Make an advent calendar: 30 creative ideas
Christmas gifts for friends, family, partners and all your loved ones
You want to make an advent calendar for someone, but don't have all the gifts yet? Or you want to make someone really happy, but don't know where to start? Then today's post is just right for you. I'll show you what I'm going to put in my advent calendars this year! One is for my family, the other for my boyfriend (so everything is top secret here!). But all gifts can be used for a number of people, from best friends to siblings, parents, relatives and acquaintances. But many of these presents are also perfect for Christmas! So if you are starting to prepare for the most festive time of the year, you're in luck. If you want to be inspired or are wondering how to get started at all, then this is the right place for you. Let's dive into the 30 ideas!
The ideas for your advent calendar are divided into 5 categories and at the end I have some tips for wrapping & gifting:
The little things...
Always a great starter gift for the Advent. You can either find great cookie cutters in a local store or easily online. I'm sure your cookie loving friends will appreciate this gift. Maybe you will even get some delicious cookies in return...
Last year I gifted a little hand (like this one*), with which you can make many funny cookies. Also, you can adjust the cookie dough so that the hand makes a peace sign or thumbs up (or something else that should not be mentioned here ;)). This year the calendar includes a crocodile - because it can be decorated very well (like this one*). At home, the fancy cookie cutters are very popular!
Maybe the person has been wanting a specific book for a long time or you found one you love and just want to share with someone. A book is always a safe gift and perfect for the advent calendar. It also has the nice message that during the Christmas season you should take some time for yourself to destress and just read.
This year I especially liked this book* by Jorge Bucay, which someone recommended to me and then I just had to pass it on! That's why there was another one of Bucay's books in the calendar for someone in my family. I can only recommend it, it's a really a nice gift. The second book is called "Stories for Thought".
Yes, I know, socks for Christmas are probably one of those things that have gotten a bad reputation over the years. I for one still like to receive them and if you think about it, there is surely someone among your friends who always wears colorful socks, isn't there? So get rid of those scratchy socks that were perhaps given as a present in the past and gift colorful, funny socks that bring joy.
Environmental awareness also goes for the advent calendar. A small reusable shopping bag is practical and fits into every bag. No more plastic - no more going grocery shopping with full hands and without a bag! Especially cute ones are often available at Butlers!
Over the year some nice shots have accumulated on your camera, but you never get to print them? Take the opportunity now and make a present out of it! For parents a nice family picture or maybe a funny one from your vacations that they haven't seen yet. Friends will surely be happy to receive just the frame with a little note saying "capture your favorite moments". And for some romance you can consider a heart-shaped frame and write a few nice things on the back.
Always a safe option: special spices or teas! Perhaps over the year the person has mentioned that he or she really likes to cook something and needs special spices for it? Or maybe you have a nice memory with the person where you had a certain tea? Both are perfect for the advent calendar! Often the packages have funny sayings or names printed on them. Perfect if you have an insider joke or want to remind them of a certain situation.
The special things...
If you want to give a present to someone who likes to wear fancy earrings and likes special things, then this is the right tip for you. Earrings or jewelry in general made of paper is a special gift, not only for Origami lovers! You might be able to find them in a jewelry store with handmade things.
On weekends, an egg or tasty pancakes are a must for breakfast. But they don't have to be boring! You can find cute fried egg or pancake shapes in household goods stores or for example here*. Perfect for the breakfast junkies among your friends!
Students like me are always happy to get new mugs, then we don't have to wash the old ones! An especially handy mug is one where you can immediately tell whether the drink is warm or cold (if you're studying hard, you might otherwise burn your tongue ;)). I bought a very cool one at Flying Tiger (generally a great tip for advent calendar fillers!). Many nice designs are also available here*.
A beach ball racket set with board games printed on them is perfect for thinking about the next summer vacation in the cold winter. Suitable for all your sporty friends!
Maybe you're lucky and can cut a piece off from a larger cactus and plant it or just check in the nearest plant store. For friends who are into nice decorations and plants! You can even paint the pot and make it unique.
Maybe a lemon squeezer has been missing from your friend's apartment since they moved in. Or maybe you would like to gift a Spaetzle maker*, so that they can prepare this delicious meal at any time. A variety of small (or large) kitchen appliances and utensils will please every cooking enthusiast!
The really nice ones...
A slightly larger gift for a special day, but in any case a nice present. You can find nice sweaters for the winter online or if you are lucky in a store near you. I especially like to visit TKMaxx, because they have great stuff of good quality at great prices! But also in second hand stores you can often find real treasures!
For those who are always cold and need to be cuddly and warm this season. A warming pillow, which you can put in the oven or microwave, is a nice gift for everyone. It can be made out of rice or cherry pits, and is also easy to make yourself! I think this one* for example is very pretty.
Maybe the person you are making the calendar for still has some empty walls. Or the person loves art and every inch of the walls are decorated, but they can't get enough? A nice (framed) poster or painting can be a very nice gift! Just check at a flea market or a second hand store for great finds. But also in bigger stores you can find great posters from time to time.
The weather for nice picnics is unfortunately over, but that's no reason not to think about the warmer times again! A picnic basket is the ideal gift for nature and food lovers! Either put one together yourself, or I also find this nostalgic basket* super romantic and beautiful. I will gift mine with a few little things inside and use it as my 24th present.
The DIY ones...
