Advent calendar activities for adventurous families

Advent calendar printable

It’s time to start the countdown. Maybe it’s about being mindful…or counting your blessings…or preempting your kids asking, “HOW MANY DAYS?!?” But part of the fun of December is building the anticipation for Christmas day, and this year we decided to put the “Advent” in “adventure.” We hope you’ll enjoy these twists on Advent calendar activities.

Inspired? Create and share by tagging @HallmarkStores.

Two ways to use these Advent calendar activities  

Super random and highly adventurous
Print out our Advent-ure Calendar Activities, cut them into squares, and drop them in a box or bowl. When your family is looking for something fun to do, pull one out.

Organized and only slightly less adventurous
Print the Advent-ure Calendar Activities, cut them into squares, and add the ones you’d like to try to whatever countdown calendar your family uses. That way you can incorporate our activities seamlessly into busy holiday plans.

We’ve provided a long list below—there are way more than 25 and some extra details about the ones we featured. Just in case you want more advent-ures! (We can’t stop saying that.)

Advent calendar printables on a green backgorund

And now, on to the advent-ures  

For many of us, the holiday season is a time for honoring traditions and revisiting the meaningful holiday family activities we’ve always enjoyed. But it can also be the perfect season to try something new and different—maybe even something downright adventurous.

If your family isn’t afraid to try, taste, learn and mix it up—or even if you simply aspire to be more like that—then why not approach the holidays with a spirit of “advent-ure”?

We’ve brainstormed a list of twists on traditional holiday family fun, making sure to include a range of big and small, as well as free and inexpensive activities. We invite you to try one every day as you count down to your big holiday celebration.

Who knows? You may even find a few things you want to make a permanent part of your holidays. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right?

Advent-ures in food  

  • Pull out that cookie recipe you thought looked too complicated and give it a try. (We believe in you!)
  • Have a cookout in the cold…then go inside to enjoy the hot food.
  • Invent a snack your favorite holiday character would like. Santa Sub? Grinch Chow? Tiny tater tots with their eyes all aglow?
  • Make Reindeer Crunch for Santa’s reindeer. Eat it yourselves. Don’t tell Santa.
  • Decorate a designated cookie plate for Santa with food-safe markers.
  • Instead of sipping plain old hot cocoa, try some spicy Mexican hot chocolate. You can find Ibarra or Abuelita hot chocolate in many grocery stores.
  • Or whip up some white hot cocoa, honey hot chocolate or set up a whole hot chocolate bar.
  • Learn about Hanukkah and try your hand at making latkes.
  • Or try a traditional holiday food from another culture: lutefisk, tamales and mince pies are just a few of the endless options.
Advent calendar ideas

Cultural advent-ures  

  • Twas the Night Before Christmas is great, but it’s not the only read-aloud option. Try The Best Christmas Pageant Ever or another holiday classic instead.
  • See The Nutcracker in whatever genre you vibe with—ballet, hip-hop, tap, jazz or contemporary.
  • Put some oompah in your holidays with a Tuba Christmas performance. Or look for a holiday concert by the Lesbian and Gay Band Association.
  • Skip the usual holiday pop, and relax or work together with Medieval or Renaissance Christmas music.
  • Catch a handbell choir in action—live or online.
  • Learn a carol from another language or culture. And while you’re enjoying a favorite holiday song, take a minute to learn about its history.

Connecting advent-ures  

  • Instead of a cookie exchange, have friends and their dogs over for a treat exchange.
  • Take a holiday from holiday busy-ness and institute a family do-nothing day: Don’t shop, don’t wrap, don’t cook, don’t clean, don’t get out of your jammies…you get the idea.
  • Add a signature touch: Gather around the table and add handwritten notes and family signatures to your holiday cards.
  • Schedule a video call with someone special you won’t see in person this holiday season.
  • Make up new, funny lyrics for a familiar holiday song. Record yourselves singing it and share for all to enjoy.
  • Write and deliver a thank-you to your favorite barista, supermarket checker or someone else who brightens your day throughout the year.
  • Plan a holiday scavenger hunt—around the house, around the neighborhood, or around the whole town!
  • Use geography puzzles to help kids learn about states and countries Santa will visit, and follow Santa on NORAD.
  • Have a tiny snowball fight with mini marshmallows. (Take the showdown outside if you’re worried about the mess.)
  • Some homes have an elf who lurks around in December. Give yours something a little different: Penguin in the Pantry? Mouse in the House? Gingerbread Boy in the John? Doll on the Wall? Use your imagination!
Advent calendar ideas

Faith and spiritual advent-ures  

  • Attend a service at a different church or temple than you usually go to—or at a place of worship from a different faith tradition.
  • Gratitude—it’s not just for Thanksgiving! Keep a holiday-season gratitude journal or post a “daily grateful” on social media.
  • Take time out to pray for, or send good thoughts to, the people who mean the most to you.
  • Meditate for ten minutes. (We all could use a little more holiday peace, right?)
  • Instead of re-gifting, try “pre-gifting”: Buy something you love, then give it away. (Or donate the money you would have spent on it.)
  • Choose meaningful stories, prayers or poems to read at family dinners in December.
  • Light a candle for someone you find difficult. Say a prayer for them and think about their good qualities.
    • Light a candle in honor of someone you’ve lost. Talk about what made that person special.
    • Brainstorm together to make a wish list for the world and humankind.
    • Send an out-of-the-blue card to your pastor or spiritual leader, thanking them for their dedication—especially at this busy time of year.

Advent-ures in creativity  

  • Make a paper-chain garland and write a wish for the coming year on each link. Or string a garland with something more than just popcorn or cranberries—pom-poms, decorated spools, corks (you’ll have to drill holes first), beads or a little of everything.
  • Create a nativity scene using stuffed animals, action figures or candy. Post the results on social media so your friends can see.
  • Instead of movie-watching night, how about movie-making night? Recreate a favorite scene or film or write (or improvise!) your own. Everyone gets a part. (Yes, even pets!)
  • Build gingerbread-style houses out of graham crackers, using royal icing and candy.
advent calendar ideas

Advent-ures in caring and kindness  

  • Choose a local charity to learn about. Make a commitment to volunteer there if you feel called to do so.
  • Visit a care home and spend time talking, playing games, reading, decorating, writing letters or doing puzzles with residents.
  • Make arrangements to host an international student who can’t go home for the holidays at your celebration.
  • Caring challenge: Everyone pick five possessions to give away and go donate them together.
  • Smile at, wave to or hug five people today. (Make sure the hugs are okay with them first.)
  • Shop for a food bank while doing your family grocery shopping.
  • Pick out a good cause to support with a monthly donation. Put your heads together to plan how you will budget for (or earn) the monthly amount.

Nature and outdoor advent-ures  

  • Download a stargazing app and take a look at Mother Nature’s holiday lights.
  • Dress warm and go for a winter hike on a nearby trail. Make it as short or as long as you want, depending on the weather and everyone’s energy levels.
  • Exercise your winter green thumb: Plant an Amaryllis or paperwhite bulb.
  • Run or volunteer together at a holiday-themed 5K race.
  • Visit a state or national forest to see some Christmas trees in their natural, wintry state.