Get out and about with your local community and sprinkle Christmas cheer aplenty with a living advent calendar.

Part of our ‘Communities Spreading Cheer’ series

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Part of our ‘Communities Spreading Cheer’ series

Woodlesford Living Advent Calendar

With so many limitations on activities and socialising for December 2020, Katie was determined to find something positive for the community to enjoy together on the run up to Christmas.

That something turned out to be a Living Advent Calendar and Katie has kindly shared the details, together with lots of tips and ideas for anyone planning a Living Advent Calendar of their own.

The 2020 Woodlesford Living Advent Calendar

Katie and her family live in Woodlesford, a small village on the outskirts of Leeds.  Mum of two and working for the NHS, Katie was eager to create some Christmas cheer, special memories and festive magic to offset all the doom and gloom of late 2020.

She decided to test the water and see if others locally were interested in creating a village-wide advent calendar, with each house designing a window for one day of the Christmas countdown.  And in short time the village was abuzz with excitement and the calendar started to take shape. 

Twenty-four local homes and businesses lined up to participate and Katie created a dedicated Facebook page.  A trail map was prepared for advent explorers to help navigate around the area and  daily clues were shared as to the location of each window to be found. 

Woodlesford Living Advent Calendar Window 15
Snowglobe at Number 22

Woodlesford, it turns out, is an apparent exclave of the North Pole nestled in Yorkshire!  The calendar was just what the village had been looking for and was a fabulous success.  So much so that the community are gearing up for round two with plans for the 2021 Living Advent Calendar well underway! 

And for Katie the project sparked the idea of an advent calendar with even bigger reach.  But more about that later…!  First back to Woodlesford and lots of tips for how to create a living advent calendar in your area.

Want To Sprinkle Some Christmas Kindness?

What is a Living Advent Calendar?

Living advent calendars have grown in popularity in recent times, no doubt spurred on by the lockdown limitations last year and the increase in neighbourly community spirit we’ve seen recently too. 

They are essentially an advent calendar on a massive scale!  Twenty-four homes or businesses join forces along a street, around a village or through a town centre, taking turns to add an illuminated festive window scene to a series of creations during the December Christmas countdown. 

Snowman design Advent Window Idea

It makes for a fabulously community-minded project and a wonderful excuse to visit neighbours, enjoy some daily fresh air and celebrate the festive season with plenty of Christmas cheer. 

And of course it’s completely free –accessible entertainment for all to enjoy!  Hurrah!

Spread The Word!

Like what you’ve seen? Be sure to share with your friends.

Let’s sprinkle Christmas cheer far and wide!

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Katie’s tips and advice

Create A Living Advent Calendar In Your Neighbourhood

1. Start Early

It’ll take a while to get everyone on board so get started as soon as you can.  Choose your area and round up 24 homes or businesses to create the window scenes.

Katie started to talk about the idea in October and worked quickly to get the houses lined up to join in.

Merry Grinchmas Window Display
Snowman & Balloons At Number 14
Stain Glass Window at Number 9

2. Keep It Flexible

To help with organisation and ensure people feel comfortable joining in, try to keep the guidelines to a minimum.  Katie suggests asking if anyone has an advent date preference for their window and then allocating the remainder of the windows at random. 

When it comes to the window designs, Katie recommends leaving people to choose their own theme and style.  That way families and businesses can work together at a level that suits them.  It really doesn’t matter if there are several similar visions for the windows as everyone’s creation will be unique. 

From The Nightmare Before Christmas, a special Grinch cellar window and ‘We Three Penguins’ to nutcrackers, snowmen and a beautiful snow globe display, Woodlesford community was full of Christmassy ideas and creativity!  A local dress shop even joined in adding a striking Christmas tree dress in their window.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Advent Window
We Three Penguins at Number 3

3. Spread The Word

Reach out to local schools, churches and businesses to spread the word about the living advent calendar.  Also look for local Facebook groups or newsletters in which you could share the news too. 

Katie set up a Facebook page specifically for the Advent Calendar and reached out to local community groups to help her get the word out. 

The page was the main point of contact during December with clues and other puzzles shared to keep little ones entertained (see below for more) and a photograph of each window shared later in the evening for those unable to participate that day.

Woodlesford Living Advent Calendar Logo

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4. Make A Map & Calendar

To ensure people know where to go each evening, create a map of the local area, highlighting the 24 stops for advent. 

A simple map will do the job, with the relevant street names and some squares to mark the buildings involved.  You could even just list out the 24 addresses if easier.

