Here at the Scavenger Chic household we have a sad little advent calendar we’ve been using for over 25 years. And every year I see these beautiful advent calendars with little doors and little nooks and crannies and think, I’ve got to step up my game.
Well, my youngest son is turning 17 this year, so it might be kinda late to upgrade the calendar…but what if it could do double duty. What if the calendar was not just an advent calendar, but Christmas decoration too. The idea being that the boxes are there to show the countdown to Christmas, but as each day is marked off, the box comes down and is replaced by an ornament. By Christmas you have a beautifully decorated tree.
No room for a tree? This tree only sticks out from the wall 6 inches.
No room to store a tree? This one could be shoved in the back of a closet.
No falling needles, it has the scent of cedar and it is super easy to build.
My tree is made from these beautiful cedar shingles. Yes, I know I usually use pallet wood, and I probably would this time too, but I actually found these. Yup, a huge stack just laying in the woods waiting for me. I know, that sounds crazy, but not too far from my house is an empty lot. The lot is partially open field and partially wooded. I’ve driven by this lot hundreds of times but it wasn’t until my supply of pallet wood was seriously low that I gave this lot much notice. In this lot, if you were looking (and I was looking), you could see a couple of pallets showing their pretty little heads. Upon closer inspection, were a bunch of piles of leftover construction debris. It looked like a landscape company had been dumping their excess there for years. Some tree stumps, rotting fencing, leftover pavers, some old bricks and a nice pile of these cedar shingles. The shingles on the outside of the pile were getting a nice gray patina, but on the inside of the pile, the shingles looked as new as the day they were cut.
A big “no dumping” sign has since gone up, so I don’t think I’ll be getting any fresh supplies.
Just in case you don’t have anyone doing illegal dumping in your area, you can pick up a nice stack of shingles at the hardware store for about $10.
When you think of advent calendar you usually think of opening something. In my day is was a piece of cardboard with little doors that popped open revealing a Christmas picture.
Once I decided I wanted a tree I had to decide what I could hang from my tree that could open. I didn’t have 24 little boxes just sitting around but I remembered these little origami boxes created from folded paper. One of my sons, not sure which, had made these in school one year from old Christmas cards. You can find instructions here.
I used white mat paper that I already had, but you could easily use old Christmas cards, construction paper or scrapbook paper.
By cutting one square 5 1/2″, and one square 5 inches, you’ll create 2 boxes that fit inside each other.
And so started my assembly line, 48 box sides in total.
I printed out numbers on the computer and modpodged them on the boxes. You could just write the numbers on the boxes, or use leftover scrapbook lettering.
A piece of jute was glued in a loop under one of the folded flaps of the box.
Boxes were done and it was onto the tree.
Initially just laid out the shingles on the floor. The shingles came in two sizes. The narrow shingles were about half the width of the wider pieces.
After laying out my tree, I decided that I liked the narrower shingles better so I chopped all the wider pieces in half lengthwise.
I had a 6 foot 2×3 sitting in my woodpile, so that it what I used as the structure for my tree.
Starting at the bottom, a tree trunk was created by chopping a notch out of a skinny log. The log should be wide enough to cover the 2×3.
The tree trunk was nailed into place.
Starting at the bottom, one piece at a time, lay out your shingles securing as you go. I used heavy duty long staples but you could also nail in place.
As each layer of shingles goes on, it covers the nails or staples from the previous layer.
Even though the tree tapers to a point, none of the shingles were cut, they are all the exact same length of 17 inches. The pointy tree look is just achieved by varying the angle a little more on each level.
The only shingles that were ever cut were those that were at the tip of the tree. Any excess 2×3 can also be cut off when you get to the top.
Originally, I wasn’t going to add ornaments, but once my tree was done, it was in serious need of some bling.
This huge container of ornaments was found at Walmart, but Target, Michaels, big box stores, they all seem to have their own selection in tons of colors. Pick your favorite. These were unbreakable and shatterproof, which is a great quality to have for this project.
A star was made from 2 pieces from the thicker end of the shingles screwed together with a hinge.
The star was nailed into place on top of the tree.
With ornaments and backer, the entire tree sits only about 6 inches from the wall.
After experimenting with cup hooks and 2 different types of finishing nails, I liked the longer, about 1 1/2″, finishing nails the best. Long enough that the ornament wouldn’t just fall off but easy enough to change from the box to the ornament. Remember what I said about unbreakable…well let’s just say that I’m glad that my ornaments were not glass.
The tree is attached to the wall by one single hole d-ring, similar to these sold by Amazon. That d-ring is attached to a single nail. Definitely make sure that nail has found a stud.
While the finished tree is around 6 feet tall, it only weighs about 15 pounds. Both the shingles and the ornaments are fairly light.
Inside the box are more ornaments. As you take each box down, replace it with a shiny ornament.
I don’t know what other people put in their advent boxes/calendars, but I just buy a bag of chocolate and put a piece in for each child. Super easy, and it gives them something to look forward to while they wait for the big day.
I wanted to include the chair to show you how big the tree actually is.
By Christmas, the advent boxes are all gone and what is left is a fully decorated Christmas tree.
When the kids get too old for an advent calendar, skip the boxes and just decorate your tree.
If that tree is too big, you may want to try this smaller tree, also made out of cedar shingles.
Rather have a pallet wood tree? Here is my tree from last year. So many choices….
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