November 10, 2022
There are two things you need to know about me before we dive in.
One, I very strongly believe that anticipation is a big part of the joy of a thing. It's why I hate surprise parties - I haven't been able to get excited at the build up.
Two, Christmas is a big deal in my house. It's my birthday on 17th December, Ben's birthday on the 21st, and we run an online gift business that is heavy on Christmas decorations - so um - you do the maths!
As you can see, our December mornings have a lot riding on them. There's a tiny window in the day to have a brief moment of joy and fun to help sustain us for the busy day ahead, and time to get excited about how long it is (or isn't) until the big day itself.
Now, if you're my age or thereabouts, you've seen the evolution of the advent calendar from a piece of card with pretty pictures behind the doors, to ones filled with chocolate (although it was crappy chocolate, but we were kids and it was still chocolate!) to significantly better chocolate ones, all the way to OMG ones that cost more than any other present I intend to buy this year. Honestly, I've tried them all - some for me, some for friends, some for my other half, and the biggest critic of all, my teenager!
And here's the thing I came up against every single time. Some days the "thing" was a bit, meh.
My other half is gluten free and the posh chocolate ones don't come in a gluten free variety, so some days they just couldn't eat the chocolate. Fine for me as I ate it (ha!) but not great for them.
The ones centred around specific food types (marshmallows/popcorn/pork crackling) got a bit samey by day 12.
About one third of the beauty one was products I wouldn't use or make up in a shade that just didn't suit me. I regifted those things. One year I just thought, enough is enough! My December mornings are cold and dark and have no room in them for advent calendar disappointment. At all.
This time may have also coincided with the launch of our first advent calendar kit as a business - the Balloon Advent Calendar! A world first, the kit included 24 numbered red balloons, 24 chocolates, 24 Christmas jokes and a guide as to the other kinds of things you could include. The concept was to stretch the neck of the balloon, pop the gifts inside (chocolate, lego mini fig, packs of stickers, individually wrapped flavoured teas, mini stationery items, anything that will squeeze inside!) and then you inflate and seal the balloons.
They were brilliant! Full of fun and excitement, the morning definitely went with a bang. See what I did there. I'd definitely still do this advent calendar today for my teenager, and it's easy to replicate at home.
Whilst we don't have the numbered balloons on sale anymore, we do have these advent calendar tags that can be used to adapt off the shelf balloons, pretty envelopes, small parcels - any group of 24/25 things - into an advent calendar.
In fact, creating these silver star tags led us to develop our favourite ever advent calendar, but more on that later.
As my small one grew and I loved sharing the joy he had in opening his own advent calendar, I started feeling I was missing a trick, so I convinced the grown up I live with that we should make advent calendars for each other too. Well, I created a gorgeous one for him one year and then HEAVILY hinted that he should do the same.
The absolute joy of a DIY advent calendar is that you can make it work for one specific person. Here's a non-exhaustive list of just some of the things your advent can be:
If you want even more inspiration then have a read through this Creative Ideas to Fill Your Own Advent blog post. We've covered all ages and budgets, with a good smattering of totally free things to make your advent fillers meaningful.
Oh, I nearly forgot! There's a couple more things that really bug me about pre-done advent calendars. The first is all the unnecessary packaging. I keep thinking about all that laminated, printed card floating around for the month of December, that only gets binned a month later. It seems like an incredible waste of time, resources and energy at a time of incredible pressure on our climate.
The second is possibly a little more specific to me, but I think some of you will relate. The space it takes up ON THE SIDE in the kitchen or hub of the family home - where, quite frankly, space is already limited and likely to be invaded any minute by a bag, coat, pile of ironing, new house plant etc. None of the good advent calendars out there seem to be designed to hang on a wall!
Long story short, this was everything in my brain on the subject of advent calendars when I thought, okay, if I was to design the perfect advent calendar, what would that look like? This, was my answer. And you can read more about it here.
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