Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Twenty Four Messages

I think I may have mentioned that Christmas unleashes my inner Martha Stewart like no other time of year, and that I really struggle not to want to make all the crafts and bake all the food. I just makes me really happy, it's as simple as that. 

Over the last couple of years, I've had a lot of fun creating advent calendars for Bella and Angus. Two years ago I made this time-consuming creation, twenty four little boxes of joy and what fun they were. Like the craft room in a suit case, there was as much pleasure in the making as there was in opening them each morning. Last year, I made a calendar consisting of forty eight (two children!) little gifts strung from a piece of driftwood and while it was hugely popular with the children, the cost did add up, especially when you consider that my two both open a stocking each on Christmas morning.

But I did really love the aesthetic of last year's calendar, the simplicity of the brown paper packages and the green eucalyptus, and wanted to create something similar this year. But this time there are no treats, no toys or chocolates, just a written message; a promise of something fun to do, something to make, somewhere to go, and things that I hope will encourage the children to think a little more deeply about Christmas. For example, we have taken part in what I think is known as the "reverse advent calendar". I'm not really sure who started the whole thing but the idea is that every day in November you buy or put aside a food or household item, and then in early December you donate your thirty items to your local food bank, or to one of the food bank drop off points you now see in most supermarkets.

This calendar cost virtually nothing, since I already had most of the items in my craft kit, needing only to buy those little brown money envelopes and some round white stickers, which cost a couple of pounds.

You need: 
  • a piece of wood or wooden dowel
  • number stamps and black ink pad (I bought this one from Amazon a few years ago and have used it so often.)
  • string or twine
  • hole punch
  • mini pegs
  • small brown envelopes
  • round white stickers
  • greenery
  • your twenty four little messages

Simply fill your envelopes with the chosen message. There was a lot of diary checking here, as I made sure that the messages that said "go to the theatre" or "pantomime time" did actually correspond to that day, and trying to save time consuming craft or baking activities for the weekend. Punch a hole in the top of each envelope and attach the string, varying the lengths.

Then use the mini peg to attach the greenery. I used sprigs of fir that we found in the forest while walking, and it can easily be refreshed when it starts to look a bit limp. Alternatively, snip a few sprigs from a fake Christmas tree if you have one (I've tried, it's possible) or use something like fake eucalyptus..

I like the (probably now quite old fashioned) idea that advent is about waiting, preparing and building anticipation, and that the real fun doesn't start for a few weeks yet. This weekend I will start getting out a few Christmassy bits like the nativity and wreath, before I go all-out with the decorations when we buy and decorate our tree in a couple of weeks. 


  1. I loved your previous calendars and I love this one too. I think they'll love it as well, it gives them a lot to look forward to and maybe that's even a little more appropriate for their age now, in a way. I'm sure they'll be very excited to open their envelopes every day, knowing that you've put so much thought into ever one.

  2. What a fantastic idea, I'm sure Bella and Angus will love it. The reverse advent calendar is a good plan too - I'd never heard of that before. Wishing you lots of advent fun. xx

  3. Oh no...I have had exactly the same idea this year and about to reveal it on my blog this week. Is it great minds think alike - I hope you don't think I have copied your idea Gillian but too late for me to do anything else now as I have been planning it for some time. I have been in town all day getting the bits ready for my Christmas makes and the craft paper for the little message cards and like you I have had to plan easy days when we go up to Scotland and have my mum to stay it has been a bit of a military operation organising it!
    When I post mine would it be Ok with you to mention and link through to yours?

  4. It is beautiful and a very good idea! I also like the "reverse Advent calendar". Here, we're once again having the "Living Advent Calendar", organised by an Evangelical church I am not part of, but anyone can participate: Every day or evening, someone in the neighbourhood opens their house or garden to whoever feels like showing up. Some shops participate, and also our elementary school and the library. Every host organises and offers their own little "event"; some light a fire in their garden and have visitors listen to a story or read a poem, some bring out guitars and flutes and everybody sings along, some offer mugs of hot tea and cookies. In my case, it will be my by now traditional program: I will offer tea and talk about Advent and Christmas in England and Germany - what's different and what we have in common. I never know before who will be there, and how many, but it has been a nice and uplifting evening every time. This year, I'll host the Advent Calendar next Monday.

  5. This is lovely Gillian. It looks fab and the messages instead of gifts is a really nice idea and I’m sure you’ll all enjoy it!

    S x

  6. What a super idea! There are so many possibilities for messages in envelopes. If you're planning a surprise trip or holiday there could be daily clues as to where you're going or clues to places you'll visit when you get there! I love it! Best, Jane :) x

  7. I love that you take the time to do this for your children - I'm afraid it's all about the chocolate here in the Attic for my Little Person/Teens. I do still hang my crochet countdown garland though and enjoy the non-chocolately aspect of attaching the numbers each day. I can't believe it's almost upon us!xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  8. I absolutely love this. I've done little gifts in the past and you're right, it does add up. The little messages are brilliant, I imagine your children will love opening them all and remember them always. Beautifully done. CJ xx

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  10. What a wonderful idea! I completely forgot about advent calendars until today and know I won't have time to make anything before the 1st so I succumbed and bought the lolly and chocolate ones this year. When the kids were younger I would print out a Christmas colouring in page and roll it up with some ribbon like a scroll. They had a different page to colour in each day and loved it. xx Susan

  11. A lovely way to keep Christmas treats and preparations- beats the scribbled notes I have made in my diary.

  12. It's beautiful... Patch's this year will look slightly more stylish than what it contains! Brown envelopes hiding a job lot of second hand moshi monsters...

  13. It is a great idea. I also think with that little bit of extra planning making sure that the 'thing' will happen on that day makes it particularly special. Top Job. Jo x

  14. I love the simplicity of your advent calendar. Did your children complain about the lack of gifts/treats in it?

  15. Angus loves this calendar whereas Bella is indifferent. (Also there's another one where they get chocolate.)

  16. It is beautifully presented. Last year we had a family advent calendar with things to do inside each day, ranging from telling each other jokes to sharing a film together whilst sitting on the sofa eating pop corn, to random acts of kindness we all had to do that day. It was a challenge and fun and gave us all something to do and talk about.


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