Christmas Advent Jar

by Chris on December 2, 2010

I did this project two years ago, and I recently had an e-mail asking where the post went. Yeah. Good question. Since changing over my domain, I seem to have lost dozens of posts. They’re out there somewhere, but I figured it might be a good idea to refresh it.

advent calendar

This advent idea was made out of mini matchboxes. I bought a pack of them at the grocery store, painted the insert part white, and wrapped the outside with scrapbook paper. The outside is labeled with the countdown day, and it’s complete.

advent calendar advent calendar jar

I try to remain really conscious of not letting the “I want that!” mentality overwhelm the spirit of Christmas at JaG’s house, so I tried to come up with advent ideas that were mostly about spending time together. Plus, they’re pretty much free. Santa’s on a budget this time of year.

altered matchboxes

matchbox advent

There is such an extensive list of things you could add to this list, but these are the ones we’ll be using this year. I added a couple of notes to some since we’ve been doing this a couple of years.

  1. Play a board game together
  2. Build a fort and have dinner in it (the kids’ favorite)
  3. Cut out paper snowflakes
  4. Pick out a toy for Toys for Tots
  5. Make popcorn and watch a Christmas movie
  6. Find a special treat
  7. Special treat: Hot cocoa and marshmallows
  8. Make a Christmas craft (check the internet—tons of ideas out there)
  9. Breakfast for dinner
  10. Find a special present and open it (always dollar store items)
  11. Make a card for someone and mail it
  12. Go to dollar store and shop for family (again—kids LOVE)
  13. Go out to a movie
  14. Decorate a gingerbread house
  15. Kids make dinner for Mom and Dad
  16. Go see Santa Claus
  17. Make a pinecone bird feeder
  18. Make a Christmas craft
  19. Find a special present and open it
  20. Go bowling
  21. Bake Christmas cookies
  22. Go downtown and look at lights
  23. Popcorn and movie night

advent calendar

So what about you? Do you have any ideas that you use with your family? I’m always curious for new ideas. Anything I’m missing?



Tammy December 2, 2010 at 12:25 am

What a fabulous idea! Our kids are out of the house now but I love this idea and will share it with friends whose kids are still at home.
We used to make smores around the fireplace, turn out all of the lights but the Christmas tree with soft Christmas music in the background and just chat. It's amazing where the conversation goes. Lots of fun! Baking cookies is another tradition the kids still love.

Melanie December 2, 2010 at 12:33 am

That is a great idea. Cute and I love that you thought of all the great ways to spend time together.

chocoholic December 2, 2010 at 12:34 am

I love it! I'm filing it away for future Christmases.

{Bellamere Cottage} December 2, 2010 at 12:36 am

I love this idea…. It's just perfect and focuses on time spent with your loved ones….not on newest and greatest whatever!

One year my daughter did something similar to this for my birthday. She filled a jar with little notes reminding me of special times we've spent together…. She remembered many that I had long since forgotten. It's still one of my all-time favorite gifts.

Warm blessings,

Brunner Family December 2, 2010 at 12:46 am

OMG!!!! Love, love, love this idea. So pretty (and so many ways to personalize)!! I am just sad it wasn't posted sooner as I woulda SO done this for our advent "calendar" this year! hmmm… I may have to find another use for this before next Christmas! :) I just found your blog a few weeks ago and am thoroughly enjoying it!! Thanks for your creative ideas for some of us not-so-creative-on-our-own types!;)

Jenny December 2, 2010 at 12:54 am

I love this! I have been wanting to do something like this, so your post was very timely! Thanks for sharing such a fun idea with such a great focus on giving and family.

Estela @ Weekly Bite December 2, 2010 at 1:05 am

What a clever idea! I love it!

Julie December 2, 2010 at 1:06 am

Wow, I love this — and I did not see it the first time around, so I'm glad you re-posted. I will definitely implement this for next year. I even have that exact apothocary jar to put my little matchbooks in!

Michaela December 2, 2010 at 1:07 am

SO adorable!! (: I love the surprise element!

Megan {Honey We're Home} December 2, 2010 at 1:41 am

I'm loving all the advent calendars I'm seeing lately and this one is for sure a keeper! I'm bookmarking this page for all the great ideas inside too! What a fun mom you are:)

Nancy December 2, 2010 at 1:46 am

Loved it and wanted to leave my shout out link for you, Chris! Merry Christmas!!

Courtney {a thoughtful place} December 2, 2010 at 2:05 am

So great! I just posted our advent calendar idea today . . .but it takes up way too much space. Same idea with the family activities, though. Can't wait to do the jar next year.

