My love for Christmas goes as far back as I can remember!
I have amazing memories of Christmas from when I was younger, we always made such an effort in our house to enjoy and celebrate the festive season. One of my favourite memories were the giant Christmas advent calendars that my Dad made for me and my two Sisters.
We had a calendar each and they consisted of sections of round plastic tubes which had been cut to size and glued on top of one another into the shape of a Christmas tree. Once the sections were filled with treats my Dad would cut out circles on different coloured paper and number them one to twenty-five and then stick the circles onto the pieces of pipe so we would have to break through the paper to get our presents. We had these calendars for years until eventually they fell to bits and my Sisters and I started going through the awkward teenage years where basically we thought everything like this was childish and stupid, so Mum gave up on the idea for a while.
A few years ago my Sisters, my Mum and I were talking about the Advent Calendars and I thought it would be great to make some new ones for the three of us, just like we had when we were younger. Although I wanted the idea to be similar, I wanted a new design which was better than the last ones!
My quest for materials began at B&Q which is usually my go-to place for materials for projects like this! To start off making your Advent Calendars you need the following materials –
- Three lengths of square brown guttering 6.5cm wide (these were £6.28 each)
- A sheet of MDF wood for the bases and the sides 2cm/20mm thick (£15.43 for the sheet)
- Black paint to paint the calendar bases (I didn’t need a lot of this paint so I bought three sample sized pots which were £3.10 in total).
- Green “tree” coloured paint – you need quite a bit of this so I bought a 1 litre tub as I wanted to do a couple of coats.
- Felt numbers 1 to 25 (£3.75 per pack)
- Felt and fabric glue (I bought two as I knew I would need a lot)
- Brown felt
To make up the Advent Calendars you need to –
- Cut your base – we cut ours 60cm long and 35cm wide. I’m lucky enough to have a husband as a carpenter so the cutting stages were relatively straight forward because we had the right tools. If you don’t have the right tools it is best to make a note of all the sizes of cuts you need and when you buy the MDF, request that the store cuts it into the sizes you require – I know that B&Q definitely offer this service and this will save you a great deal of time later on.
- Paint your base black (or whatever colour you have chosen)
- Cut your sides – one will need to be slightly longer than the other so that they join at the top (think ceiling coving joints!). The sides are 80cm long and 7cm wide.
- Cut the back triangle – this is one of the trickiest parts as if this doesn’t measure correctly, the sides won’t fit properly. The triangle is 54cm along the base and is 80cm high where the two angles reach the point.
- Glue or nail the sides to the back panel – if you are choosing glue you will need very strong glue for this purpose – again I was lucky enough to have a husband with a nail gun for this part!
- Once the sides and back are securely together (or the glue is dried), paint the sides and back panel green. They may need a couple of coats, but this all depends on the type of paint you have bought (matt or silk etc) and of course the shade you are painting it.
- Once the bases, backs and sides have all been painted and are completely dry (I would probably leave for 24 hours to be sure), you need to attach the base to the side and back panels. I’m afraid you will have to use nails for this part of the process, as any glue would probably not be strong enough to hold the weight.
- The next stage is to make up the little advent boxes to fit inside the “tree”. Cut up the brown drainpipe into twenty-five 6.5cm by 6.5cm squares – you may have some casualties during this stage as unfortunately the plastic does have a tendency to crack! Try and go as carefully as you can – you should have some drainpipe left over in case of any mishaps! The edges may be sharp so you might need to rub them down with sandpaper before you go any further – annoying and time consuming I know but you don’t want sharp edges where little hands will be poking about!
- Once you have twenty-five perfectly cut squares – arrange the squares together in the following formations (bottom to top)
- A row of five
- A row of five
- A row of four
- A row of four
- A row of three
- A row of two
- A row of two
- A single cube
- A single cube
- Once you have arranged them they should stack in your advent calendar like this:
- Once you have arranged them, glue them into rows side by side (do not glue them on top of one another just yet!)
- Once the squares are in this order, cut the brown felt to size and glue the felt across the tops of the rows of squares and allow “flaps” of felt to fall over the front of the cubes (to cover up whatever little surprises will be placed inside!)
- Once all the rows or single squares have been covered in felt, glue the rows of cubes on top of one another to form your pyramid shape.
- Once the pyramid of boxes has had the felt added and is completely dry, you can add the felt numbers to the calendar flaps using fabric glue. We did ours in order starting at the bottom left and working our way up to the top in a snake like fashion, but of course you can dot your numbers anywhere you like. At the end they should look something like this –
Once the numbers are dry, glue your pyramid into your advent calendar frame.
The hardest bits are now over, now for the fun bit which is decorating your calendars!
To decorate the calendars I got all my bits and pieces on eBay – these are the items I ordered but of course you can decorate yours however you want –
- Glitter star tree toppers in red, gold and silver (£5.99 each)
- Wooden names for the bases (the prices of these depend on how many letters each name has, for example, £3.00 for five letters and £4.20 for seven letters)
- Red, gold and silver glitter paints (£5.69 each pot)
- Red, gold and silver glitter LED candles (£5.99 for a pack of 12 in one colour)
- A pack of plain wooden snowflakes in various sizes for the sides of the calendars (£7.65 for a pack of 60).
- Velcro dots to attach the LED candles to the felt (£3.65 a pack)
- A set of two glitter reindeers in gold, silver and red (£4.00 for the pair)
I painted the wooden names and wooden snowflakes with the glitter paint first of all – a word of warning, you may want to put an undercoat of a matching or contrasting colour underneath your glitter paint as it took many, many layers before it started to build up the glitter colour. To be honest, even after several coats, I still wasn’t particularly happy with the colour and amount of glitter which ended up on the wood, particularly as this paint is quite expensive.
I then glued the wooden names to the bases and the snowflakes down the side of each tree.
I got these packs of LED candles and attached a candle to each space on top of the rows of the pyramid, like so:
You can glue the LED candles on if it is easier – I bought a set of little velcro dots and attached one onto the bottom of the candle and one onto the felt so they are attached securely but you can still take them off and on. If you do glue the candles on, remember you won’t be able to switch them on and off as the on/off button is on the bottom!
I glued my two reindeers on the base of the calendar and cut a V shape into the base of the star tree topper so it slotted onto the point of the calendar and could be glued in place.
Then after all this I began buying all the bits and pieces to go in them! Chocolates, Sweets, Mini Games, Bubbles, Christmas Tree Decorations, Snowglobes and Treasure Hunt clues – you name it, we have probably had it as one of our Advent Calendar presents! Here’s a few ideas – you can get treats like these from all major supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks and Spencer’s and Tescos:
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog about my Advent Calendars, this was the first design I did – keep an eye out for the second design I created which is far easier to put together if you don’t have a lot of the appropriate tools to hand!
Happy Advent Calendar planning!!!