I've had this craft, a homemade version of an Advent calendar, rattling around in my brain for a few years now. I originally envisioned it quite differently (there was to be cardstock, a craft knife and tissue paper involved) but the way I ended up doing it was much simpler and ultimately I think more satisfying. As usual, this is a very humble craft, but when it was finished, and I stood back to look it over, it was exactly how I had hoped it would be. That's such a great feeling! :)
So, do you remember a few days ago I showed you a grapevine wreath I cobbled together for the dining room? Well, my intent was not to have it just hang there prettily, nice though it looks against the windows. I knew I wanted it to serve as a base for a Christmas countdown, an Advent calendar of sorts.
Some Advent calendars open to reveal a beautiful picture, or perhaps tiny chocolates, and some hold sacred Scripture within. Some calendars - as my boys like to remind me - even reveal tiny Legos each day of the season. But this calendar is quite personal and it bears tidings (or tags) of comfort and joy. :)
In all there will be 37 tags, taking us from the first of December to the Feast of the Epiphany. But hanging 37 tags on this wreath at one time would be overwhelming - not just to behold but to make all at once! So each Sunday a week's worth of tags will appear dangling from the entwined branches of our wreath. On the outside of each tag is a number indicating the day it is to be read, and on the inside is a little surprise for the boys - a simple but special activity we'll do that day. I hope that each of these little bits of comfort and joy will enrich our path towards the most beautiful day of the year.
Now, for the specifics!
- grapevine wreath
- berry garland to dress it up
- small bird in nest (quite optional)
- small gift bag tags
- ivory cardstock
- scissors (regular and pinking), hole punch, glue stick, ink pen
(A quick note ~ This wreath has a rustic, woodland look to it - it fits our decor at home and is "boyish" as well. You might opt to make your wreath in a whole different style, perhaps using an evergreen base, or golden ribbons instead of twine for instance.)
I started with pre-made gift bag tags because that way half the cutting and sizing work was already done for me. I cut a gift bag tag (approximately 2x3 inches) right down the middle, thereby making two smaller tags, and trimmed the bottom edges with the pinking shears. I then punched a hole at the top of each.
Because my tags were dark, I decided to use small ivory squares inside for the text. (If you choose a light colored tag this won't be a problem. I thought about using printed scrapbook paper for this, but ultimately I wanted something thicker.) I quickly cut up strips of ivory cardstock using a ruler - a cutting board would be even faster - and on each square I wrote down a brief message describing the special activity that we'll be doing that day.
After writing my message, I just used a bit of glue stick to adhere the ivory squares. This one shown above, for Sunday, December 2nd reads:
Advent begins! New colors on the altar and new books! Nativity set! Let's buy a new Christmas book @ B&N. We'll also try a holiday "coffee."
(I should point out that my boys won't actually be getting a caffeinated beverage, but they've been begging to try one of those Starbucks flavored coffees I get
all the time now and again. I'll let them order either a decaf or a cup of flavored hot chocolate.)
One of the things that first overwhelmed me about this project was the thought of having to come up with (and really committing to) so many different ideas at one time! Sure, some of the days were taken care of thanks to already scheduled festivities on the December calendar. But there were plenty of "everyday" days that needed a little something. Plus, I thought, what if our plans change, what if a new activity comes up, or what if we just need a quiet day when something "active" has been planned?
So that's when I decided to put up just a week's worth of tags at a time. First of all, the wreath will look nicer with just a few tags spread around it, and secondly, this will help me be more thoughtful and timely with our plans. I'll write the tags out as I plan the week ahead and on Sunday morning the boys will find their wreath sporting a fresh batch of tags!
Now, the tags do stay a bit open, so you could fasten the bottom (or side) edges closed with a small bit of tape or a sticker. I've left mine open, but made sure the boys know there's no peeking!
You might notice these project pictures are a bit more cluttered than usual. Typically I wait until mid-afternon to launch into projects like this - when I can clear off the table and have a lot of room (both physically and mentally, lol) in which to work. But today I just decided to jump right into it. We got our lessons done early and the boys were all busy with "crafts" of their own so I gave it a go. (Crackerjack was drawing Mario characters, Bookworm was making paper snowflakes and Earlybird was just having at it with the scissors and glue.)
The last thing I did was to thread a bit of twine through the tag's hole and tie it tightly at the top, forming a loop. I then slipped the tag's loop onto a bit of the wreath. It's easier to remove a tag in this way, rather than tying it to a branch.
And here's the wreath as it looks now, all set for the first week of Advent!
So what's inside these first eight tags? What little surprises are in store for my boys next week? :)
- Help Daddy to set up the outdoor decorations!
- Look for new colors and books at church! A special trip to the bookstore too.
- Attend a "Holiday Cocoa Storytime" with our homeschool group. (Each family is bringing their favorite winter holiday story to share, and we're bringing the hot cocoa and marshmallows!)
- Take a winter woods walk on St. Barbara's Day (and bring home branches to force).
- Bring out the Polar Express train set (a once a year treat) and watch the movie, The Polar Express (and enjoy mugs of hot chocolate).
- Attend Book Group and bake gingerfolk on the Feast of St. Nicholas.
- Visit the nursery to see all the Christmas plants. Make poinsettia ornaments to give as presents.
- Make a gingerbread house with Nana!
If you'd like, each week, I'll share our tags with you all. (Or if I get the ideas all down on paper in advance - and most of them are aleady formed - I'll do a post with them all in one shot.)
I placed all the supplies for making up a week's worth of tags in a large ziploc bag. I'll keep that bag on my bookcase ready to go.
Wow, when I first starting planning this craft, it seemed Advent was light years away - and now it's just a few days away! I'm glad I have this project off and running, though. I think the boys are really going to enjoy it. :)
Well, I'd best be off; it's quite dark now and supper's simmering away on the stove. After a bit of mild weather, it got very cold here today. But it's clear and crisp tonight, the stars are out and it's lovely - it smells just like Christmas out there.
Keep warm and well everyone, and see you sometime tomorrow. :)