Sarah @ Cozy.Cottage.Cute. December 2, 2010 at 2:14 am

Those tiny boxes are adorable!!

The fort idea is super cute, too. :)

The Mulberry Girl December 2, 2010 at 2:46 am

Cute cute idea.
Now, I've been looking for that post where Olivia is a pizza. Do you still have that one? (and WHY am I cracking up when I type this?) ;)

Jerri-Lea December 2, 2010 at 4:08 am

We are taking baby formula to the food bank and pet supplies to the animal shelter. As well as leaving little gifts around town (a Christmas cd, a filled stocking, leaving a gift card someone's car).And one day the girls' magic elf will arrive ~ we'll see what trouble they get into.

begin with a Sunny Outlook December 2, 2010 at 4:26 am

Great idea – love it! And love the simplicity of your list – it really is what Christmas is all about!

Blondie December 2, 2010 at 4:41 am

Such a great idea honey!!!! Kori xoxo

The Autocrat: Haley December 2, 2010 at 5:11 am

OOOO Best advent idea that I have seen!

georgetownfresh December 2, 2010 at 5:43 am

Oooh, this is a GREAT one! I have been racking my brain to come up with an Advent tradition for our family. Our oldest is three and our traditions are really starting to roll this year!

Tara@JustDevineStyle December 2, 2010 at 5:57 am

I love this! It is such a great idea and it looks so good as decoration! Love love love it!

LacyHolly December 2, 2010 at 6:07 am

This is great! I do not have kids, but I may just have to make one for the bf and I. We could make a fort and eat dinner in it! Haha. I'm sure I could come up with things that us grown ups could do. Thank you for sharing!

Becky December 2, 2010 at 6:24 am

Thanks for the great idea! we are short on space around here and this doesn't take up much space at all :)

Chelsy@ Sweet Pea Kisses December 2, 2010 at 6:26 am

So, so cute! I've been searching all over blog land for an advent idea to use with toddlers. I'm thinking I can tweak this a little so it can grow with them! Thanks for the inspiration!

Wendy December 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Great idea, thanks for sharing it…I have a bunch of match boxes, this will an awesome way to use them. Oh! my kids are going to love this.

Dani'sfadingmargins December 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I looove this craft! So beautiful and simple.

A German Christmas tradition my family enjoys: You can still buy these little green pickle Xmas ornaments some places, and one person hides that on the tree somewhere, the rest look for it, and whoever wins gets a special gift! And they get to buy the gift new year. Awesome? Yes.

I'm new here, but I love visitors!!

The Martys December 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I just love that idea. I am putting that in my Christmas idea book for future years. Thanks. Very clever!!

Cate December 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I am totally doing this next year! We've been looking for an advent calendar but just haven't found the perfect one. I've already exceeded my Christmas craft budget for the year (oops), but next November, I'll be all over this. ;-)

Kassi @ Truly Lovely December 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm

What a great idea!!! I think I'll make one of these for my friend that has kids! They would love it!

Aimee December 2, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I love this idea so much!!! Thanks for posting.

Tara Lauren December 2, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Such a great idea! I love it!

I just wish I had the time to put it together!

Krystal {Blue Ribbon} December 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

OMG This is amazing! I love the colors! What a great idea!

Carrie @ Dittle Dattle December 2, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Chris~ I do the same thing each year with my kids! But I have never presented it quite this cute before! Thanks for sharing :D

Jenni December 2, 2010 at 6:51 pm

We do an advent calendar every year just like this. In addition to many of the things on your list we also ring the salvation army bell. Do a giving tree. Make neighborhood gifts and distribute them (usually hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows). Do a puzzle night (we put together a puzzle every december and the girls love it!) Go to a festival of nativities (or you could go to a festival of trees) And we are sure to read the christmas story one night. We call ours the 25 days of Christmas and my girls look forward to it all year.

I do LOVE your jar full of boxes, though. We have ours in a little wooden church with 25 doors/windows to open.


Laura Lynn December 2, 2010 at 7:16 pm

So cute. I love using matchboxes for things. I use them for gift tags all the time or invites to parties. No one ever forgets their invite when I do that!

Jennifer December 2, 2010 at 8:43 pm

um I loved your wreath, cable sweater sleeves and advent jar so much that I decided to do an holiday inspiration post and blogged about you!

Sara December 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm

This is such a great idea! Thank you for posting this. I don't even have children, but I think this would be fun for my husband and I!

