It was always one of the first three Christmas decorations to bring down from the attic…
the carefully packaged Gingerbread Men Christmas Garland, the wooden nativity set crafted by my husband’s brother, David, and the hanging sleighbells original to a sleigh somewhere in Minnesota, one of my Texas finds.
The Gingerbread Man Christmas Garland is a simple home-made Advent Calendar.
I loved the simplicity of it and it was one way to keep my children excited about the Christmas season knowing that each day they would open the folded over gingerbread man to find a surprise activity written on the inside of each day’s paper cut-out – 25 of which were hung playfully across a narrow red ribbon that extended from the outer edges of our wide kitchen window.
Each day in December one paper gingerbread man is removed from the ribboned garland and carefully set aside until next year.
My children still remember their delight in coming down to the kitchen each morning in December and gazing up at the numbered gingerbread men – until being reminded whose turn it was to open the one for that day. I’m not sure when I first started the tradition, but I learned a few lessons along the way which I will share.
The gingerbread men are simply made out of folded brown grocery bags. Using the fold of a brown grocery bag, trace a gingerbread man cookie cutter so that the front and back will be connected at the top of the head. It is helpful to ensure that all sides of the brown paper are blank. Make 25. On the front of each, number from 1 – 25. Hang a narrow festive-colored ribbon across preferably two or three joined windows. Next, work on listing each day’s special event (keep a reminder!) and when ready, print the activity on the inside and hang up evenly spaced across the ribbon.
Christmas activities can be as simple as ‘eat a candy cane.’ It took me one Christmas season to realize that it is helpful to coordinate with the busy holiday calendar when choosing activities. In other words, it’s probably not a good idea for the day’s activity to be ‘make hand-stamped wrapping paper’ or ‘make Christmas cookies’ when the afternoon is packed and there’s a Holiday Concert in the evening. We incorporated our special-planned-ahead family events such as ‘go to Christmas Pops with Grammy & Grampy and Grandma and Grandpa, and kept some days simple with ‘go for a drive to see Christmas lights’ and ‘watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” When all 25 activites are written on the inside, fold each gingerbread man over the ribbon and dab a bit of glue on the bottom to secure each closed.
Some years, we were able to repeat events without making many changes to the inside.
Other years, I would simple cut out a square piece of brown grocery bag, and glue downto the inside on top of the previous activity.
We all had our favorites. Mine was ‘sleep under the Christmas tree’. I still think of that sweet tradition when we bundled up in our sleeping bags under the illuminated tree…when magic was more important than comfort.