Feel less stressed—and more blessed—this holiday season.

By Real Simple
Updated December 04, 2017

’Tis the season to be jolly, and merry, and happy—and stressed! Between shopping for an endless wish list of gifts and spending lots of money on activities and travel, it’s no wonder we tend to lose sight of what’s most important at this time of year. If you’re hoping to prioritize family togetherness over presents and self-care over showy displays, this gratitude advent calendar will serve as your daily reminder. Each day from December 1 to Christmas Day, open one of these pretty little matchboxes to find a small note that will help you refocus on what’s most important. (You can even get the whole family in on the action!) You’ll spend the season feeling more centered and less stressed.

What You Need

  • Slide-top matchboxes (we used these adorable ones from Paper Mart, in the 2x1.25” and 3x1.75” sizes)
  • Colorful washi tape
  • Hole punch
  • Metallic cord
  • Cardstock
  • Small toys, like sticky hands and playing cards

Follow These Steps

  1. Wrap each matchbox in colorful washi tape. First wrap the outside sleeve of each, then wrap the inner box.
  2. Punch a small hole in one of the short sides of the box, then thread the ends of a 7-inch length of cord through. Knot the ends together so that the knot is hidden inside the box and the loop is outside the box.
  3. On cardstock, write out gentle reminders to be kind to yourself (“Take some ‘me’ time today”), fun ideas for connecting with family and friends (“Play a game with your family”), and random acts of kindness (“Give someone a helping hand”). You can write suggestions that are kid-friendly (“Help your brother clean up after lunch”), or focus on you (“Write down 5 things you’re grateful for today”). Place the notes inside the boxes, along with small toys or treats that match each message.
  4. Use the boxes to decorate a small tabletop tree (or hang them from a mantel or branch), and open one box each day as you count down to Christmas.

    The cute tabletop tree featured in this video came from Silvertip Tree Farm. Based in California, this family-owned tree farm ships across the country.