I made a DIY Illustrated Advent Calendar Nativity Set! Want one too?

I made a DIY Illustrated Advent Calendar Nativity Set! Want one too?

One of the things I love about Portland is the DIY culture. It’s the place where Pinterest ideas are not only born, but actually real (as opposed to just “pinned” so one can, I dunno, feel bad later for not doing it) and more often genuinely about I’m-too-poor-to-buy-that practicality and personal creative expression than about trying to make your home and life look to the world like a twee hipster utopia.

Anyhow, this weekend at Imago Dei Community they are hosting a massive DIY Fair, and I will be sharing one small project I have been wanting to do for some time now, which was constructing my own Advent Calendar to use with my boys as we enter into the Christmas season, where we can count down the days to Christmas in a fun way together.

I know there are a lot of Advent Calendar ideas out there, and some really cool ones that I’m sure I would have LOVED as a kid. You know the ones. A chocolate a day. A Lego figure a day. Fun! But…

This is the first year that my oldest son has started to talk a lot about what he “wants” for Christmas. I know this is natural, especially now that he’s in preschool and having more peer influences. But we’ve been talking to him about how we focus more on the joy of giving and being together as a family than on what we “get,” and our desire to teach our kids to consume less and give more made me wary of setting up a daily scheduled piece of candy or small toy. Instead I wanted to make something myself that would be more about the reason we celebrate.

I settled on the idea of creating a set of magnetic paper figures, essentially, featuring the people and objects that make up the major elements of the Nativity. I’m going to put them all in numbered envelopes I will be stringing up as part of our home Christmas decorations, and each day the boys will open an envelope and get a new piece of a set they will be able to use to tell the story themselves on a magnetic chalkboard.

I’m sure you get the idea. 🙂

Here are what all the pieces look like:



And here is generally what they look like cut out and set up on a magnetic board:


You can also color them in, or even create little paper stands if you feel really creative!


Download a high-res PDF version!

I’ve decided to make these things free for non-commercial use to anyone who wants them. Enjoy! I’d love to see what you do with them! FYI the document is 4 standard letter-sized pages.

Suggested Advent Calendar Order

This is how I am dividing the pieces up over 25 days, starting December 1st and ending on Christmas Day. You can, of course, adjust as you would like. 🙂

Day 1: Mary
Day 2: Joseph
Day 3: Angel Gabriel
Day 4: Donkey
Day 5: Innkeeper
Day 6: Stable
Day 7: Manger
Day 8: Cattle
Day 9: Shepherd 1
Day 10: Sheep 1
Day 11: Shepherd 2
Day 12: Sheep 2
Day 13: Shepherd Boy w/ lamb
Day 14: Angel 1
Day 15: Angel 2
Day 16: Star of Bethlehem
Day 17: More Stars
Day 18: King 1
Day 19: Gold
Day 20: King 2
Day 21: Frankincense
Day 22: King 3
Day 23: Myrrh
Day 24: Camel
Day 25: Baby Jesus

Now, what’s this about a DIY Fair, you ask?

Knowing I am a “Creative Type,” I was asked if I was interested in participating in this DIY Fair, where it’s not about people selling the things they have made, but about sharing with others how to do it. When I started working on my Advent Calendar I knew this was what I wanted to bring and share.

Here’s more info right from the source. If you can make it out, come find me and say hi!


Around here, we don’t just give presents, we give presence.

This Christmas, Imago Dei and Advent Conspiracy would like to invite you to do it yourself! Join us on November 23rd for great eats, live music, and an inspiring collection of DIY gift ideas. Not the crafty type? Not all that artistic? Have no fear. We’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions, tons of examples, and all the information you need to leave here feeling ready to go handmade and heartfelt this Christmas.

Why DIY?

A few years ago, the Imago Dei Community thought: “Instead of celebrating Christmas exchanging gizmos and gadgets, what if we spent that money helping the poor, the brokenhearted, the enslaved?”

Today, this is how Imago Dei does Christmas – by giving more love and spending less money. The money we’ve saved so far by doing Christmas differently has funded a safehouse for trafficking victims in Portland, drilled water wells in Africa, and brought medical supplies to those who desperately need them, but there is still so much more good to be done!

So come, do it yourself, spread a little Christmas cheer, and become a part of the Conspiracy!

When: Saturday November 23rd, 2013, between 10:00am-2pm
[UPDATE: Is it 2015 when you’re reading this? Then the DIY Fair is on November 14th!]

Where: Imago Dei Community Gym : 1302 SE Ankeny, Portland, OR 97214


  • Thank you so much for these adorable pictures of the Nativity story. We are using half sized figures to make Nativity wreaths. Not all of the figures fit on our crepe paper wrapped,paper plate wreaths but they look really good. With much appreciation, thank you.


  • Hello Chris,
    Merci mille fois de partager avec nous tous ces beaux dessins de la Nativité. J’ai cherché longtemps à acheter une crèche de Noël, mais aucune ne me plaisait. Vos dessins sont vraiment chouettes et parfaitement dans le ton que je recherchais. Je vais beaucoup m’amuser à les colorier avec mon fils. Merci encore, c’est super.


    • De rien, Lyna! Je suis tellement heureux que vous les aimez . Joyeux Noël à vous et votre famille .

  • I am making this exact kind of thing for Sunday School for Christmas day. I have painted the boards with magnetic paint and chalkboard paint, and now was just looking for some printable figures. It was one of the few ideas I have come up with myself, not taken from Pinterest, so I was a little disappointed to find my idea wasn’t so original, but at the same time, that means you have done the hard work and I can use your absolutely PERFECT (since they were intended for the exact same purpose) figures. Thank you soooo much!


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