Everything you need to know & think about when creating a homemade advent calendar in our easy step-by-step guide.

  • Family Friendly
  • Time & Effort
  • Supplies Needed
Homemade Advent Calendar Cover Image - Gingerbread Advent Calendar with toy sleigh in front

Advent calendars are top of the festive must-haves at the moment. And little beats the thought and personal touches that go into a homemade calendar.

Our step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need to know in order to create a fabulous homemade Advent Calendar and ensure you give your loved one a December to remember!

You’d be hard pushed to find a brand these days that hasn’t brought out an advent calendar!  So why bother spending the time and effort creating one?

Well, it goes without saying (almost!) that it’s all about the thought when it comes to gifting.  But beyond that, it’s about making a calendar that is truly bespoke to the recipient.

Santa's Hat Advent Calendar of Wrapped Numbered Gifts

Don’t get us wrong.  We LOVE the creativity of those off the shelf calendars and many of them offer amazing value for money, introduce us to brilliant new products and are a super way of giving ourselves a little treat at an exceptionally busy time of year.

But chances are, even in the best of the branded calendars, there will be a handful of items that really aren’t suitable and will get passed along or binned.

So what about creating a calendar where every day is hand-selected and spot on for the receiver?

Dispelling The Homemade Advent Calendar Myths

Jo and I were early adopters of the homemade advent calendar.  And we are total converts.

We love them so much that we now make them for the whole family (all three generations!) as well as each other.  And quite a number of our friends have joined in the countdown fun!

But over the years we’ve heard all the reservations and hesitations.  And we get it; people get worried about expectation when it comes to homemade advent calendars and it can be quite off-putting.

So we’re here to alleviate your concerns and answer your questions and persuade you to join the Homemade Brigade this year!

It's Going To Be Too Expensive

Calendars come in all shapes and sizes.  Some of the most fabulous ones we’ve seen share a daily joke or activity to enjoy at home rather than physical gifts each day.  Don’t feel any pressure to go beyond your comfort zone – we’re sure you’ll find a calendar concept that’ll work at any budget.

It's Going To Be Too Time-Consuming

Again, you can commit as much or as little time to a calendar as you like.

Make the containers or buy them.  Grab a box and pop in 24 little bags with numbers written on the front.

Give yourself one shopping trip to buy the bits inside and fill the rest of the days with messages or chocolates.

The end product can be as elaborate or simple as you choose.  But we can guarantee it’ll raise a smile come December!

I Can't Think of 24 Items

It sounds daunting doesn’t it.  24 separate items on top of other gifts for the big day itself.  Don’t worry, we’re here to help inspire you!  In fact, you’ll end up wishing there were more days by the time we’re through wink

We like to think of advent calendars as the time to embrace all things festive.

Then Christmas Day is all about setting friends and family up for the new year.

Isn't It All A Bit Excessive?

Yes, perhaps it is.  But we have seen first hand the pleasure the calendars bring and so think it’s worthwhile for sharing Christmas Cheer.

However if you’d prefer to spread your festive spirit a little wider, why not create a homemade advent calendar for your local carehome or children’s hospital? 

Or create a calendar full of suggestions for small acts of Christmas kindness, or with small coins included for your recipient to donate to a charity of their choosing.

The beauty of the homemade advent calendar is you can make it fit for you!

How To Create A Homemade Advent Calendar

Below we’ll take you through the key points to consider as you decide what kind of homemade calendar to create.

We really believe it’s worth taking 5-10 minutes to think about the kind of calendar you want to design.

It’ll make it quicker and easier once you get going and ensure that you make a truly gorgeous advent gift for your friend or family member.

The steps below are jam packed full of ideas, inspiration and suggestions of things to consider so get ready for some serious creativity!

*Before we start, ever wanted to know why we have advent calendars to begin with?  Check out the history of this countdown tradition.

1. Who’s The Lucky Person?

The first and most important decision to make!

  • Are you creating calendars for your children / nieces and nephews / godchildren?
  • Or have decided to share a Christmas countdown with a group of friends?
  • Maybe your Grandad or an elderly neighbour could do with a little bit of festive sparkle in their world this year?
  • Or perhaps you and your partner fancy a naughty-but-nice December wink

Whoever you decide to spoil this year, they are really going to be in for a treat!

