It’s time to start the countdown! Maybe it’s about being mindful…or counting your blessings…or preempting your kids asking “HOW MANY DAYS?!?” But part of the fun of December is building the anticipation for Christmas day, and this year we decided to put the “Advent” in “adventure.” Hallmark Writer Keely C. rounded up a whole bunch of great ideas and Lettering Artist Livy L. turned our 25 favorites into a calendar. We hope you’ll enjoy these twists on advent calendar activities!
How to use these advent calendar activities
Super easy, highly adventurous
Print out our Advent-ure Calendar Activities, cut them into squares, and drop them in a box or bowl. When your family is looking for something fun to do, pull one out!
A little more organized
Print the Advent-ure Calendar Activities, cut them into squares, and add the ones you’d like to try to whatever countdown calendar your family uses. That way you can incorporate our activities seamlessly into busy holiday plans.
We’ve provided the whole list below—there are way more than 25, and some extra details about the ones we featured. Just in case you want more Advent-ures! (We can’t stop saying that.)
And now, on to the Advent calendar activities
For many of us, the holiday season is a time for honoring traditions and revisiting the meaningful holiday family activities we’ve always enjoyed with the people we care about. But it can also be the perfect season to try something new and different—maybe even something downright adventurous!
If your family isn’t afraid to try, taste, learn, and mix it up—or even if you simply aspire to be more like that—then why not approach the holidays with a spirit of “Advent-ure”? We’ve brainstormed a list of twists on traditional holiday family fun, making sure to include a range of big and small, as well as free and inexpensive activities. We invite you to try one every day as you count down to your big holiday celebration.
Who knows? You may even find a few things you want to make a permanent part of your holidays. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right?
- Instead of sipping plain old hot cocoa, try some spicy Mexican hot chocolate. You can find Chocolate Abuelita in many grocery stores. Or whip up some white hot cocoa or honey hot chocolate.
- Learn about Hanukkah and try your hand at making latkes.
- Or try a traditional holiday food from another culture: Lutefisk, tamales, and mince pies are just a few of the endless options.
- Pull out that cookie recipe you thought looked too complicated and give it a try. (We believe in you!)
- Have a cookout in the cold…then go inside to enjoy the hot food.
- Invent a snack your favorite holiday character would like. Santa Sub? Grinch Chow? Tiny tater tots with their eyes all aglow?
- Make Reindeer Crunch for Santa’s reindeer. Eat it yourselves. Don’t tell Santa.
- Decorate a designated cookie plate for Santa with food-safe markers.
- Instead of seeing a traditional Nutcracker performance, catch a hip-hop Nutcracker production.
- Put some oompah in your holidays with a Tuba Christmas performance. Or look for a holiday concert by the Lesbian and Gay Band Association.
- Skip the usual holiday pop, and relax or work together with Medieval or Renaissance Christmas music.
- Catch a handbell choir in action—live or online.
- ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is great, but it’s not the only read-aloud option. Try The Best Christmas Pageant Ever or another holiday classic instead.
- Learn a carol from another language or culture. And while you’re enjoying a favorite holiday song, take a minute to learn about its history.
- Instead of a cookie exchange, have friends and their dogs over for a treat exchange.
- Send a Kwanzaa card or a note expressing a message of hope for someone you care about.
- Take a holiday from holiday busy-ness and institute a family do-nothing day: Don’t shop, don’t wrap, don’t cook, don’t clean, don’t get out of your jammies…you get the idea.
- Add a signature touch: Add handwritten notes and family signatures to your holiday cards.
- Schedule a video-call date with someone special you won’t see in person this holiday season.
- Make up new, funny lyrics for a familiar holiday song. Record yourselves singing it and share for all to enjoy.
- Write and deliver a thank-you to your favorite barista, supermarket checker, or someone else who brightens your day throughout the year.
- Plan a holiday scavenger hunt—around the house, around the neighborhood, or around the whole town!
- Use geography puzzles to help kids learn about states and countries Santa will visit, and follow Santa on NORAD.
- Have a tiny snowball fight with mini marshmallows. (Take the showdown outside if you’re worried about the mess.)
- Some homes have an elf who lurks around in December. Give yours something a little different: Penguin in the Pantry? Mouse in the House? Gingerbread boy in the John? Doll on the Wall? Use your imagination!
FAITH & SPIRITUAL ADVENT-URES
- Attend a service at a different church or temple than you usually go to—or at a place of worship from a different faith tradition.
- Gratitude—not just for Thanksgiving! Keep a holiday-season gratitude journal, or post a “daily grateful” on social media.
- Take time out to pray for, or send good thoughts to, the people who mean the most to you.
- Meditate for ten minutes. (We all could use a little more holiday peace, right?)
- Instead of re-gifting, try “pre-gifting”: Buy something you love, then give it away. (Or donate the money you would have spent on it.)
- Choose meaningful stories, prayers, or poems to read at family dinners in December.
- Light a candle for someone you find difficult. Say a prayer for them and/or think about their good qualities.
- Light a candle in honor of someone you’ve lost. Talk about what made that person special.
- Brainstorm together to make a wish list for the world and humankind.
- Send an out-of-the-blue card to your pastor or spiritual leader, thanking them for their dedication, especially at this busy time of year.
CREATIVE & CRAFTING ADVENT-URES
- Make a paper-chain garland and write a wish for the coming year on each link. Or string a garland with something more than just popcorn or cranberries.
- Create a nativity scene using stuffed animals, action figures, or candy. Post the results on social media so your friends can see.
- Instead of movie-watching night, how about movie-making night? Recreate a favorite scene or film, or write (or improvise!) your own. Everyone gets a part. (Yes, even pets!)
- Three words: Pineapple Christmas Tree
- Instead of cutting paper snowflakes, try folding origami doves.
- Build gingerbread-style houses out of graham crackers, using royal icing and candy.
CARING & KINDNESS ADVENT-URES
- Choose a local charity to learn about. Make a commitment to volunteer there if you feel called to do so.
- Visit a care home and spend time talking with residents.
- Make arrangements to host an international student who can’t go home for the holidays at your celebration.
- Caring challenge! Everyone pick five possessions to give away and go donate them together.
- Hug five people today. (Make sure it’s okay with them first!)
- Shop for a food bank while doing your family grocery shopping.
- Pick out a good cause to support with a monthly donation. Put your heads together to plan how you will budget for (or earn) the monthly amount.
NATURE & OUTDOOR ADVENT-URES
- Download a stargazing app and take a look at Mother Nature’s holiday lights.
- Dress warm and go for a winter hike on a nearby trail. Make it as short or as long as you want, depending on the weather and everyone’s energy levels.
- Exercise your winter green thumb: Plant an Amaryllis or paperwhite bulb.
- Run or volunteer together at a holiday-themed 5K race.
- Visit a state or national forest to see some Christmas trees in their natural, wintry state.
Want more ideas? Check out Countdown to Christmas: Ideas for your Advent calendar and these DIY advent calendar craft ideas. And we’d love to hear your ideas in the comments—or on Instagram!