Our 10-Step guide will walk you through everything you need to know when creating a homemade advent calendar.

  • 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 10-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!

surely I’ll find one in the shops?

Why Make A Homemade Advent Calendar?

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?

don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!

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! 

We like to think of advent calendars as the time to enjoy the Christmas world and 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.  We have seen first hand the pleasure the calendars bring and so think it’s worthwhile for sharing Christmas Cheer.

But if you’d prefer to spread out the festive spirit, 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 kindess, 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!

okay, I’m in .. now what?

10 Step Guide To Create A Homemade Advent Calendar

Below we’ll take you through 10 questions to consider as you decide what kind of homemade calendar to create.

It may sound a lot but they are easy questions to answer.  And we promise it’ll really take your design to the next level, ensuring you create 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 take your time to scroll down the page and get ready for some serious creativity!


10 Step Guide

  1. Who’s The Lucky Person?
  2. One-Off or New Tradition?
  3. Budget
  4. Container Size
  5. The Calendar Itself
  6. Presentation of the Contents
  7. Special Interests
  8. Themed Calendars
  9. Special Days
  10. Keeping Track

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Let’s sprinkle Christmas cheer far and wide!

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 perhaps you 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 😉

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).

Equally 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. 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!

However, as we said earlier, 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

We strongly recommend setting your budget ahead of time and keeping careful track of spending to avoid panic later. 

You can of course get equally priced fillers for throughout the countdown.

However we also love the ideas of picking a handful of special dates for larger items whilst the remainder of the days are filled with handwritten riddles / jokes and small sweets or chocolates.  It’ll add a touch of extra excitement to each day!

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. These allow far more space for creativity and thoughtfulness in contents without unnecessary faff.  These can be a little trickier to find in the shops but it’s worth the effort.

Alternatively, make one yourself that’s fit for purpose!

If you have set your heart on a beautiful calendar that has smaller spaces for treats, then think about filling the containers with treasure-hunt-style clues to the location of the daily goodie to avoid having to take a ruler out shopping with you!

5. Calendar Itself: Bought or Homemade?

Returning to our theme that homemade advent calendars come in all forms, think carefully about whether you would like to make the actual calendar itself or focus your efforts on the personalised contents.

There is a fantastic selection of fill-your-own calendars available in the shops these days, from intricate designs by top-end department stores to simple cardboard designs on the High Street. (Just remember point 4 above and think about the size of the daily containers!)

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 if you want to keep it really simple: for a member of your own household, you can just create a little sign or buy a small Christmas doormat and pop a different treat out each night as you go to bed.

Our Favourite Fillable Advent Calendars

We share details of four of our favourite fill-your-own advent calendars, each created by a UK small business.

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. Special Interests

There is an almost endless array of items that can be put inside an advent calendar.

One question to consider is whether there are some favourite products or special interests that you would like to incorporate (e.g. a favourite lip balm or football team key-ring).

Heart Shaped Wall Advent Calendar

You can of course create a whole calendar along a particular theme (see below) but it can also be nice to mix up the days between festive fillers, general treats and a handful of favourite or specially themed items.

We have all sorts of ideas to help get those creative juices flowing!  For more, click here.

8. Themed Advent Calendars

Speaking of theming, you can of course take things even further and go for a completely different style of personalised calendar. 

These can either fully embrace a particular passion such as stories, recipes, sewing patterns, etc. 

Alternatively they can be a calendar with a clear purpose in mind – perhaps daily clues leading to the announcement of a special Christmas trip or daily photos to be added to a frame for a piece of wall art to enjoy into the New Year. 

Gingerbread Biscuits Advent Calendar

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

We’ve put together twenty of our favourite quirky & unusual Themed Advent Calendars to help get those creative juices flowing. Check out the details here.

20 Themed Homemade Advent Calendars Ideas

Looking for inspiration for a theme for your advent calendar?  We share 20 of our favourite quirky ideas.

9. Special Days

Don’t forget to check whether there are any special occasions to be marked in those December days.

This is an area where we believe taking the time to work through our 10 Step Guide can really add some extra sparkle!

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! 

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! 

We would highly recommend keeping a list of the various treats you have planned for each day.  Then you can tick them off as you gather them together.  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.

This gives a final chance to check that the items fit the container for that day (if you’ve chosen a calendar with a variety of sizes).

It also allows you to check against the schedule for the month to make sure that, for example, you haven’t planned a “cookie-cutter-and-sprinkles Let’s Make Christmas Cookies” treat the day before your big work deadline! 

Take a photo of everything laid out in date order if you can. 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!

And there you have it!  One Homemade Advent Calendar conjured up and ready to be created!  

We would absolutely LOVE to hear more about your design plans.  Share the details in the notes below and we can celebrate your creativity together!

MORE LIKE THIS: Advent | Homemade Ideas | Traditions

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