Toddler Reaching For a Parcel On A Homemade Advent Calendar

Once you’ve decided on your lucky recipient, you can start to think how that will impact the type of calendar you create.

Your five-year-old is likely to be far more focused on the contents than the presentation. 

So focus your efforts on what goes inside and keep the design as simple and child-friendly as possible.  You don’t want hours of time spent painstakingly working with a glue gun or sewing machine to go unappreciated or be damaged by eager little hands.

If you’re designing a calendar for your Great Aunt, it’s the personal touches that will be appreciated the most. 

So save your pennies and spend more time being creative.  Gather family photos from during the year or feel-good stories and poems from magazines.

2. One-Off or New Tradition?

Is this calendar going to be a one-off treat or a new tradition to nurture over years to come? 

Basket of Brown Bags For Advent Calendar

This will determine whether you want to invest your time and money in a particularly special heirloom calendar piece or focus on the treats inside.

A beautiful basket full of numbered neatly wrapped gifts can look just as enticing and thoughtful if you’re thinking of this as a one-time event. 

3. What’s The Budget?

It is so easy to get caught up in Christmas Spirit, particularly when each individual treat is relatively low in cost. But it all adds up, especially when you are multiplying by 24!

Homemade advent calendars don’t have to break the bank (we can’t bear the thought of adding to the January blues!).

There are all sorts of ways to create a fabulous, exciting Christmas countdown without needing to splurge in the stores.

Jumble of Mini Red Fabric Stocking Advent Calendar

Set your budget ahead of time and keeping careful track of spending to avoid panic later.

You can of course give equally priced fillers throughout the countdown.

Or consider replacing the Christmas gift with an advent full of smaller treats.

There’s no need to have a bigger gift for every day.

We love the ideas of picking a handful of special dates for larger items.

Then fill the remainder of the days with handwritten riddles / jokes and small sweets or chocolates. 

4. Container Size

Our biggest bugbear with the majority of empty advent calendar designs is the size of the daily box or container!

Nothing adds to seasonal stress like trying to find 24 different and thoughtful items the size of a thimble! 

Even the most beautiful calendar is only worthwhile if you know you can fit your chosen fillers inside.

Red Advent Calendar of Boxes

We are fans of calendars with larger pockets or drawers – more space for creativity without the need to take a ruler to the stores!  

These can be a little trickier to find in the shops but it’s worth the effort – see some of our favourites here.

Alternatively, make one yourself that’s fit for purpose!  It can be as simple or intricate as you have the time or skill for!

If you have set your heart on a beautiful calendar that has smaller spaces for treats, don’t despair – we have the hack for you!

Create small messages to pop into each compartment with treasure-hunt-style clues to the location of the daily goodie.

5. Calendar Itself: Bought or Homemade?

Homemade advent calendars come in all shapes and sizes. 

So think carefully about whether you would like to make the actual calendar itself or focus your efforts on the personalised contents.

From stunning hand-stitched heirlooms to ornate wooden calendars and simple cardboard designs, there’s a fantastic selection of fill-your-own calendars available to purchase.

(Just remember the point above and keep the daily container size in mind!)

Buying a personalised calendar for Baby’s First Christmas can be a beautiful way to embark on a lovely annual tradition for many years to follow.

Hanging Homemade Advent Calendar Idea -Small presents hanging with twine from wood strip

If you are naturally crafty however then this is your opportunity to shine!   

With so many ideas online and materials galore available, you really can create an amazing calendar for your loved one to enjoy, year after year.

But homemade calendars needn’t be elaborate. 

Any vessel for which you can gather twenty-four similar items is perfect – paper cups, little bags, jam jars or even toilet rolls can be made into a lovely calendar with a bit of thought and a few splashes of colour or accessories.

Or avoid making a advent calendar altogether with this super simple hack:

Create a little sign, buy a small Christmas doormat or use the same festive teatowel to wrap each day’s gift and pop a different treat out each night as you go to bed.

(Perfect for impatient souls who struggle to stare at those unopened treats!)

6. Presentation of the Contents

Can you trust your recipient not to try and sneak-a-peak at the upcoming treats ahead of time?!

