Things to make and do
Image: Advent Calendar craft

Create Your Own Advent Calendar

To start your count down to Christmas, we've got everything you need to create a brilliant Advent calendar, with heroes of English history and a secret message from Santa hidden behind every door!

Image: German illustrated calendar from the 19th century

Start the clock

The word 'advent' comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning 'arrival' or 'coming'. In Christian communities around the world, Advent is the four-week period before Christmas, when they remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The tradition of counting down the days to Christmas on an Advent calendar is thought to have originated in Germany during the 19th century, when sheets of festive pictures, sometimes arranged as a clock, were sold to mark the passing of the days. In the years between the First and Second World Wars, these evolved into calendars with 24 doors that could be opened to reveal a festive picture beneath.

Image: Chocolate advent calendars

Sweet Treats

By the 1950s, Advent calendars were being produced and sold in Britain, with the first chocolate Advent calendar appearing in 1958. However, these were more expensive and were slow to catch on. Britain's most well-known chocolate company, Cadbury, produced its first chocolate calendar in 1971, but it was another 22 years before it put them into continuous production in 1993.

Recent years have seen the creation of more luxurious Advent calendars, with daily treats of toys and gifts for children, or food and drink for adults.

Image the English Heritage advent calendar with Victoria and Albert

Make Your Own

To help you count down the days until Christmas, we've got everything you need to create your own history-inspired calendar. Hidden behind every door, you'll find heroes of English history, from prehistoric times to the present day, and letters to complete a secret message from Santa!

To get started simply print out the pages and follow the instructions below.

Download the templates here

Step-by-step guide

Image: Advent calendar print outs and ruler, craft knife, scissors, glue and Blu tack


- A ruler
- A craft knife or scalpel
- Scissors
- Glue
- Blu Tack

  • Step 1

    Print off the templates in colour. You should have four pages in total.

  • Step 2

    Ask your grown up to cut along the dotted lines to cut out the doors on the front of your calendar, using a ruler and a craft knife or scalpel.

  • Step 3

    Take the page with the images of the heroes of history and put a line of glue around the four edges of the page. Now glue along each of the four lines marked on the middle of the page and stick it to the back of the front of your calendar, so the pictures are visible through each of the doors.

  • Step 4

    Now cut out the information panels and stick them on the backs of the doors with the corresponding numbers.

  • Step 5

    Finally, glue around the four sides of the page with the boxes for your secret message from Santa and stick this on the back of your calendar, ready to be filled out every day.

  • Step 6

    Close the doors of your calendar, using a small piece of Blu Tack to hold them closed if necessary, and enjoy!

Discover More Christmas goodies

  • The Twelve Days of Christmas

    Everyone knows the popular song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas', but what is it actually about? Find out what they were and see how the Tudors celebrated Christmas.

  • Christmas Dinners Through History

    Explore festive feasts through history, from prehistoric midwinter feasts, to Tudor banquets fit for Henry VIII and a more modern dinner in the 1930s that you might even recognise. 

  • Why Do We Eat Gingerbread at Christmas Time

    Lots of people enjoy gingerbread, and at Christmas some even make beautifully decorated houses from this baked treat. Find out why it's associated with this time of year, and follow our recipe to make your own.

'step into englands story