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How To Make An Advent Calendar With An Old Dictionary

In this post, I show you how to make a paper advent calendar with an old dictionary. I have also used many of the wonderful images that have been featured on Pictureboxblue over the year.

Every year I love to make all my boys a different homemade advent calendar, normally from the stuff around me.

When I was clearing out the home office the other week I came across a dictionary I had to literally blow the dust off. I don’t think it had been open for years. I mean who uses a dictionary any more when you have google on your phone?

First, I put the book into the pile to go to the charity shop. Then I thought they probably have loads of them already. Along with maps, dictionaries do actually go out of date. Plus most people use sat navs and online dictionaries.

New roads are built and old maps are no longer reliable and language evolves. Every year hundreds of new words are added to the Oxford English Dictionary, or their definitions get updated.

For example in the latest update of the Dictionary, one of the new words added was chillax.

chillax, v.

 intransitive. To calm down and relax; to take it easy, to chill. Often in imperative: ‘relax’, ‘calm down’.

old dictionary

So even though some of you will hold your hands up in horror, to find that I have torn the pages out of a dictionary to make this advent calendar. I am justifying it by explaining the dictionary in question is out of date and no longer used.

I’m actually giving the dictionary a new use and making it into something fun. Rather than the book just sitting on the shelf unloved, gathering even more dust.

Images And Advent Calendars

In the days before chocolate and gift advent calendars, you used to just have a simple paper advent calendar. Every day, you would just fold back the cardboard door to reveal a Christmas picture or scene.

The excitement as a child was in trying to guess what the picture was going to be, before opening the door. Also, you were one step closer to Christmas day.

With this handmade paper advent calendar, I wanted to homage to that tradition. I have done this by printing a cool vintage image for every day onto the dictionary paper.

I just love vintage illustrations and maps. That is why I set up this site to share the wonderful vintage prints I find. This handmade paper advent calendar is a fun way to showcase those prints that have been featured over the last year.

Don’t worry though I have made the printed dictionary pages into envelopes. So you can also pop a treat for each day inside. I show you how to make an advent calendar for both the traditionalist that like just a picture, and for those that expect a bit more from their advent calendars such as a treat.

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What You Need To Make A Paper Advent Calendar

  • An old dictionary or book. If you don’t have one they are easy to pick up for next to nothing in your charity shop. Or if you really do feel uncomfortable about tearing up an old dictionary, just scan in the pages you want to use instead.
  • Envelope template – you can download it here for free.
what you need

How To Make An Advent Calendar

1. There are hundreds of pages in a dictionary and you will only need 24 for the advent calendar. Instead of randomly choosing the pages to use for the paper advent calendar, I was a bit more targeted.

Originally, I was going to choose pages from the dictionary that had words associated with Christmas on them, such as Noel, eggnog, elf, etc.

open dictionary page

Then, as I was going to print Christmas images on the pages I decided to use the pages related to the image. So for example, if printing a parrot I used the page in the dictionary with the word parrot on it.

2. To print on the dictionary page, I carefully tore it out of the book and then taped it do a sheet of A4 printer paper. I used masking tape for this.

taping page to paper

3. Next, I picked the image I wanted to use and using my computer I arranged it on the page within the envelope template. You can use free software packages such as CANVA to this or even just word.

Now there are thousands of images to choose from on Pictureboxblue. If you are not confident of sizing and removing the background on those images, you can simply use the same ones as me. These have already been resized and had the backgrounds removed. Download them here.

Clip art for homemade paper advent calendar

4. Next, I printed the envelope template outline and the picture onto the dictionary page. You will need to print 24 pages one for each day of the paper advent calendar

I recommend that you do a practice print run first. To make sure you put the dictionary paper in the printer the right way round. I printed a couple of pages upside down before I got it right.

How to make an advent calendar print outs.

5. Next, you can see that I printed out the envelope template onto each page as well as the image. However, you can just make an envelope template out of card and draw around it if you prefer.

Whatever method you use, cut out the envelope shape and fold the printed page along the dotted line. Secure the envelope with some paper glue along the folds at the back.

How to make an advent calendar paper envelope
Printed parrot envelope of a handmade paper envelope advent calendar

6. Finish making all up all the paper envelopes for the homemade advent calendar. Then using a number stencil, write a different number from 1-24 on each envelope.

Stencilling the numbers
Giraffe envelope for advent calendar

7. Next, paint the wooden coat hanger red for a more festive look.

red painted coat hanger

8. Finally, finish off the advent calendar by filling the envelopes with whatever you want. I like to put a small chocolate treat in mine along with a Christmas joke.

finished dictionary envelopes

Then hang the dictionary paper envelopes from the red coat hanger. Simply peg the top of the envelope to the hanging twine. I hang four lengths of twine and then peg six envelopes to each length of twine.

It’s up to you whether or not you hang the envelopes in order. Sometimes I hang my randomly as half the fun of a calendar is looking for the right day.

Book page printed advent calendar.

This handmade advent calendar is educational too. Children can hunt for the dictionary word associated with the picture on the envelope.

I’ve shown how to make an advent calendar with a dictionary but you could use any old book such as a thesaurus or encyclopedia.

This calendar can be used year after year. However, there are over 1000 pages in the dictionary I used, I think I will make a new one each year with a different set of images.

How to make an advent calendar from an old dictionary.

Did you know you can actually embroider the dictionary pages to create an extra fun dimension to this craft.

Many of these images here would look great on one of these decoupage placemats.

If you liked this upcycled vintage image advent calendar, you should check out these other paper Christmas crafts and DIYs on Picture Box Blue that use vintage images.

For more Christmas craft ideas visit allfreeholiday crafts.

23 DIY Advent Calendars for Christmas You Need to See - Nicole Leilani Blog

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

[…] you have an old dictionary around? Try making an advent calendar with an old dictionary. The Picture Box Blue wrote a very detailed post on this […]


Friday 13th of August 2021

Love the advent calendar and see other crafts that look interesting. But I was downloading some animals to begin with. I'm curious, how many months will it be before I get out of this rabbit hole? It's more like a gopher hole with all the tunnels (tabs) I have open to look at later. Is there help for me? Is there a main index or guide or something so I can stay on track and not wander off into other tunnels? BTW, it's so nice to see recent posts from someone connected to a website, like a real person is nearby. Thanks! Kathy


Saturday 14th of August 2021

Hi Kathy, thank you. the menus at the top should guide you to what's on the site and if you subscribe using the form on the right-hand side you will be informed of the latest posts.


Wednesday 13th of November 2019

Great project! Is there a link to the Christmas jokes? If it’s there I missed it!


Wednesday 13th of November 2019

Thank you, here are some Christmas jokes


Friday 25th of October 2019

I think we have that same dictionary! I made greeting cards from the mini collins dictionary I had at school a few years ago, that was fun, I think I could probably cut up our bigger dictionary without too much worry now too! You make such fun advent calendars, I feel bad that my kids used the same one every year now!


Saturday 26th of October 2019

Thank you, I love the challenge of making a new advent calendar every year and this was a fun one to do.

Kristi Dominguez

Wednesday 23rd of October 2019

This is such a neat idea! I love the idea of using a dictionary! I will be on the hunt for those the next time I am in a used book shop! Thanks for the fabulous tutorial!


Thursday 24th of October 2019

Thank you, it was fun matching the pictures to the words.