When I was young, advent calendars contained nothing more than a picture. Chocolate advent calendars were ultimate luxury when they came out, and felt like a real treat when my sister and I finally got them.
Now, everything is advent-calenderised: make-up, candles, gin, even tea-bags are fair game in the modern advent calendar. And that’s without getting into the high-end offers. They are all expensive. And they all encourage waste.
Instead, opt for a nature advent calendar. Create an adventure kit (see below) and write out the following on slips of paper. Put them in envelopes, date them and give them to the recipient to open on the appropriate day (if it’s just for you, skip this step, unless you really like opening envelopes. Just follow the list instead.) You can swap dates round if the weather changes/you want a Christmas tree ahead of Christmas Eve.
- Feed the ducks (include bird-seed)
- Find a flower and press it (use a flower press or put it between pieces of paper in a heavy book).
- Make a leaf rose.
- Plant native wildflowers.
- Make a pine cone hedgehog or Christmas tree.
- Make natural toiletries.
- Plant bulbs in containers or the garden. (They make lovely Christmas gifts).
- Make a miniature garden using nature finds.
- Draw a flower. Study it closely to capture every detail.
- Make a bird feeder from an old milk carton.
- Tell stories around an outdoor fire (Include marshmallows to toast as an extra treat. Hot cocoa in a thermos optional. Use a barbecue if a fire is tricky.)
- Make origami seed packets.
- Visit a hedgehog sanctuary. They’re generally busy at this time of year but will appreciate support in the form of pet food or medical supplies. Alternatively (or as well) leave food out for hedgehogs and see if you can spot any.
- Make an apple doll.
- Stargaze. There are loads of free astronomy apps. Just add blankets and cocoa or soup in a thermos (perhaps a hip flask…)
- Make an autumn posy. Collect seed heads and grasses that look pretty. Add ribbons and feathers to create a seasonal bouquet.
- Go bird watching. ID the birds you spot using online guides.
- Make a cress-head (plant cress in an egg shell after decorating it to look like a person’s head).
- Go foraging. Bullace and damsons are still around, or forage for holly and ivy to make seasonal decorations.
- Make fat-balls for the birds. Just add fat to bird seed, put string though it and hang outdoors in a cat-safe area.
- Create a Christmas wreath (There are loads on online guides. Use a coat hanger as a base then tie or glue greenery and baubles to the base.)
- Make a quill pen.
- Eat chocolate and watch the sun set (one full size bar is way better than 24 advent calender chocolates).
- Choose a live Christmas tree and decorate it.
- Make a festive table decoration using greenery and pinecones.
All you need to buy is bird seed, wildflower and cress seeds, colouring pencils and bulbs.
You’ll also need twine (for the leaf rose), food for the hedgehog, a metal coathanger as a base for the wreath, a sturdy feather for quill-making and a clean ready meal tray or similar for the fairy garden. Just add soil plus moss, pebbles and anything else you find on a nature walk that looks pretty.
You may need a barbecue if you don’t have one. Opt for one that isn’t single use to enjoy fires and barbecues year-round. Finally, buy a bar of chocolate for the last day.
These few items aside, a nature adventure advent calendar is much cheaper than one packed with plastic-packaged tat. And you’ll have toiletries, ornnaments for the tree and flowers to enjoy in spring and summer – plus lots of nature advent calendar memories to enjoy.