As each walnut disappears from the tree, so do the days leading up to Christmas morning.
1. To make the dowel tree, cut the 3/8-inch-diameter dowels to 24-1/2-, 16-1/2-, and 12-1/2-inch lengths. Cut the 3/4-inch-diameter dowel to 24 inches. Drill holes to receive the 1/8-inch diameter dowels through the 3/4-inch-diameter dowel (which will be the trunk) at 7, 13, and 19 inches from one end (which will be the bottom). Drill a hole in each circle to receive the trunk dowel.
2. Slide the narrow dowels through the holes in the trunk dowel. Smooth the raw, cut edges of the dowels with sandpaper, rounding the tips. Paint the dowels copper and the circles and ball gold. Stack the small circle on the large circle and slide the large dowel through the holes in both circles. Slip the ball onto the top of the large dowel.
3. To make the walnut gift holders, crack the walnuts in half along the seam and remove the nuts and membranes. Lay the walnut halves on aluminum foil, keeping the pairs together. Paint the outside of the shells copper. When dry, turn them over and paint the inside.
4. When dry, place a small gift inside each walnut and hold the halves together with a rubber band. Cut a 24-inch length of gold ribbon and a 5-inch length of sheer ribbon for each walnut. Working opposite the seam of the nut, wrap the ribbon up from the bottom to the pointed end of the walnut and twist it tightly. Draw the ribbon back to the bottom over the seams; twist the ribbon tightly again.
5. Pinch a piece of sheer ribbon to form a bowl. Place it against the flat end of the walnut. Tie the narrow ribbon around it. Attach the walnut to a branch by twisting the narrow ribbon around a dowel; curl the tails. Repeat for the other walnuts. Tie the remaining sheer ribbon in a bow at the top of the tree.
This tabletop tree, a variation of an Advent calendar, represents several signs of Christmas. Wood pyramid trees have been used to display ornaments since the early 1800s. The metallic colors signify the gifts carried by the Magi, or wise men. Walnuts are traditional gifts dating back to colonial times. The tiny gifts and messages enclosed in the walnuts are reminders of the gifts presented to Baby Jesus.