21 Advent Calendar Ideas that Celebrate Family

Create an extra-memorable Advent this year by giving your loved ones a small token of your appreciation every day. This could be something fun to do together or a gift that may only cost a few dollars. Below we share a few of our favorite ideas.

7 Advent Gifts that Are Perfect for Everyone

1. Coupons for quality time
The hectic Christmas season can make us choose the urgent over the important. Coupons for quality time together help us refocus on our families. These thrifty Advent gifts can be as simple as a candlelit dinner, a starlit stroll through the neighborhood, or visiting a live nativity.

2. Travel-size perfumes, soaps and moisturizers
Do you plan on revealing a vacation gift at Christmas? Do you have loved ones who travel often, even if it’s just to the gym every day? Or do they simply enjoy feeling and looking their best anywhere? Give them travel-size soaps, perfumes and moisturizers.

3. Jewelry
Jewelry doesn’t have to be expensive to be appreciated. Advent can be the perfect time to spruce up their jewelry box:

  • Visit thrift shops and estate sales to find amazing values on unique pieces for everyone, including cufflinks, tie tacks and brooches.
  • Peruse dollar and discount stores for holiday-themed earrings.
  • Make it yourself for a gift they’ll especially cherish.

leaflet missal wooden image bracelet
Pictured: Wood Image Bracelet

4. Candles
Candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. That’s why they’re so important to Catholic spirituality. As we burn a candle, our prayers rise up to heaven. What better gift is there than that which helps us on our spiritual journey?

holy family saint offering candle
Pictured: Holy Family Saint Offering Candle

5. Hot chocolate, coffee and tea packets
Make Advent delicious by giving a packet of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea each day. Your family will awake eager to find out what kind of tasty treat awaits.

6. Herb seeds:
Fresh herbs aren’t just for summer. They can be grown indoors all winter long.  Delight the aspiring chef in your family by giving them seeds to grow their own indoor herb garden.

7. Ornaments
Gradually decorate the Christmas tree with an ornament for each day of Advent. Or build your own Jesse Tree with ornaments that illustrate the people and prophecy leading to the birth of Jesus.

Letters to Baby Jesus Ornament
Pictured: Letters to Baby Jesus Ornament

9 Classic Advent Calendar Fillers

1. Chocolate
The classic filler for an Advent calendar is chocolate, and Janalin Hood, a contributor to the Catholic Sistas blog, recommends conducting a candy countdown with a religious mosaic of the Holy Family.

She puts three small chocolates, one for each of her children, in each box.

“This is the kids’ favorite Advent activity,” she explains in her blog post, A Quiet Advent at Home.

Nativity Fabric Advent Calendar

Pictured: Nativity Fabric Advent Calendar

2. Craft supplies
Let them get creative this season by giving them supplies to make their own holiday cards and goodies. This can include everything from glitter, buttons, construction paper and ribbons to glue, scissors and markers.

3. Magnets
Make every part of your house festive this season, including your fridge, by giving a magnet for each day of Advent. You can purchase a collection of nativity magnets, buy magnets individually, or even make them yourself.

Nativity Magnet Set

Pictured: Large Fridge Nativity Magnet Set

4. Memories
Each day of Advent, share your fondest memories with each of your family members from the past year. Compile these memories into booklets and give it to them on Christmas Day.

5. Hair accessories
Does she love to try out new do’s? She’ll love a bow, barrette or clip each day – they’re practical, pretty and inexpensive.
advent calendar filler idea hair accessories

6. Legos
Kendra Tierney, a mother of seven who writes the blog Catholic All Year, appreciates Lego Advent Calendars. Her family recycle theirs to be used year after year.

“Now we have enough for each kid to have his own,” she points out. “They take up our entire front hallway.”

7. Books
Several years ago, Jessica Gordon, a Roman Catholic wife and mother who writes the blog, Shower of Roses, started the tradition of reading a Christmas-themed picture book as a family each day during Advent. She wraps them in purple and pink wrapping paper to coordinate with Advent’s liturgical colors.

“I wondered at first if it would be worth the effort (and all that paper!)but this is now one of my children's favorite Advent traditions. They love taking turns unwrapping the books as well as the special time we spend together reading,” she writes in a post about Advent book baskets.

8. Stickers
Every kid, and kid at heart, loves stickers. They’re a fun, inexpensive, and sugar-free way to countdown the Advent season. Buy a Catholic sticker book and share a few stickers a day as Advent progresses.


Pictured: Static Sticker Bible Books

9. Beauty products
Allow her to indulge herself - a little bit - with any one of the many beauty Advent calendars that are flooding the marketplace. Each will give her a new opportunity to pamper herself every day.

5 Fun Advent Activities for Kids

1. Puzzles
Debbie Gaudino, a Catholic writer, speaker and mom, recommends gradually assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

“Advent is all about patient waiting and what better way to combat the culture of instant gratification than through the assembly of a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle,” she explains in her blog, Saints 365. “I see so many parallels to the discipline, patience and perseverance required to complete a jigsaw puzzle and the spiritual journey to Bethlehem we should all be taking during Advent.”

holy family jigsaw puzzle
Pictured: Holy Family Jigsaw Puzzle

2. Family Blessings Journal
Debbie also recommends compiling a blessing journal for Advent. Each day, a member of her family shares the blessing they appreciate most, and then writes that blessing down in the journal.

“My prayer is that these journals will become a yearly tradition and a treasured keepsake that we can look back on each year,” she writes in a blog post about them.

advent blessing books
Pictured: Advent Blessing Books

3. Holy Heroes Adventure Movie
For those whose time and energy is limited, Debbie recommends simply taking advantage of the free Holy Heroes Adventure movies that can be delivered to your email every day of Advent. She explains that her family loves watching the Holy Heroes kids learn about Advent through reflections on Sunday scriptures, the Jesse Tree, rosary and more.

4. Names of Jesus Advent Chain
Abbey Dupuy, a Catholic homeschooling mom of four, created an Advent paper chain with one of Jesus’s names on each link. Her goal was to better connect her children with the reason for the season.

“Jesus is called by many names in the Bible,” she explains in a blog post about the project. “Some of his names are taken from ancient prophets…Each gospel writer introduces new names for Jesus…Finally, some of the most powerful images for Jesus come from names used for him in Revelation.”

5. Daily Surprises
Dawn Hanigan, a Catholic mother of four, includes a little adventure in every day of Advent with an Advent calendar that outlines a fun daily activity. It can be as simple as watching a favorite movie or making a special treat.

“About a week ahead I make a tentative plan for the next several days (this way I can pick up any needed supplies while I'm running errands), and each night before I go to bed I write out the tag for the next day, making sure we have the time, energy and weather to make it work best,” she explains in her blog, By Sun and Candlelight.

an advent calendar of activities
Pictured: An Advent Calendar of Activities

Every day of Advent can be an extra-special opportunity to bless your loved ones. We hope you now have some inspiration to do so. Do you have special ways you honor your family during the Advent season? Share them in the comments.

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