Katie created a map which detailed the street names on which an advent calendar home could be found (but not the order of the homes).  These maps were available at some local stores as well as printed in the newsletter for the local choir and news magazine.  They could also be downloaded from the Facebook page directly.

Each day further information was revealed on Facebook to guide families towards that day’s advent calendar window.  These clues took a whole host of different forms, from recorded messages from Santa’s elves (as members of Katie’s talented family got involved too) to wordsearches and pictograms. 

Woodlesford Trail Map

5. Think About The Conclusion

Do give some thought as to how to wrap up the occasion. 

Will you conclude at a local venue for some mince pies, mulled wine and carol singing?  Perhaps you could join together for the Christmas Eve Jingle?  Why not share a little festive prize for those that have completed the whole month of window visits.

The reverse side of the 2020 Woodlesford Living Advent Calendar map included some quiz questions about the window displays seen over the month.  For those children that shared their answers, Katie and her elves recorded a little message and shared certificates that could be downloaded to colour in at home.  We love this idea as it makes a perfect inclusion in a Christmas Eve box and activity to keep little ones busy whilst parents put the finishing touches in place for the big day. 

The Worldwide Christmas Eve Jingle

Have you heard about this new tradition?  Join the growing group that ring a bell for Santa from the doorstep on Christmas Eve.

6. Consider Little Extra Touches

Of course there’s an endless list of ways in which extra touches can be added to a Living Advent Calendar to make it even more magical. 

Little homemade treats or messages left for visitors to a particular home or business.  Activities to enjoy together such as carol singing or toasting marshmallows.  And why not see if Santa can make a special appearance one evening too?!

The community in Woodlesford is packed full of festive spirit and really did bring their advent calendar to life!  All sorts of festive treats were prepared for advent explorers to enjoy:

  • One home prepared packets of reindeer food for visitors to take home.
  • Candy canes were left on hedgerows and chocolate coins put out for those on the advent trail to discover and enjoy.
  • Puzzles and activity sheets were shared on the Facebook page to keep little ones busy at home.
  • A magical Santa Post Box was established with children receiving a handwritten response to their letters.
  • Even the local choir, LS26, got onboard with a reworking of Rockin’ Robin to celebrate the streets where advent houses could be found.
Candy Canes Hanging on Hedgerows
Letters From Santa

7. Get Out And Enjoy!

Most importantly of all, enjoy the community celebrations!  Wrap up and head out to enjoy the windows and be sure to share photos far and wide to spread the Christmas cheer as liberally as you can!  Do be sure to share them with us too as we’d love to see!

As Katie says, ‘It’s all about the kids, and getting out and enjoying Christmas for free.  One lady told me that she’s not a huge Christmas fan, but even she was smiling as she prepared her Advent window!’

The Dressing Room Christmas Tree Skirt Dress
Nutcrackers at Number 7

One Final Thought

Even if your local area isn’t ready for a Living Advent Calendar quite yet, you could easily get them warmed up with a beautiful Christmas window display of your own. 

Christmas Windows

From Little Acorns Grow Little Elves

The success of the calendar in Woodlesford spurred Katie on to think of other ways in which Christmas magic could be accessible for all. 

She had seen the delight that the daily living advent calendar messages and clues from Woody and Wilhelmina Elves had given to the little ones around the village.  And she loved the magic that had been created by merging these virtual world tales with the real-world treasure hunt of finding the advent windows. 

Wilhelmina Elf Giving Clues
Woody Elf Shares A Clue

It sparked an idea in Katie’s mind to create a purpose-built advent calendar in which digital elf messages worked alongside parents to share treats for children each day; bringing the magic of the North Pole into children’s homes throughout December.  And so Little Elves Advent Calendar was born.

As soon as Jo and I heard about the wonderful Little Elves Advent Calendar we fell in love with the concept and were desperate to find out more.  Little did we know that we’d find it in such a heart-warming community project as the Woodlesford Living Advent Calendar!

Little Elves Advent Calendar Ensemble

To learn more about Little Elves Advent Calendar, click here for our review AND details of your exclusive Jolly Festive discount code.

Thanks so much to Katie and the whole community in Woodlesford for sharing their fabulous Living Advent Calendar with us.

We’d love to hear if you do a Living Advent Calendar in your area. Let us know in the comments below. Read about other wonderful Acts of Christmas Kindness here.

Do you know our golden rule for fabulous Front Door Christmas Décor? Click here to find out more.

Looking For More Community Cheer?

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