This, and the style of calendar you have selected, will largely determine the way you chose to present your goodies.

Mini Stocking Garland Homemade Advent Calendar

Will you wrap each item individually or tuck them into their various containers as they are? 

Perhaps your elf will be making daily deliveries direct from the North Pole, adding a sense of magic to events whilst removing the temptation to peak ahead to later treats.

Or you could purchase (or make) a set of twenty four gift tags and add a mixture of festive jokes, riddles, activity suggestions and location clues to find larger items.

7. Will There Be A Theme?

Does your lucky recipient have a particular special interest that you’d like to embrace? 

Will you give your advent calendar an over-arching theme?

Or will it be a joyous hotch-potch of all sorts of fun, thoughtful, festive treats – some taking note of hobbies, some the time of year, some celebrating memories, etc.

Gingerbread Biscuits Advent Calendar

For the cook friend, you may like to create a calendar of equipment and parts of a recipe to share a favourite family dish over the advent period.

A fan of gingerbread could have 24 homemade gingerbread cookies to enjoy.

For a grandparent, best friend, or newlywed, create a photo advent calendar.

Or give daily clues leading up to the annoucement of a special Christmas trip or New Year adventure.

Check out our favourite quirky & unusual Themed Advent Calendars to help get those creative juices flowing. 

With so many ideas, the difficulty will be deciding which calendar to make!

8. Advent Calendar Fillers

Whilst thinking of 24 daily treats can feel daunting, you’ll be surprised how easily the ideas flow.

Whether you’ve decided to opt for an overall theme or simply a lovely selection of goodies you know they’ll love, start jotting ideas down whenever they come to you.  

And check out our suggestions for over 300 advent calendar fillers here.  From homemade treats to ideas for anyone and everyone, you’re sure to find plenty of inspiration!

Heart Shaped Wall Advent Calendar

If, like for us, this becomes an annual tradition, do be sure to check out the January sales for little gifts that can be squirrelled away for next advent.  And keep your eyes peeled year round.

Should you happen to fall short of fresh ideas, or indeed time, simply fill in the gaps with a handwritten message, joke or small chocolate. 

No one will know it wasn’t on purpose!

9. Special Days

Being able to mark any special occasions within those December days is something that really sets a homemade advent calendar apart.

From birthdays and wedding anniversaries to exams or even the anniversary of a loved one’s passing: the calendar offers an extra special way to show how well you know your recipient, and that you truly care.

Birthday Advent Calendar Message

References can be as simple as a little gift tag wishing good luck or a tealight to offer a moment’s pause for someone special who is no longer around.

Of course you can also Go Large for special celebrations through the calendar as well!  (Did you hear that Jo’s engagement ring was tucked into her advent calendar on her birthday…!)

Place a part of the main present in the calendar, such as tickets for a booked event or the wrapped charger for a new tech gift.

10. Keeping Track

Last but not least … 24 items is a lot to keep track of, and if you’re making calendars for multiple people then the numbers really do start to stack up! 

Keep a list of the various treats you have planned for each day and tick each off as you gather them.

This should help you avoid unintended duplicates (you’d be amazed how often it happens) and make it easier to keep an eye on the budget as well.

Table With Items For a Homemade Advent Calendar

And when you have all the treats together and are about to start filling your containers, it is really worthwhile laying everything out in chronological order for one last check through.

  • Check that you’ve accounted for the size of the treat if container sizes vary.
  • Check treats against the schedule for the month.  (It’s no fun for anyone if your “Let’s Make Christmas Cookies” voucher turns up the day of your big work deadline!)

Take a photo of everything laid out in date order.

This can be useful to refer back to later, particularly in case of any eleventh-hour tweaks.  It’s incredible how quickly you forget what it all looks like when it’s packaged up!

Looking for more advent calendar inspiration?

And be sure to check out our guide to 300+ advent calendar filler ideas – there’s something for everyone!

And there you have it!  One Homemade Advent Calendar conjured up and ready to be created.  Do share your design plans with us – we would absolutely LOVE to hear what you’ve got in mind.

MORE LIKE THIS: Advent | Crafts | Homemade Ideas | Traditions

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And be sure to tag #jollyfestive in your photos.  We love to see which Christmas activities you’ve been enjoying!