I take a still from my favourite Christmas film: It's a Wonderful Life, and I sketch it. I keep the trees, some cars, the Christmas decorations, and I leave out the shops and the busy street.
Instead, I draw our library and the campus path that leads down to it. In the foreground I draw the children playing in the snow. Max is lassoing the moon, George Bailey style, Charlotte is building a snow man with a zombie-Hermey. I use ink, watercolour, cutting and pasting, glitter glue and white gouache for the snow. For the cars I cut out some of Max's latest pictures.
Meanwhile, Charlotte is hard at work on the boxes. Cut out of construction paper and folded, each one has to be decorated individually. I do a few by gluing stills from the film, I get Max to do couple as well, with pastels on brown paper. Charlotte does most of the rest.
The presents can't just go in the boxes, of course. That would be far too easy. I dig out some small bits of material from a bag, and we saw them into twenty four little bags to be tied with ribbon.
Bill is called in on the last few nights for the heavy work: gluing the boxes together into a frame he constructs out of the same paper. I cut out the doors on the picture. The tiny toys go in the bags and into the boxes. We glue the cover on. It only just fits. And we put it up.
Max is the first to open: Charlotte will take the even days so she gets Christmas eve. He comes in the morning and looks at it, starry eyed. 'Oh, it's beautiful'.
You can find last year's advent calendar here, and the ones before here.