5 Ways to Fill an Advent Calendar

November 20, 2014

Today: Don't sit there and wait anxiously for the holidays to arrive. Make the countdown epic this year -- here are 5 ways to do it.


In a recent poll around our office, we realized some people are not familiar with the glory that is the holiday advent calendar. So, we’re here to break it down for you -- and tell you about our five favorite ways to fill one.

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An advent calendar counts down the days from December 1 through December 25. Traditionally they’re filled with chocolates or little pictures behind paper doors. We love the idea of marking each day with a small surprise -- it makes the anticipation almost as exciting as Christmas morning itself. Consider this: Would you rather have 26 days of things to open, or 1? We thought so.

Now that we’re all on the advent calendar train, here are five creative ways to fill them -- we’re using a pretty burlap one from IceMilk, but any kind will do.

Method 1: Ornaments

Small ornaments are just the right size for tucking into advent calendar pockets. The best part of opening a new ornament every day is that you’ll be trimming the tree right up until Christmas morning.

Method 2: Recipes

We learned this brilliant idea from our photo stylist Alexis: Pick five simple recipes (eggnog, hot chocolate, and sugar cookies all work well) -- one for each row of five days. In the first four days, hide the ingredients needed to make your recipe. On the fifth day, hide a note with the recipe itself. 

We did it with eggnog in the calendar below, with the following pieces:

  • A miniature whisk
  • A tiny glass jar of allspice
  • Whole nutmeg
  • A bundle of cinnamon sticks
  • A folded-up recipe

Method 3: Notes

Come December, there are so many wintry things we want to do -- like sledding, drinking spiked hot cocoa, singing carols, and watching old Christmas movies -- that it can be hard to decide where to start. So write down a different activity for each day, tuck them in your advent calendar, and make it all happen.

Method 4: Candy

During the holidays, there should always be chocolate and candy -- or both -- to look forward to. So logically, we support a calendar that gives us something sweet every day. Choose small items like mints, peanut butter cups, or sour gummies, and wrap them up in wax paper. 

Method 5: Miniature gifts

Sometimes it’s not the present itself that counts, but the act of opening it. In that spirit, gather little trinkets (animal-shaped erasers, temporary tattoos, a holiday cookie cutter) and stuff one in every pocket.

Tell us, do you have an advent calendar and how do you fill it?

Photos by James Ransom 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jessica
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    Colleen Christian
  • molly yeh
    molly yeh
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Jessica December 11, 2014
I put pieces of a puzzle (interspersed with chocolate) for my kids into our Advent Calendar. Then I wrap up the puzzle box, with any remaining pieces, and give it as a gift on Christmas morning.
minipanda November 22, 2014
In the UK, you can get an advent calendar of Scotch with a different dram each day. But pricey though.
Colleen C. November 21, 2014
I save little goodies all year from trips or adventures we have had together (and then mix in candy and little holiday decorations, too!) I love the moment of revisiting a special time together for even just a moment, and my three daughters seem to really look forward to seeing what I have come up with!...Now that two of my daughters are in college, I make a separate one for them to open at school until they come home!
molly Y. November 20, 2014
i love all of these ideas!!!! my man's bday falls right at the end of november, so last year i gave him an advent calendar filled with all sorts of little tchochkes. that recipe idea is perfect though... if only he could cook...