Make Your Printable Advent Calendar

by mihgasper

Do you want to learn how to make a printable advent calendar? You can create a unique one and share it with your friends for a lovely holiday experience.

Advent is a time of expectations and calendars are a traditional way to count down to one of the most popular holidays in the world - Christmas. This article will show you a step-by-step process to create your very own printable advent calendar to enhance a holiday experience and light some sparkles in the eyes of children who are the most thankful costumers of the advent season.

We will start with some raw material, available for free. We'll use an open-source (also completely free) program for the design, adapt the creation for printing, and show how to promote the final design if you want to share it with a wider (why not worldwide) audience.

Step 1 - The Idea

An advent calendar is typically made of 24 or 25 units, one for each day in December, starting with December 1 and ending with December 24 (Christmas Eve) or December 25 (Christmas).

Please note that Advent time is originally based on the liturgical year which is also called Christian year. It always starts on Sunday, so the first day of Advent is not a fixed day (December 3 in 2023, December 1 in 2024, November 25 in 2025, etc), so the 'real' Advent calendar has a variable number of days for each year.

For practical and commercial reasons most of us start the famous countdown to Christmas on the first day in December and most calendars mark the first 24 days in December sometimes adding something extra for Christmas Day.

We will go with the flow and create a calendar with 24 ideas for days (evenings, actually) before Christmas. Classic commercial advent calendars offer quotes, devotions, small (or not-so-small) gifts, or family activities to make these days special. For our purpose, we will suggest the reading of fairy tales, one for each evening in December.

Storytelling, after all, is a traditional activity, perfectly suitable for the Advent time.

Step 2 - Getting the Material

We will need 24 illustrations of fairy tales. The selection is up to you. Graphics of Public Domain illustrations are available all over the internet at sites like Archive.org, OpenClipart.org, Pixabay.com, and so on. For practical reasons, we decided to use illustrations by Carl Offterdinger, Fedor Flinzer, and Emil Dolleschall who all excelled at the beginning of the 20th century. Their pictures are amazing and look a bit old-fashioned which makes them even better for our purpose of connecting the Advent feeling of the present with centuries of tradition.

We will use the illustrations from the book roughly translated Nice Fairy Tales. They are available here and here.

We have to download all the pictures to the folder of our choice. The order of pictures (fairy tales) is not essential. We will use the exact sequence from the book but you can change it if you want.

If we put all the illustrations on one page only, they will be pretty small, so we decided to make this printable advent calendar on two pages, suitable for printing on ISO (International standard) and American standards which slightly differ by format.

Step 3 - Program for Design

To create the calendar in the desired format we need a computer program. The most popular programs are Microsoft Office Word (not the best for graphic design) and Adobe Photoshop but both programs are quite expensive, which led us to choose a great open-source alternative.

Inkscape is a free alternative to commercial programs for computer design. It is driven by an enthusiastic community that constantly improves the program without charge. Of course, there is a chance to donate to the developers if you want.

Inkscape can be downloaded for free. Just choose your operating system (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) and the version you prefer (standard or portable). Whatever you decide, the program will do the job without a problem. After downloading you'll need to install it.

Step 4 - Computer Design

After installation, run Inkscape. A blank window will appear with some menus around the screen. Don't be overwhelmed by numerous options because for our purpose we'll only need some basic point-and-shoot clicking and a couple of specific commands.

make-advent-calendar-1

We have to insert all the elements. This means 12 graphic files for each page of this two-page advent calendar. Inserting in Inkscape is simple, just simultaneously press Ctrl and I (ctrl-I) and choose your file. A dialog like this will appear:

make-advent-calendar-2

Don't worry. All default settings are fine. Just press Enter.

make-advent-calendar-3

Then repeat the process until all your pictures are on the screen. Arrange them in the desired order.

A hint: there's an option to use a grid, so you'll easily manage distances and alignments. Just press shift-# to set it on or off, however and whenever you like it. The grid is for display only. It will not be printed.

make-advent-calendar-4

Inkscape can write too. This means we can add numbers of the days of Advent or just simply the titles of the stories. Just click the position where you want to write and press T. Small line editor will appear. Of course, you can play with a huge selection of fonts, effects, and sizes.

