How to Make a Yule Countdown Calendar

Advent Calendar

Over the past year I’ve softened a lot on the blending of pagan Yule traditions and Christian/secular Christmas traditions. One of my personal favorite traditions growing up was an advent calendar; probably because I got a present every day. Regardless of my dubious childhood motivations, below are some ideas of how to adapt an advent calendar to a pagan tradition that I call a Yule Countdown Calendar. I hope your family enjoys it. (And yes, I know it’s November, I’m just excited about the upcoming holiday season.)

What’s a Yule Countdown Calendar?

The word “advent” is a play on the Latin word for “coming” because, I guess, Christmas is coming and everyone is excited. This Yule Countdown Calendar works the same way, Yule is coming to let’s get excited about it. Traditionally, an advent calendar has 24-25 days, depending on whether there’s an extra gift on Christmas. The Yule Countdown Calendar should have 19-23 days, depending on a number of factors. If you want a box on the day of Yule, that day will be included, if not, the last box should be the day before. If you celebrate Yule on December 21st, that’s either 21 boxes (day of Yule included), or 20 boxes (last box on Yule eve). If you celebrate Yule as the Winter Solstice, the date will change from year to year, and you can adapt the Yule Countdown Calendar accordingly.

How Does it Work?

Every morning up to and/or including Yule, one item on the Countdown Calendar is opened, but only one a day. On December 1st item #1 is opened, on December 2nd item #2 is opened, and so on. If your calendar stops on Yule Eve, that gift is usually a bit fancier. I suggest making the last day Yule Eve since the gifts will steal the show on Yule. However, if the Yule Countdown Calendar is the whole gift, then Yule day should be included, and it should be the ‘big’ gift. If you have multiple witchlings, you know they count gifts and compare; giving everyone a Yule Countdown Calendar shuts down the fairness-based whining pretty effectively.

What is it Made From?

The variety of forms that the Yule Countdown Calendar takes are endless. There are a ton of pre-made calendars, or you can make you own, which is a really fun pre-Yule craft. It can be as elaborate as you want, with some shops selling special, reusable calendar systems, and there are a ton of elaborate displays available online. The downside is that these are always pre-numbered up to either 24 or 25. In this case, paint over the number you don’t need at the end, or remove them, if feasible. I think inexpensive Yule Countdown Calendar systems are just as good, but if it’s cheap it’s also likely to be disposable. If you want to test it out once, try cheap and disposable; if you love the idea, buy some more expensive yet reusable.

You can also get number small bags, or decorate paper lunch bags; if your family is crafty, people could be in charge of decorating their own Countdown Calendar bags. Alternatively, you can put 20 little packages under the tree, or do what my family did, and hang a small gift bag on your witchling’s door, placing a new item in it every night while they are sleeping. This is the most affordable option of all, costing only a few dollars a year.

If using a Yule Countdown Calendar to replace a one-day gift bonanza, you could give each gift a code on the tag, like a sticker or stamp, and you would need two stickers per gift. Place one on the gift itself, then another inside the Yule Countdown Calendar, place a slip of paper for each day that tells the recipient what to open, ie: “Day 1: Open [gold star sticker].” It’s a fun way to make the days leading up to Yule exciting, as well as get more fun out of your holiday shopping dollar. Plus, if you want to take the presents out of Yule day completely, it’s a good way is to give them all out before Yule arrives.

What Should I Put Inside?

The short answer is: anything you want. The long answer is: it depends on the size of the containers, who the gifts are for, and what the Yule Countdown Calendar is in your household. Our family used it as a sort of holiday pre-game, and nothing inside was over $5 aside from maybe one $20 present on a random day. I remember getting a roll of film once (remember those?), a single fancy chocolate, a pack of gum, things like that. If your Yule Countdown Calendar is replacing the traditional gift pile, you would likely get your recipient what you would have gotten them anyway, then disperse them over the countdown days. Adjust the gifts to the recipient; below are two lists of ideas, one for witchlings and one for adults, and yes, mature teenaged witches might be able to handle candles, but they’re on the adults list anyway. Pick and choose!

Some ideas for items to add to your witchling’s Yule Countdown Calendar include:

  • Animal figurines (Yule/seasonal animals)
  • Books
  • Candies (with correspondences)
  • Cookies (add to calendar the morning of)
  • Costume jewelry (inexpensive, seasonal)
  • Craft supplies (age appropriate)
  • Drawing
  • Dream charm bag
  • Family craft (if project needs supervision)
  • Gum (with correspondences)
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Note from you
  • Ornaments (if you have a Yule tree)
  • Outing (like a trip to the park)
  • Pens or pencils (seasonal)
  • Poem (written by you or a seasonal poem)
  • Stickers
  • Small toys
  • Story (seasonal)

Some ideas for items to add to an adult’s Yule Countdown Calendar include:

  • Altar decorations
  • Beauty products (bath bombs, scrubs, etc.)
  • Book of Shadows/Grimoire supplies
  • Books (miniature if your calendar is small)
  • Candles (chime candles if they’ll fit) and holders
  • Crystals
  • Fancy chocolates (with correspondences)
  • Gift card ($5)
  • Handmade coupons (date night, chores, etc.)
  • Incense
  • Jewelry (inexpensive, seasonal)
  • Love note (for significant other)
  • Ornaments
  • Pens or pencils (seasonal)
  • Poem (written by you or a seasonal poem)
  • Stationery (notebooks, washi tape, etc.)
  • Tarot or oracle deck
  • Tea
  • Tickets (or you can make homemade tickets for a movie night at home)


The ideas above are just a jumping off point, you know your recipient well enough that, once you start writing things down, you’ll have a ton of ideas. If you have an artist in the family you can get art supplies, books for your reader, or herbs for your green witch, the possibilities go on and on. A Yule Countdown Calendar doesn’t have to be expensive, all it should be is fun. I hope that you all enjoyed these ideas and if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Blessed be, friends.


Stock image by Torsten Dettlaff via Pexels

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