to be!