We decided to use titles without numbers. You can also add the title of the calendar or add a dedication.

make-advent-calendar-5

That's all. Just export it in the desired format (ctr-shift-E: 794 pixels width). We opted for PNG and the file is ready to send by e-mail or publish online.

Step 5 - Promotion

There are numerous ways to promote your work (check my article about portfolio sites) but in my experience, a mixture of everything is the best. This includes blogging websites like Altervista, bookmarking services like Diigo, content marketing platforms like Contently, and social networks like Plurk.

Step 6 - Something Extra

You can print this calendar on white cardboard and cover the images with some easily removable material. This way the recipient of such a homemade gift with a personal touch won't know what to expect in the next few days which further adds to the thrill of anticipation.

Happy Advent!

Updated: 12/09/2023, mihgasper
 
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mihgasper on 12/05/2023

I prefer quality paper, but it' really up to you, DerdriuMarriner.

mihgasper on 12/05/2023

In my opinion, the last tale should be the one which is the most important to you. The one most in tune with your values.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/02/2023

Such timely, timeless content and presentation call for this advent calendar's permanent inclusion among family-history and genealogy materials for generations to cherish and pass on.

What is the best material to make this fairy-tale advent calendar look good this Christmas 2023 and every Christmas thereafter (when it takes a back seat to the advent calendar 2024 ;-D)?

DerdriuMarriner on 12/01/2023

It appeals more and more to me the inclusion of a 25th door or window!

What fairy tales could show up in that door/window 25?

(Do you know the saying that God never closes a door without opening a window?)

DerdriuMarriner on 11/30/2023

Thank you!

May I just restate -- one last time, I promise ;-D -- my observation since the third comment box down excluded -- perish the thought and the action! -- your picture calendar from the calendar-related, three-wizzley lineup that so impresses me?

My comment as the fourth down from this one meant to say "Your two wizzlies about advent calendars and about picture calendars and Tolovaj's wizzley about advent calendars are the most excellent around!"

The three calendars as individual wizzlies and together as calendar-related how-tos tell readers all they need to know!

mihgasper on 11/30/2023

No problem, Derdriu. Me and Tolovaj know each other well and we already collaborated at several projects.

mihgasper on 11/30/2023

You don't have to be limited with space. After all, you are limited by your own creativity. You can make a treasue hunt for instance, just squeeze a note with some hints into the window of specific day and let the receiver hunt for the treausure. Or you can put a gift certificate in and go shopping together. It's really up to you.

DerdriuMarriner on 11/29/2023

Please accept my apologies!

My previous comment considered your present advent calendar and a previous one.

Instead, I meant to say your picture-calendar wizzley and Tolovaj's advent-calendar wizzley.

DerdriuMarriner on 11/29/2023

Thank you!

Your two wizzlies about advent calendars are the most excellent around!

In particular, I consider your fairy tale-themed calendar and your fairy-tale readings elucidating and entertaining for me to carry out.

Advent calendars on this, Unitedstatesian side of the Atlantic pond, since 1907, sometimes domicile chocolate teardrop-shaped candies known as Hershey Kisses. Internet sources don't display the advent calendar with the 24-25 candies.

So I have no idea whether the daily chocolates were affixed to the advent calendar or kept nearby in their box.

What procedure have you come across for big jig saw-pieceablelike toys and small toys and stamps and stickers?

Stamps and stickers might fit inside the daily doors. But what about the rest of your excellent, more substantial-sized suggestions?

mihgasper on 11/28/2023

It's up to your imagination and your budget. The calendar on this page suggests reading stories but all quality time counts. You can tell jokes, if you don't have time for stories. Or you can offer dance lessons, card tricks, etc. Material gifts involve small toys, maybe pieces of a bigger toy, so you are actually solving a puzzle, another option is candy, of course, maybe one inspiring quote for every evening, or a sticker or a stamp for collectors, ... If you know the receiver you should know best.


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