How to Organise a Living Advent Calendar/ Advent Windows in your Community
Bring great enjoyment to your local neighbourhood this December by organising a Living Advent Calendar! Based on the Advent Windows that germanic countries have been decorating for years, the Living Advent Calendar is a way to light up neighbourhoods with some Christmas spirirt and cheer. It is super easy to organise and a fun way to show your creativity and craft lovely windows that light up for Christmas.
What is a Living Advent Calendar? How does a Living Advent Calendar work?
A Living Advent Calendar is a relatively simple concept. Just with a traditional Advent Calendar where children open “one window” each day in the countdown to Christmas.. in the case of the Living Advent Calender, a new holiday window is displayed each day. For a Living Advent calendar you will need 24 windows with different displays, each with a Christmas Window Decoration in month of December! So that by Christmas Eve, you have 24 lovely windows to view. It is a lovely Advent activity to do with neighbours and join with the festive spirit!
These 24 windows can be in different houses of a one street, can be dispersed throughout a village, can be in one large apartment block (how cool would THAT look?!) or be a set of 24 windows in a school! It really doesnt matter…… the key is to decorate a window in a festive manner.. and to only reveal ONE window each day in December!
It is a wonderful way to bring a community together, spread the festive joy and bring some cheer to the dark winter months.
Advent Windows and Living Advent Calendars have become quite the “movement” over the years, especially since Covid in 2020 – as this was a wonderfully covid safe activity, with windows easily viewed at a distance from the pavement. It really did bring some cheer to those dark days. It significantly helped with mental health in the community and gave people something to look forward to every day. Now you will find this Advent activity all over the country.. from the streets of North London, Greenwich, Gloucestershire and Cheltenham..
Some communities come together to for some carol singing, mulled wine, mince pies and chit chat on the first day of advent too. But as with all these local traditions.. make them your own and pick and choose your favourite elements!
What is the difference between Advent Windows and the Living Advent Calendar?
In most areas an advent window display is the same thing as the living advent calendar! It is just a different terminology!
How do you make a Living advent calendar window?
There are LOTS of wonderful ways you can make a Living Advent Calendar Window.. in essences it is just a Christmas Window – it can be like a store window – 3d with figures or models, or it can be a Christmas Window with transparencies and lights.
Many people like to purchase decals (please go to wonderful places such as Etsy for these and avoid the big bad wolf that is Amazon at all costs! Etsy will cost you a little more, but you will be supporting an independent business!). It really is up to you and your community to decide on how simple or complicated to make these!
Popular Christmas Decor and Window Decorations themes include:
- Christmas Tree
- Ornaments and baubles
- Christmas star and snowflakes
- Nativity Scenes/ Christmas story themes
- 12 Day of Christmas
- Santa, Rudolph and snowmen (silhouettes of Christmas characters are always popular!!)
- Candles, gifts and candy canes
- Christmas Stockings
Luckily for us, Advent Windows have been a big thing on continental Europe for years.. so simply do a search for “Advent Windows” or “Holiday windows” In google and you will find fantastic inspration!
Keep in mind though: keep it simple to begin with, you can always add to it later!
Alernatives to the Advent Window
If, for some reason the Window Decorations isn’t something you can make work.. why not consider decorating 24 front doors (or classroom doors) for Christmas? There is nothing to say, you can’t create a living advent calendar for your neighbourhood in different ways!
How to organise a Living Advent Calendar
1. Recruit volunteers for participating houses
There are lots of different ways you can recruit participants! Firstly it depends on where you are doing it and how far your reach is. Eg. decide on whether you are having a Living Advent Calendar on JUST your street, or maybe a village or maybe your living advent calendar is based around a church community or school community – this could be used as PTA fundraisers in your primary school even. It would be a great replacement of cancelled festive markets!
Once you have decided on the scope of your living advent calendar think about how you can reach your participants.
In our case, we have two options – either the immediate neighbourhood, for which we have a whats app group with 160+ participants OR focus on JUST our street – for which we have an email list or could even knock door to door. You can also use your local facebook group or school PTA list to organsie your advent calendar windows.
I confess casting the net wider is good – there are more people you can involve in the advent windows AND it makes for a lovely Christmas walk.. almost like a Christmas Treasure Hunt!
2. Provide some basic instructions
From my experience, it is best to keep instructions as simple and as non restrictive as possible. You want to people to enjoy the process and not be intimidated.. so in essence:
- Not to have too many rules
- Keep it simple
- Involve everyone
- Send everyone examples of previous Christmas Window Decorations (check out our 2020 Christmas Window + collection of final 24 Advent Windows)
You don’t want to put people off by having too many rules or being too drakonian with the the advent windows. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to take part and make it as inclusive as possible. So anything and anyone should be welcomed and no window decoration is considered as “good or bad”.
Having said that, for our (!) Christmas Window we do have TWO rules:
- Get your window ready the night before (we find the night before works best as there is not “time rush” and it means children can see the new window on their walk to school, but some communities like to do a great reveal at a certain time of day.. do what works for you and your advent window participants)
- Be sure it includes the day you are representing (this makes it easier for people to find your window and know you are part of the Chrismas Window Calendar)
3. Create a Map or Host it as a Treasure Hunt
We like to create a little map that we send out to the local community (do not post online!) – it makes it easier for people to find. I share the map again, via the whats app group or the local Facebook group. You can always make copies of a map of the windows and post it through people’s doors too!
Alternatively, you can send out a spread sheet with the addresses OR you can run the Living Advent Calender a bit like a Treasure Hunt or adventure trail – let people know the parameters of your community and they can go off and find them each day! That would be a great way to force little ones out for a walk each day!
I have created a “fake” map based on our 2021 Living Advent Calendar to give you an idea of what a map like this could look like – but lease note.. this is a FAKE map! Ha. Just need to keep things private.
4. Have an informal street Christmas party to count-down and light up the first window
Of course this step is totally optional and depends on what is happening in your area! But many communities love to have a fun count-down for the great reveal of the first Christmas Window (you could of course do this on each of the 24 days, but I am not sure if that is overkill!). But coming together on the frist night, is the best bit of the project! Share some mulled wine, eat some mince piece, get the kids to sign some carols and just have a nice chat!
Afterall the Living Advent Calendar is all about the community! It is a lovely way to meet neighbours and make new connections.
NOTE: Keep any celebrations to the pavement to keep things safe and do not invite strangers into your home (not even to use your loo!).
And remember to keep any launch day activities simple and informal – you don’t want endless discussions and a massive street part at the end of the day! As with all these things SIMPLE IS BEST!
5. Keep People Updated/ Remind them
As the Living Advent Calendar organiser, you will need to keep people reminded/ on their toes! Last year, we had a special Living Advent Calendar whats app group.. this year, I decided to keep it in the “wider” Neighbour’s Group.
The night before each day, privately message the person who is “next up”.. to remind them that their date is coming!
Each morning, the kids and I check that the window has gone up and then we let the wider community know! As our whats app group is quite big, and we don’t want to disturb people, we send updates with a collage of photos every 3-4 days.
6. Share Photos and Thank Everyone
Remember to thank every participant for their window effort! As mentioned before, no window is too simple and no window is too detailed. It is the participation that counts and the that people have gone to the effort to decorate a window for their community.
Make a fuss of everyone!
Take a photo of every window!
if you have time collage them into a final Christmas Advent Window photo and share it with everyone (it is also a useful tool when organsing Living Advent Calendars in the future!