In celebrating and marking Advent in our family, I am always eager to find the balance that gives space for the thrills of anticipation, the squeals of just how close we are getting, and the bursting excitement, with an assurance that we ride the crest of that wave all the way in, not find ourselves struggling under the water, gasping for breath with sand filling our bathing suits.
In my own childhood we got a beautiful paper Advent calendar every year. How I loved opening those doors. Little doors… magic like no other can hide behind little doors. The wondering, the guessing, and the discovery of what lies behind is really the experience of crawling down and through one’s own imagination. With this spirit in mind and wishing to create a way to mark Advent in a delightfully simple but exciting way, I have put together directions for making a paper Advent calendar.
Watercolor paper or cardstock
Thin black permanent marker
Cutting mat or surface
Double-sided tape, glue dots or glue stick
First decide on what you want for the main picture of your calendar. Watercolored paintings by yourself or a child, a recycled printed image or photographs can all work well. For this tutorial, I have opted to use a pen drawn and watercolored picture I created. The image is from the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas, which is a favorite of my girls. I designed the calendar so the final Christmas Eve door reveals the “poor man gathering winter fuel” – an image from the end of the first verse. Regardless of what you choose, you will need to have a piece of graph paper of the same size as your main image. You will also need to have in mind 24 small images for behind the doors. Take a moment and assign each small image a number 1-24.
Stack the graph paper on top of the main image, matching the corners and edges carefully, and hold the two sheets to a light source.
Using the graph squares as a guide, plan out 24 rectangles and/or squares for your doors. Mark each with the number corresponding to the small picture you want behind that door location.
Cut out each rectangle from your graph paper using a craft knife. Write the number for each space above its opening so you can remember which small picture belongs there.
On a separate piece of watercolor paper, use a pencil to trace the cut-out rectangles and label them with their corresponding numbers. Into each rectangle, with a permanent marker, draw the picture you planned out for that door. Use your eraser to remove any pencil marks once the picture is drawn in marker.
When all the pictures are drawn, paint them with watercolors.
Now use the same cut-out graph paper to mark the main picture sheet. To do so, turn the main picture over so its blank side is facing up. Lay the graph paper, line side down, on top. You need to be sure that you have both sheets facing with the top edge of the paper at the top and the bottom edge at the bottom. Once you have checked the placement, trace three sides of each rectangle onto the back of the main picture. The untraced sides will be the hinges of the doors, so you should consider if you care which direction they open and trace accordingly.
Use the craft knife to cut the three sides of each rectangle that you just marked. Be sure you make full cuts that connect each corner so that the flap will open easily when the time comes. When you are finished, erase any visible pencil marks carefully. Do not open the flaps, you want them to lie completely flat until the time comes to open each door. You can lightly score the fourth side of each rectangle if you wish but I find for the paper I use it is not necessary.
Use the cut-out grid once more to mark the door numbers on the front of the picture with permanent marker.
Assemble the calendar by laying the main picture over top of the page with the small pictures. Once again, be sure that both the top edges are at the top. You can attach the two layers using double-sided tape, glue dots or a glue stick. You need to connect the two pages fully around the edges and at various points through the middle. Be very careful not to attach them at a door. Your calendar is now ready for Advent!
Be patient… but just try to imagine what it will all look like when that last door is opened.
Liv is a homeschooling mama to three girls. She finds celebrating holidays with her little children intoxicating. She blogs at 54stitches.