Diana @ Photodee December 2, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Another great idea! My husband and I do something similar for Hanukkah…each night we do something special. We go out for Chinese Food, we go see holiday lights, he reads me a bedtime story, we have a dinner with his family, we have one with mine. I celebrate Hanukkah and he celebrates Christmas, but for future little ones, I think this is a great way to celebrate the season. I, too, feel the holidays have gotten blown out of proportion and it needs to be more about spending quality time together and less about spending money!

Birgit Kerr December 2, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Ok, this is just the cutest! What a great idea!!

Simone @ Doberman's by the Sea December 2, 2010 at 11:37 pm

That is so cute and unique. The Bavarian Christmas linky party is now open-won’t you come and join us at and while you are there join the give-a-ways going on.

Andrea December 3, 2010 at 5:04 am

I love the match box idea. I have a similar advent with something for us to do. I really like the make dinner for mom and dad. One I added this year was a fondue night.

Edinalva December 3, 2010 at 7:10 am

Fantastic! Thanks.

Jenny December 3, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Any other ideas for using something other than matchbox ideas. I've allready spent a fortune on random christmas decorations and craft projects and don't really want to make one more trip to the store…

Linko November 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I put ideas in 25 envelopes and we opened one each day…cheap!

Inspire Me Heather December 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I loved your idea and I like your sayings too – I linked it to my "advent calendars" post too!

Cassie {Hi Sugarplum!} December 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I love advent calendars too…and actually made one for my kids this year. (I posted it Monday) My kids are having a hay-day with it!!!

I love your version!!

Gail @ SimplyOney December 3, 2010 at 5:22 pm

What an adorable idea!!!
When I was growing up we used to spend a couple nights reading all the classic Christmas stories together and I still love going through them each year =)

Carmie of the Single Nester December 3, 2010 at 5:38 pm

One of the best advent designs I have ever seen! Love it!!

Emily @ LaForce Be With You December 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I love your advent jar and all of the activities!

Ro December 3, 2010 at 8:47 pm

This would also be very cool for those without children. Just think of all the options.

Lisa at Paint in my Hair December 4, 2010 at 2:32 am

I do the same thing! Yours is a million and three times prettier, though.

Lil' Woman December 4, 2010 at 9:54 am

Love this!

Janine December 4, 2010 at 10:30 am

I'm a new follower here and am alos new at blogging and this week I put together an advent chocolate bowl. each day my miss c takes a chocolate out. easy and yummy so she tells me..

Interior Design Musings December 4, 2010 at 3:42 pm

OK, this is one of the coolest crafts I have seen in a very long time! Love it. I would love to link to this next week for one of my posts! Let me know if you are up for that, and I will gladly do it. Just so you know, I have never linked to a post for one of my post. I just think this is that cute! Mandi.

sunshinequeen December 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Too funny, I literally sat down to my computer to find that post from a while ago…Look at the lasting impression you have on me ! Thanks

HALLELUJAHS December 4, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Love this. Totally L.O.V.E.

Thanks for sharing,

Anneliese December 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm

My mother did the matchboxes with us when we were little and my sister gave my siblings and I a set a few years ago to do with our children. I love it! I love the idea of having something fun to do every day in December. We usually include some things like, "get out the nativity," "read Christmas stories," and "decorate the Christmas tree." Love the idea of putting them in a cute glass jar.

Country Dreaming December 5, 2010 at 4:00 am

How about—

A pizza, pj picnic.
Reading Christmas stories out loud.
Reading The Christmas story.


Αγαπη December 5, 2010 at 4:07 am

I love love love this!! And it's so cute to top of the meaningfulness behind it! :) Thanks for sharing!

Southern Fried Gal December 7, 2010 at 4:04 am

Such a sweet idea and a beautiful implementation!

Mama Bear December 7, 2010 at 10:43 am

Love this. Once my daughter is older I will definitely be stealing this idea!

Jen December 7, 2010 at 4:23 pm

What a great & fun idea!
And its beautiful too!

Ally December 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm

As many previous commenters said, I LOVE that you made each card list an activity to do together. Nothing says "holiday" more than spending time with the ones you love. Very cool idea, and extremely cute.

AmericKim December 8, 2010 at 12:26 am

How fantastic! I love the idea!

Ellie December 8, 2010 at 2:12 am

I love the idea of using matchboxes! And the quality time together is priceless. Thanks for sharing!

Ashley @ December 10, 2010 at 2:22 pm

That's a super cute idea/project!

Shelly December 13, 2010 at 4:10 am

Love this idea! You listed such great activity ideas!

Decor Girl December 14, 2010 at 12:33 am

I love this. Suggesting as a project for next year. Super idea.

Michelle September 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Along with everyone else I L-O-V-E this idea. You can even expand on it, by gluing a small magnet to the back of each box and hanging a dollar store cookie sheet spray painted in a cordinating color on the wall and place each box on as you pull it out of the jar.

Jade November 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm

This is awesum!! If I manage to do it this year would you mind me mentioning you in my blog?
It isn’t a craft one itself just a rambling one :)
No children ourselves I’m just a big kid but it could be easily replaced with little things for us to do together to take a bit of the stress away from the holidays!
Thanks so much for posting this!

Chris November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Of course, Jade. thanks so much! Good luck!

Vilma Neris November 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Adorei sua dica, vou fazer aqui em casa!!! Lindo!!! Bjs, Vilma Neris

Jaimee November 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

This is really cute! And I love your list of activities, too : ) I’m including this in a Friday Favorites – Advent Countdowns post on my blog. Thanks for the inspiration!
Jaimee @

Andrea Currie November 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Found you on Pinterest! Love this so much that I just had to include it into an Advent inspiration blog post!

Peta November 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

oh wow, thankyou so much for this awesome idea! I have just found your blog and this looks amazing! I am definately doing this, I think it will be an awesome tradion for every year, the best thing is it can be reused! I have been looking for ideas that we can do as a family that doesn’t cost the earth and this is just perfect, it makes me wonder why we don’t alwats stop and think of the simple things :o) my kids will thank you too! Have a great holidat season this year xoxo

Dee November 22, 2011 at 12:11 am

I hope you will link this up to The cSI Project on Wednesday or Thursday. I know that it is from last year but inspiration never gets old, so link up.
If you have never visited my blog, come on by and every week there is a new challenge, new winners and a new giveaway.


Donna December 1, 2011 at 8:05 am

My kids love wrapping each other in wrapping paper. I have 3 kids and two will wrap the other. I pick up wrapping paper in the dollar store. It is a guaranteed barrel of laughs. Thank you for your ideas. I don’t make my calendar like you , but rather fill a advent calendar box that I picked up at Target. Each day has a little door that is filled with something.

lorena December 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I love your DIY advent calendar that i added your tutorial to my blog , thank you for your great idea

Kristina January 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm

What a wonderful idea, I love this!

Jacy September 30, 2012 at 2:14 am

Love this idea! Thank you for sharing! I am in the process of doing this fun little project. Just one thing, where did you get the number stickers? I can’t find them any where.

Chris September 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thanks, Jacy! I found them at a local scrapbook store. Perhaps a Hobby Lobby near you? Good luck!

Nicky November 5, 2012 at 7:16 am

Love this! I might do it as simple shaped Christmas trees and stars etc as decorations for the tree. Then take a photo of us doing the ‘thing’ and stick it on. Maybe on the opposite Side, maybe over the activity then hang on the tree! Could reuse the following year and put new pic over the top, or in a scrapbooky way, some how keep it as a kind of flip book to look back over the years! Thinking as I type so sorry if that doesn’t make sense!!

Bridget November 7, 2012 at 11:41 pm

I love this idea! I found it on Pinterest a couple of months ago and I’ve been eyeing it ever since. I made my boxes today and I’m getting my list of things together to put in the boxes. It’s just my husband and I, so they are more adult geared, but I think they’ll still be fun. :) One that I came up with that I think is really great is “buy hot cocoa and deliver it to Salvation Army bell ringers”. I live in Minnesota and it gets quite cold out while ringing the bell. Thanks for all the ideas!

Simplee Sue November 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I am featuring your advent calendar idea. Great idea. Nov 30 @ Thank you for the idea.

We may have met by chance…but we become friends by choice.

Chris November 15, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Thank you so much, Sue! I’ll go check it out! I appreciate it.

Victoria November 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Great idea!! I love that you used your jar for an advent. I also featured this on my blog today:

Katie November 28, 2012 at 8:53 am

Thank you for sharing, I love this idea. I have created a round-up of all my favorite Advent calendars and I have added yours! You can check it out here If you would like me to remove your feature please let me know and I will take it down right away. Oh, and please stop by and grab a feature button and wear it proudly! You deserve it!

Diana December 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I just completed this project this morning. I got all the supplies at Dollar Tree: candle jar instead of apothecary jar, matchboxes, ribbon, and wrapping paper to wrap the matchboxes. I will use your suggested “gifts”. This is our first advent calendar ever, even for me and my husband, so we are thrilled that we will all count down together. Thanks for the craft!

Chris December 3, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Oh goodness! That’s exciting if you and your husband have never even had one. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for letting me know!

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