Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Spectacular Walnut Advent Calendar

I had a great-grandmother who lived until I was sixteen years old who was a master at turning holidays into magical extravaganzas. We called her Oma, and in this case I think I have finally managed to out-Oma Oma. This advent calendar requires about three days of work, depending on how fast you work.

Step One: assemble materials - walnuts in the shell; acrylic paint in gold, silver, and copper; old napkins or hankies (or just old fabric scraps of thin white cotton); vintage copyright-free Christmas images collected from the Web (search Google images); and iron-on printer paper.

Step One: assemble materials.

Step Two: Start cracking open walnuts, working carefully to get two perfect halves.  You will go through a lot of walnuts in this attempt (at least double the end amount). Your goal is twenty-five perfectly cracked walnuts. (A late breaking tip from blog reader, liniecat: freeze the walnuts first and you'll get perfect halves. See the comments section below for her tips.) Use a tab of scotch tape to keep matched halves together or you will go insane as this project progresses. Paint the inside of shells with acrylic paint. Below we see copper, silver and gold.

Step Two: Crack and paint walnut halves
Intermissions: Save, bag, and refrigerate all of the walnut meat. Take one or more breaks during the course of the project with a favorite winter snack of sliced persimmon and walnuts.


Step three: create twenty-five little pennant panels. Using vintage images you have collected from the Web, print the images out onto iron-on paper. Iron individual images onto panels of white cotton. Here, many of the panels are created using corners or borders from old hankies and napkins. Blanket stitch raw edges to prevent fraying, and hem the top to create a channel you will use to string the panels.

Step three: create pennant panels.

As always, embrace mistakes. Here, a little Christmas boy has been inadvertently ironed onto the panel upside-down. Now he looks sort of like the hanging man in the Tarot deck, foretelling bad luck. We will use this panel for day thirteen.

A new tradition: the unlucky Christmas boy

The goal is to create twenty-five individual panels. Ultimately, these panels will be strung together to create one or more Christmas banners to hang over doorways, windows, or whatever. Some of the panels, along with a test run to see what one of the the final banners will look like, are shown below.

Use ribbon or string, and secure a safety pin at one end for ease in running string through the top hems of the panels.

Testing the banner

Testing the banner

Step Four: Believe it or not, we are now going to stuff the banner panels into the walnuts. Roll up individual banner panels, fold into thirds, and stuff into a walnut half. Create, print out, and cut slips containing twenty-five numbers in sequence from one to twenty-five. Insert one slip into each walnut with number staying visible outside the walnut.

Stuffing the walnut with a banner panel and number slip
Carefully dab glue onto the edges of each walnut half. I use 100% silicone glue because I find it easy to work with. I also use a toothpick to apply the glue because these edges are very small. Use whatever glue you are comfortable with. If necessary, you can hold the two halves together with masking tape while glue sets. I didn't find that necessary.

Glued-together walnut containing pennant

The final product: Below you will see the completed advent calendar, a bowl of walnuts. Make sure to remove all scraps of scotch tape at this point. The recipient of the advent calendar picks out the walnut of the day according to the numbers (i.e., walnut number ten on December 10) and cracks open the walnut to reveal the pennant panel. After unfolding the panel, it is advised that you flatten the panel beneath a heavy book for an hour or so to smooth it out. The panel is then strung onto a banner, which grows each day as a new walnut is cracked open.

For more advent calendar twists see Advent Calendar Haute Couture and A Greener-Than-Thou Advent Calendar

The finished advent calendar


  1. What an unusual banner idea but it would look so great!
    An easy way to get (more!) perfect halves from walnuts, is to freeze them before you crack them. Give them a day or two then take them out and crack them. We ate the nuts and had no ill effects that I recall so freezing cant have harmed the nuts.
    Someone told me this years ago and it works!

  2. absolutely fantastic, i will do this and then i can feed the walnuts to the squirrel who stands outside the shop door staring at me.

  3. A great tip liniecat - I'm going to add that into the instructions.

  4. OMG- a phrase I never use - this is brilliant! I am constantly amazed by your wonderful ideas! May I post a link with the photo of the bowl of walnuts on my blog tomorrow as it is the first day for the advent calendar?

  5. This is awesome. I love that you're using "the mistake" for day thirteen. I can't believe you cracked that many walnut shells in such a perfect manner that you are able to reuse them. Impressive.

  6. just beautiful!! and so very clever...

  7. Wow! I just came over from Vivika's site...this is amazing! Truly a labor of love!

  8. What a fabulous idea. I'm going to make this for next year for sure!


  9. I came to this post through Vivika Denegre's blog. I've been here before, but will be back much more often. I am so taken by this wonderfully creative idea for an advent calendar. I hope I can do something similar before we find ourselves at Advent 2012. Thanks.


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