How to create your own Philly-style Advent calendar this Christmas
Make your own Advent calendar -- an amazingly easy DIY project -- and you can bring 24 days full of hyperlocal, Philly-style surprises to someone special in your life this year. Who wouldn't love that?
Want to give a loved one an extra-special Christmas present this year? Start the gifting early by creating 24 days of surprises with this DIY Advent calendar, one that invites you to showcase your burning love for the City of Brother Love, too.
Below, find two dozen Philly-centric gift ideas, all under $15. Most are available online, so you don’t need to hit 24 different stores. Feel free to swap in your own suggestions, too, as you go along.
Once the shopping is finished, it’s time to craft the calendar, a process that is not only surprisingly simple, but relatively inexpensive to execute, too. Allot about an hour to create and assemble the project and also some time to hit up your local arts supplies store.
If you choose, the Advent calendar can be concluded with a bonus, well-over-$15 finale. Whether it’s a gift certificate to your loved one’s favorite restaurant or tickets for a favorite museum or local concert venue, this is where you fill the day’s bag with something that’ll make its recipient feel extra special on Christmas Day.
STEP 1: Go on a shopping spree
Before putting on your crafting cap, get started on buying the gifts. Some items purchased online may require a couple of days in transit before they reach you. For gifts that aren’t expected to arrive until after the start of December (aka, the start of Advent calendar opening), simply designate those items for the final days of the calendar.
STEP 2: Pick up your supplies
Here’s what you need to create the calendar:
Green 4x7″ paper bags (at least 12)
Red 4x7″ paper bags (at least 13)
25 white clothespins
Gold paint marker
Heavy-duty tape or two small nails (for hanging)
Number stencils (optional)
Scissors (not pictured -- hopefully you already own a pair)
All of these items can be found at Center City’s A.C. Moore for about $25, scissors excluded. Most major arts supplies stores should also carry all items on the list.
STEP 3: Start crafting.
Using the gold paint marker, draw the numbers 1 through 24 (or 25, if you’re doing the bonus day) on the front of the paper bags. If you purchased number stencils, now is the time to put them to use. Otherwise, freehand each number as best as you can. As you go along, alternate between green and red bags, or create a pattern of your choice.
Allow the paint marker to dry -- this should takes less than five minutes.
On a large table, arrange all of the bags in three to four rows. Cut a piece of twine that’s long enough to extend across each row, leaving an extra foot of string on each side.
Assembling the layout on a table will help you to visualize how large of a space you’ll need on a wall to actually hang the bags.
Find, or create, an empty space on a wall in your home. Using heavy-duty tape or two small nails, hang the pieces of twine horizontally across the wall.
The twine shouldn’t be pulled taut but instead should hang just slightly loose from end to end.
STEP 4: Place one gift in each bag.
If any gift doesn’t fit, replace it with a piece of paper that identifies the item and tells the recipient where he/she can find it elsewhere in the house.
STEP 5: Use clothespins to hang each bag on the twine.
This is the final step before you bring 24 (or 25) straight days of Philly joy to someone you love.
THE PHILLY GIFTS
DAY 1: Merry Grittsmas Card
This is where you explain to your partner, friend, family member, or other loved one receiving this gift why you’re as smitten with them as Philly is with Gritty. Here, you can also share your love for the City of Brotherly Love and offer a small insight into what’s to be expected for the remainder of the Advent calendar journey.
Where to find: etsy.com
DAY 2: Tastykake of your choice
If you aren’t sure which Tastykake is your loved one’s favorite, opt for the Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. Introduced in 1931, the peanut-butter-and-chocolate cakes are Tastykake’s top-selling item.
Price: Vary per treat variety
Where to find: Convenience stores, Five Below, Amazon, gas stations, etc.
DAY 3: La Colombe gift certificate
Espresso is the gift of gods, and La Colombe is arguably Philly’s most Philly of suppliers. Serving up coffee for two dozen years, the java roaster and retailer planted roots here before one single Starbucks (or many of the other cafes that currently saturate the city) ever existed.
Price: $10 and up online, $5 up and up in-store
Where to find: lacolombe.com or in-store
DAY 4: LOVE Ornament
'Tis the season for LOVE, and the most Philly representation of it deserves a prime spot on your Christmas tree. Paint your own with the colors of your choice or opt for the classic red.
Price: $1.75 (paint your own); $5 (red)
Where to find: Etsy - paint your own or opt for classic red
DAY 5: Custom Eagles M&Ms
Our Super Bowl champs might not be doing so hot this season, but customized M&Ms make for a winning gift regardless.
Where to find: mymms.com
DAY 6: SEPTA KEY CARD + ONE FREE RIDE OR TWO
Don’t leave your loved one out in the cold. Winter is prime time to utilize Philly’s public transportation system.
Price: $7.45 for card and one ride; $9.95 for card and two rides
Where to find: SEPTA Transit Sales Offices, Center City Regional Rail Sales Offices, the 1234 Market St. lobby fare kiosks, fare kiosks at all Broad Street and Market Frankford Line stations, fare kiosks at select bus loops, and at select retail locations. For a full list of locations, visit septa.org/key/sales-test.html.
DAY 7: Creed II ticket
Michael B. Jordan is certainly worth going over the daily $15 Advent calendar allotment -- in other words, don’t forget to also gift yourself a ticket as part of Day 7′s surprise.
