Advent calendars first began in Germany in the late 1800s. And while they started off as a religious-centered tradition, they now come in every theme you can think of from Hot Wheels to mini bottles of wine. Some calendars start on December 1st and contain 24 surprises, while others are more attuned to only the 12 days leading up to Christmas and start on the 12th. Regardless of how many surprises the calendar has, advent calendars have exploded in popularity in recent years.
Recently I was at our local Aldi to pick up a few items and unfortunately came on the day they debuted their yearly advent calendars. People had their carts filled and overflowing (I’m not exaggerating) with these disposable and to be frank, often cheap, yearly traditions.
It had never occurred to me how wasteful these calendars were until I saw the frenzy around buying new ones that day at the store. Usually made of paper or plastic and filled with often cheap or disposable plastic trinkets, they made me feel the full force of consumerism. Please don’t get me wrong. We have purchased advent calendars in the past for our son. One was Hot Wheels (filled with cheap plastic toys that he never played with), and a Frozen-themed one that has a new book for each day – this one we’ve saved and pull out each holiday season. As soon as I got home from the store I started plotting out how I could make this Christmas tradition more sustainable. Of course, I searched online and saw these beautiful wooden creations that had small little drawers that can be filled with special surprises. But I wanted something affordable and upcycled.
I decided on a 12-day calendar. Here’s how I created it.
1. I took an old muffin pan I no longer used (you could also pick one up at a thrift store), and spray-painted it with paint I already had in the house (left by the previous owners).
2. I printed up 12 ornaments on thick cardstock (on our Epson eco printer) to fit the opening of each muffin space.
3. After cutting them out I glued the top of the ornament to the muffin pan. I used a hot glue gun I already had.
4. I filled each ornament with used Lego mini figurines we purchased second-hand.
At the end of the season, I’ll carefully pack this away to be used for years to come. Depending on our son’s interests I’ll be able to fill the calendar with things I know he’ll enjoy and use.
If you want to make your own 12-day advent calendar, you can download the 12 ornaments that fit perfectly over standard muffin tin cups.
Ornaments 1 - 6
Ornaments 7 - 12