When I was a young girl my grandma took me to a holiday church bazaar — that most venerable of holiday traditions — and bought an Advent calendar for me, one with 24 tiny candy canes tied to a length of green felt with red yarn. I can still recall the near-hysteria I felt as those candy canes disappeared one by one, building toward the greatest candy cane of them all: December 25th. This year in an attempt to create hysteria for my own children, I decided to make a homemade version of an Advent calendar. I used some little linen bags I had on hand, the type you can buy from a shipping supplier. I printed out images of vintage holiday postcards and ironed them on to the linen bags, using transfer paper which can be found at any office supply store. Before printing out them out I overlaid the numbers 1 to 24 over each image, and inside the bags I put everything from gold chocolate coins to little figurines to, of course, candy canes. I also enclosed a few Christmas poems and carols I rolled into little scrolls, which are my favorite element of the calendar (though I doubt my kids will feel the same): a subtle way to highlight the meaning of a season full of transcendence.
You could hang each bag in the branches of a Christmas tree, attach them to a string clothesline-style, or just put them in a bowl jumbled together — whatever works. I used a branch I found in our neighboring woods as an Advent tree.
Just a few of the vintage postcard images I found. The variety and whimsy of these images made this project so much more interesting: