Christmas is just around the corner, and in preparation for this beloved holiday, many families love to count down the days before December 25th using an Advent calendar. It’s a tradition that dates back centuries but is still practiced today. Often times, these calendars take the form of rectangular cards with windows that open to reveal an image, gift, or treat.
But at the Lutz house, we like to mix it up. A few years ago, good friends introduced me to the idea of wrapping and reading Christmas books as part of our Advent tradition. As soon as I heard the idea, I was sold! It had family time, Advent, tradition, and good books—everything you need for a memory-filled holiday season. Gather your favorite books and create your own DIY Advent calendar with these simple steps.
For the last four Christmases, I’ve been honing my book list for this Advent tradition. I started with a handful of books we loved and checked the rest out of the library. With input from friends who share my passion for good children’s literature and with recommendations from Amazon and Goodreads, I’ve created a working list and added new titles to that every year.
Of course, our book collection changes a bit each year as the kids get older. When my kids were in pre-school, we went with simpler books but as they grow, I am adding longer books with more involved themes to pique their curiosity and capture their attention and imagination.
Personally, I tend toward the classics and stories that evoke a sense of the season and generosity. Books such as Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon and Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco that weave history and people together are my personal favorites. I also love stories that instill hope with beautiful prose and tales of people overcoming obstacles; The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck do this beautifully. Familiar classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Nutcracker, and The Night Before Christmas are also the perfect end to the day.
Materials and Design
I’m always on the search for beautiful design mixed with function and economy so I like to use wrapping paper and ribbons that I have on hand, coordinating them with my family room décor for a festive, unified look. With that in mind, I prepared the following items:
- 25 books
- wrapping paper
- ribbon and twine
- number stickers
- gift tags
- decorative tape
What I like about this Advent project is that it’s more than a holiday craft project. With four elementary age kids, I look for projects that serve a dual purpose. In this case, I can add to our Christmas décor with wrapped books and build family memories with our evening ritual. For this calendar, I chose 5 different rolls of paper with complementary designs. I used the classic Christmas colors of red, white, and blue, adding some earth tones to match our fireplace. After securing the wrapping paper with decorative tapes and ribbons, I numbered my books from 1 to 25 by alternating between black and gold number stickers and using chalkboard tags for some of them. You can use colored pens, stamps, and cut-out numbers, too!
Once the books are wrapped, I store them in a wooden crate on the hearth next to the Christmas tree. With cups of hot chocolate and our verse of the day, the tradition of celebrating Advent with a calendar made from books brings our family closer together and adds excitement to our annual Christmas countdown.
To help get you started, take a look at my Goodreads account for a list of books that my kids can’t wait to unwrap year after year and read together as a family. What books will be you be using for your DIY Advent Calendar? Please share—I’m always looking for new holiday book ideas!