I think everyone will appreciate invitations to nice planned dates. You can make coupons and give it a more personal touch. But also a pretty card does the trick. In the last years I have gifted:
- Book Date: go to a library and choose a book that the other person has to read
- Photobooth trip: take pictures at all photo booths in your city
- Spa day
- Go ice skating
- Bake cookies
- Food Crawl: eat every course in a different restaurant and get to know many new things
- Make your own punch
- Campfire with marshmallows
- Christmas movie Marathon
- Walk in the snow
- Candle Light Dinner (check out my recipes)
- Karaoke Night
- Wine Tasting
- Go Bowling
A cozy blanket also warms the hearts of your loved ones. You can buy a blanket and sew on a beautiful trim (e.g. with pom-poms, fringes, lace) on it. Or you can also make the blanket yourself by cutting a soft fabric to the right size (about 1.80 x 1.60m), sewing it and then attaching the trim to it. It is not that complicated and makes a great DIY gift. You can find great trims here* and beautiful fleece fabric here*.
An especially nice gift for someone to whom you simply wish good luck and joy in the Christmas season. All you need is a small tree on which you hang notes with nice messages! Great ideas and inspiration can be found here.
For someone who just can't get enough of you and wants to have you in front of them while reading! Simply take a picture of you standing (full body), pointing up with one hand. Then either print on thick paper or laminate. Tie a string to the picture and you're done! For examples of what this could look like, have a look here.
With a Scoby, a little time and the thousand instructions you can find for this fermented tea, in a few days you will have a super cool gift for all Kombucha lovers. I am also giving it a try and only recently started fermenting. Maybe next time I will try making Kombucha from Agua de Jamaica?
Either make them yourself or buy them. For hot chocolate lovers a must in every advent calendar! For the sticks simply melt chocolate of your choice and put it into ice cube molds. Put a wooden stick* in and let it get cold. If you want, you can then use edible glitter* or decorate with another chocolate. Wrap it in a cellophane bag and that's it!
For those who like healthy snacks! These crackers look beautiful and are delicious.
Crunchy almonds or other nuts with chili or herbs are perfect as advent calendar snacks.
Don't have to be the classics, but look for something a little more special! If you stick with potatoes, a new flavor like wasabi or olives is worth a try. But also something completely different like hummus chips or chips made from carrots, parsnip and other vegetables are really tasty.
If someone is always in a hurry during Christmas season (maybe because they are picking out your present?) they will surely be happy about a delicious noodle cup in some special flavor. Just stop by the nearest Asian store or go to the supermarket.
For cooking enthusiasts, a colorful rice might just be the perfect gift! In various supermarkets (especially international ones) you can find special rice varieties in different colors, either natural or dyed with herbs.
To take a breather between all those special gifts, delicious cookies are ideal. The Mini Prince Cookies fit perfectly into any calendar and everyone loves them (why is it that miniature things are always cute?).
Or other special ones (e.g. hemp, orange, spelt). Tastes delicious and looks nice. If you are not only interested in taste but also in beautiful packaging, you will certainly find what you are looking for at local organic stores.
Or any other kind (protein, chocolate, ...) are practical and perfect for the calendar.
How to keep the costs for the advent calendar low
Of course, it is not all about the money, after all, the joy of the person you are giving the calendar to is priceless. However, a gift should not become a financial burden and should not stop being fun in the end, because one only has the monthly budget in mind. Obviously though, the calendar will cost something. So how can you keep the costs of an advent calendar relatively small?
For me the costs per advent calendar was about 60-80€. My calendars usually also include many bigger gifts though, which explains the price. But if you calculate about 3€ per gift, it doesn't sound that much anymore.
The gifts have been bought and made - what now?
A few weeks before December, I start making notes of ideas on my phone. Little by little I buy the gifts or start DIYing. When a few presents are ready, the lists become more detiled. I then plan the gifts on specific days. For example, the egg shaper would be on a Sunday or a sweater right at the beginning so that the person can stay warm the whole winter. Often some gifts simply make more sense on certain days. For example, if you gift jewelry, it can be planned for a day where there is an event. A protein bar might fit well on an exam day. This way, in addition to the general joy of the calendar, they also have the feeling that you are a bit part of it every day.
Once you have already planned the days a bit, I think it is also helpful to make a list on paper, which you can check off one by one. My list is always idea found (check off), bought/made (check off), wrapped (check off). It can also help to lay out the gifts by weeks and move them around until it looks good to you and then write it down. If you're thinking a list is more work and not that useful, just wrap the gifts as you go - totally okay. But I really like to have an overview and also to know which gift the person is opening every day.
Wrapping the gifts
I find ready-to-filll calendars or bags super cute, but my gifts usually don't fit in them because I have so many different sizes and shapes of gifts. Therefore I usually wrap the things in newspaper and use colorful ribbon. I also reuse cardboard boxes, paper bags, old gift wrappings and all kinds of boxes that I collected over the year. I even recycled an egg carton as packaging once! It uses less material and makes unpacking even more exciting.
For the labels I use colored paper and write the number and name (if the calendar is for more than one person) in big letters on it. If you do it that way, make sure to stick the label on extra well, I've lost numbers before and it's stressful ;). Again, a list is very practical!
I hope my first DIY post included one or the other thing that you would like to use in your advent calendar. Maybe you were even inspired to make one now! What are your ideas for an advent calendar? Feel free to write them in the comments and share pictures! Have fun wrapping and gifting!
The links marked with * are affiliate links. That means if you buy a product through this link, I get a small commission from Amazon. This has no disadvantages for you :) Of course I only share products that I like or that match exactly what I mean in my list.
All other links are unpaid ads and recommendations that should give you even more inspiration.