Can't wait until Christmas? Common household objects -- like branches, envelopes, and cookie sheets -- can be transformed into creative Advent calendars or Christmas countdowns. For each day, we've included an activity suggestion so you can make the most of this holiday season.
Offer daily surprises with this simple Advent calendar. Fill colored envelopes with treats; then seal and adorn with numbers. Hang with clothespins across a line of twine.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Share a favorite holiday memory from childhood with your own kids.
This festive calendar doubles as an eye-catching piece of wall art. Hang two branches in an area where your family regularly gathers, such as a breakfast nook. Clip 25 little numbered bags or packages to the branches for family members to open.
All you need for this easy countdown is a muffin tin and a few other everyday items. Cut circles from magnetic sheets, decorate, and place over filled muffin tin wells.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Write a holiday note to five special people, such as a friend you've lost touch with, someone who made a difference in your life, or a long distance relative.
No need to peek and see what tomorrow holds. This advent calendar puts every trinket in plain view. Hang baubles, ornaments, or decoration next to poster board tags, then each morning, let someone hang a new adornment on the tree.
Advent Activity Suggestion: If you have an artificial tree, capture the scent of real pine by buying some boughs for the mantle.
Collect small branches in a vase, then hang a mix of numbered tags and small envelopes to the branches. Write bible verses, holiday quotes, or activity suggestions on the tags, then fill envelopes with small trinkets. Wrap any bigger surprises and nestle under the "tree."
Advent Activity Suggestion: "Pay it Forward" by picking up a stranger's coffee tab, giving up your seat on the subway, or adding a few quarters to an expired parking meter.
Lead up to the big day with 25 days of little gifts. Put a small treat or trinket inside a small box (a jewelry gift box works great) and wrap with festive papers. Number the gifts 1-25 and open one each day.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Instead of incorporating activities, write 25 reasons why you love your kid or spouse on slips of paper to include in your family's Advent calendar.
Number plain tags and tie to pre-decorated gift bags. For fun, don't hang the bags in order -- make it a challenge to find the day's surprise.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Do something good for someone else. Donate to a charity or buy gifts for a less-fortunate family.
Combine two Christmas classics into one project. Paint an 18-inch wooden wreath form white. Glue magnets to the form and to the bottoms of 24 small favor tins (approximately 2-1/4 inches in diameter). Cut 12 circles from solid-color scrapbooking papers to fit the tin lids. Adhere number stickers, 1 through 12, to the circles. Cut out 12 more circles from coordinating patterned papers. Adhere the paper circles to the 12 tin lids and fill the tins with treats or small gifts. Arrange the tins on the wreath form, alternating a numbered tin with a plain one.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Get out into the community -- attend a live Nativity or see a holiday concert or play.
A fun treat for kids and adults, this Advent calendar is a cinch to make with inexpensive matchboxes and spare supplies. Fill with fun trinkets, candy, and notes to make the days leading up to Christmas more enchanting.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or help your kids organize a toy drive at their school.
This magnetic calendar is fashioned from a cookie sheet for the base and dressed up with magnets embellished with scrapbooking scraps.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Go sledding! And afterwards, warm up with a cup of hot cocoa.
Use holiday stocking caps for an Advent calendar clothesline. Sew a button to each cap and tie a numbered tag around it.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Bake a batch of cookies as a family.
Small Advent gifts wrapped in papers and tagged with numbers mark the days until Christmas. Display the gifts with mini ornaments on stacked cake stands.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Gather up friends and family to go caroling at a local nursing home.
Turn a wooden cabinet into a surprise-filled Advent calendar by embellishing each door with rub-on numbers and designs from the scrapbooking aisles.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Craft the ultimate holiday playlist.
An Advent ribbon holds messages of goodwill from the extended family. Each scroll is wrapped in ribbon and attached to the decorative background ribbon with a safety pin.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Attend a community tree lighting.
Sure to become an annual tradition, this stunning paper Advent box uses a variety of scrapbooking papers and a wooden shadow box. Each little door hides a sweet surprise.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Pose for a family portrait, but nix the formal sitting. Ask a friend to take snapshots of your gang doing something creative and zany.
Decorate small papier-mache boxes with scrapbooking papers, ribbon, trinkets, and more. Make the inside as spectacular as the outside by including a small gift and a slip of paper with an activity to make the day special.
Advent Activity Suggestion: Have a holiday slumber party and sleep by the Christmas tree.