Price: Ticket prices vary per theater
Where to find: creedthemovie.com
DAY 8: Mutter Museum Mega Colon Postcard
For under a dollar, you can score a depiction of what just might be the Mutter Museum’s greatest conversation starter -- the 40-pound, 30-inch mega colon of a 29-year-old man who often went weeks without defecating. While the backstory it isn’t super cheery, the postcard that results stands as the ultimate Philly Gag gift component of this Advent calendar.
Where to find: muttermuseumstore.org/products
DAY 9: Federal Donuts gift card
Fried, sweet Philly goodness for your favorite sweetheart.
Where to find: store.cooknsolo.com/collections
DAY 10: Asher’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
These highly addicting treats are a local favorite, but if peanut butter cups aren’t your gift recipient’s preferred chocolate choice, Asher’s has plenty of other treats from which to choose.
Where to find: ashers.com/product
DAY 11: Cheesesteak coupon
This is a handmade coupon — yes, you need to cut out a rectangle of paper and write this coupon yourself — for a late-night meal at one of Philly’s finest cheesesteak spots to be redeemed at any time of day.
Price: The cost of the cheesesteak that your partner-in-crime chooses
Where to find: Handmade by you!
DAY 12: Wawa Jawn pin from Philadelphia Independents
Two quintessential Philly concepts come together on this beautiful sunrise-patterned pin.
Where to find: In-store at Philadelphia Independents, 35 N. 3rd St., or online at philadelphiaindependents.com/shop
DAY 13: Art in the Age 2 oz. Bloody the Vampire Slayer
All that this garlicky, small-batch Bloody Mary mix needs is a shot of vodka, and brunch at home becomes instantly, and stylishly, boozy.
Where to find: shop.artintheage.com/products
DAY 14: Shane Confectionery chocolate-covered pretzels
Shane Confectionery started selling sweets in Philadelphia (at 110 Market St.) back in 1863. After 155 years of creating candies, we’re confident their box of salt-sprinkled, chocolate-covered pretzels won’t disappoint its receiver.
Where to find: shanecandies.com/shop
DAY 15: Philadelphia Phillies Pro Jersey Can Kaddy
What could make tailgating a Phillies game better than drinking a beer out of a miniature, pinstriped jersey?
Where to find: fanatics.com
DAY 16: Philly Pretzel Factory soft pretzel
This one will require some extra effort, as it’s highly recommended that you wait until Day 15 to buy Day 16′s gift. (Hence why we saved pretzel day for a Sunday.) While no one likes them stale, fresh soft pretzels are a rite of passage for every Philadelphian, this Advent calendar included.
Where to find: Multiple in-store locations exist throughout the twist
DAY 17: Philly socks from Philly Socks
Allowing freedom to ring with each cozy step
Where to find: In-store at Philly Socks, 11 N. 3rd St., or phillysocks.com/products
DAY 18: Eagles bottle opener
Whether you’re celebrating a win or drowning the sorrows of a loss, an Eagles bottle opener is always a handy item to have.
Where to find: Amazon at amazon.com/Siskiyou-Philadelphia-Eagles-Bottle-Opener/dp/B002ZHKPPQ/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1542296393&sr=8-3&keywords=philadelphia+eagles+bottle+opener
DAY 19: Six-pack of Yards Brewing Company beer
Now that you’ve got a brand spankin' new bottle opener, it’s time to put it to use. Obviously an entire six-pack of beer can’t hang from your wall, so treat yourself to one from the pack and save its bottle cap to place inside of Day 19′s bag. Store the rest of the bottles in the back of the refrigerator.
Price: Six-packs vary per variety of beer; $9.99 for Yards Pale Ale
Where to find: Nearly any local beer store will have Yards beer stocked
DAY 20: Reading Terminal Market Gift Card
With luck, your gift receiver will end up spending way more than $5 at Philly’s food-filled oasis known as the Reading Terminal Market, and you’ll come out benefiting on the other end.
Where to find: reading-terminal-market.myshopify.com
DAY 21: Rum Ham It’s Always Sunny tote bag
“Eating your drinks? That’s genius." You can’t always get what you want at the grocery store, but this bag will make it at least feel like the infamous It’s Always Sunny rum ham can be part of your purchase.
Where to find: Etsy at etsy.com/listing/640993274/rum-ham-tote-bag
DAY 22: Trust the Process Sticker
There’s no better motto to slap on your laptop and reflect on mid-workday.
Where to find: redbubble.com/
DAY 23: Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews
As the Philadelphia Phillies once said, Peanut Chews are “the only chew a player needs.”
Price: Generally $1.79 for king-size and $0.25 for individuals
Where to find: Convenience stores, Five Below, Amazon, gas stations, etc.
DAY 24: Goodnight Philadelphia
“Good morning Schuylkill River. Are we ready for a wonderful day?” Giving one of the most classic of children’s books a Philly-centric twist, Goodnight Philadelphia deserves a spot on the coffee table, whether you have kids or not. Use it as a sweet goodnight to your Advent calendar.
Where to find: Amazon at
(Optional) Christmas Day: Gift certificate/tickets for your favorite Philly restaurant, concert venue, sports team game, or museum
Create a personalized and extra special ending to your Advent calendar by selecting tickets to a favorite Philly location of your gift recipient or by booking a reservation at his/her top-choice restaurant for a dinner on you.
Price: Varies per choice
Where: Location of your choice