The Ultimate DIY Advent Calendar Guide

Christmas may still be a month away but as Michael Bublé slowly defrosts across the pond, it’s time to start planning one of the best parts about Christmas: Advent Calendars. They’re the perfect opportunity to get creative and make someone very happy in the process. Whether you’re planning on making one for a friend, your partner or your children, here’s everything you need to design and fill the perfect, unique Advent Calendar to make the days leading up to Christmas fly by on any budget.

Anyone and everyone, no matter your level of craftiness, can do this. If you’re absolutely helpless when it comes to crafting, you can always buy the ‘frame’ and only worry about the filling.

Depot has an impressive selection of everything from bags to stuffings and stickers for decoration. They even have a section of items labelled ‘Füllung’ containing all kinds of things to use as filling. The satchels seen in the cover photo can be found here for €14.99 and reused every year.

History

Advent calendars first appeared around 1850. In its early years, people lit one more candle every day or hung pictures on their walls, some simply counted the days with chalk marks on their doors. Being the classic consumerist culture we are, this soon turned into 24 days of presents. Nowadays, you can find them at every toy and delicacy shop in Germany, some so expensive that you can only wonder what the actual Christmas presents will look like, others simple and all of them serve one purpose: to count the days leading up to Christmas eve.

Stuffing

Let’s start with the fun part: stuffing! I have three siblings so my mother kept our ‘gifts’ small in order to fit them into little pots and usually went for little candy bars, mini santas on the 6th (Nikolaus) and 24th. We would always grab our surprises before going off to school and enjoy the extra sugar rush along with our lunches. For the sake of this article, I got it out a little sooner than usual but come Advent 1, my mother will add twigs of evergreens for those extra holiday vibes. (We might be all grown up now but whoever comes to visit gets to pick something and I hope that tradition never dies.)

Leonie Milde | Military in Germany

If you see something throughout the year, just buy it and put it in a box so you don’t need to come up with 24 items in November. Here are some inexpensive (around €1 – €3) suggestions that will make anyone smile. You can never go wrong with useful things such as toiletries (just browse through the travel sized section of your local drugstore and you’ll be able to stuff every sock) and €1 stores hide great useless items that no one would ever buy for themselves.

  • nail polish
  • candy
  • chapsticks
  • candy
  • mini toy cars
  • small books
  • gummi bears
  • Christmas tree ornaments
  • stationery/ pens/ highlighters/ pretty paperclips and co
  • candy
  • photos of you two and/ or a cherished memory
  • face masks (they make them for men as well!)
  • chocolate
  • a puppy (that was a joke, please remember that pets are not suitable as gifts unless you are positive the recipient is responsible enough for the financial and emotional commitment)
  • socks
  • mini hand creams or hand sanitisers

Packaging

Once you’ve gained a general idea of your filling’s size, it’s time to think about containers. The options, again, are endless. I have put together a few things that can be bought in family-sized packages at a decent price (you don’t want to waste all your money on the ‘shell’) and hold items up to a certain size. Germans celebrate on the 24th so that’s all the numbers you get if you choose a store-bought frame but you can always add another surprise for the 25th. If you want to wrap every gift separately, you might not need to get anything like this.

  • Envelopes. Yes, boring old envelopes from your office can be pimped with washi tape, glitter glue, crayons and about anything else that’s colorful and sticks to paper. However, depending on its size and the size of gifts you’re planning on buying, they can be too small.
  • Baby socks. Aside from the fact that they’re adorable, they are quite flexible when it comes to their shape, so you don’t need to worry that sharp or larger objects will tear them.
  • Sandwich bags. Another low-cost item you most likely already have at home. Pretty ribbons, stickers, more glitter glue and bows suffice for a glow-up.
  • Boxes. Boxes can be purchased in all shapes and sizes at any crafting store (Idee etc). I suggest buying the gifts first to make sure they all fit. This option can be a bit pricey.
  • Flower pots. Unless they’re individually wrapped, the receiver will immediately be able to identify all her/his gifts on the first day but if you’re going for things like candy, this should not be an issue.
  • Hand-sewn or store-bought satchels
Leonie Milde | Military in Germany

Frame

You may not need a frame at all. Depending on the size and material of your packages, you might want to wrap them separately and put them on a window sill or table.

If you do wish to hang it up or want it to be set up in a certain pattern, you can either go for a classic string and simply pin the gifts with clothespins or choose something a little more robust. You can also super glue or sew the packages on the string. This way you won’t have to worry about it anymore next year. Large, wooden picture frames and some sort of net (see flower pot picture above) make for a great basis.

Is your decidophobia stressing you yet? Just go for a different theme every day, vary the content, alternate between envelopes, flower pots, paper bags and cotton satchels. This is your artwork and only you make the rules.
Worried your perfectionism will ruin this one? Remember that whoever you’re making this for will love the gesture more than the gifts and any flaws will simply make it more unique.

Leonie Milde | Military in Germany

This (low quality photo) features Twilight printouts and quotes from my favorite tv shows -13 year old me loved it!

As you can see, there is no right or wrong way to go about this. Just get started and see where it leads you!

Show us your advent calendars (store-bought or homemade) via Twitter @MILingermany, Instagram @militaryingermany or Facebook for a chance to be featured on our social media!

Author’s profile: Leonie is a poetry-loving literature student with a passion for small towns, road trips, and breakfast food that’s being served at all hours of the day. When she isn’t hopping from one bargain flight to the next, she is making sure you’re hanging with the locals and staying updated on events in your area.

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