Friday, November 5, 2021

Advent Calendar 2021: Life is a Giant Puzzle

The advent mystery bags: Which day is which?

This year's advent calendar for two young Colorado girls layers mystery upon mystery and puzzle upon puzzle. The calendar arrives as 24 sealed and decorated bags, and a long length of recycled lace for use as the advent garland. The bags attach to the garland using the glittery pipe cleaners that seal each bag.

The garland fixings.

But wait a minute!

There are no numbers on the front of the bags indicating the day of the month. What is going on? The puzzle starts at assembly and the first round involves a game for the whole family.


Note the little triangular tab labeled "clues" on the front of each bag. If you pull on the "clues" tab, a long strip of paper emerges with a set of clues that will help you figure out what day of the month to write on the bag. The clues start with difficult to "weirdly difficult," and proceed to get easier and easier as you continue to pull on the tab. Once you have figured out the correct number, you write it on the front of the bag.

The clues revealed!

Maker tip: Note that replicating this idea is far easier than it looks. Decorate 24 bags any way you wish. Cut a horizontal slit about a third of the way down on the front of the bag, the same width as your long question strip. Glue a triangular piece of paper with the word "clues" written on it to the end of the strip that contains the most difficult questions. Feed the other end of the strip into the slit on the bag, and fold the "clues" triangle down so it rests flush against the bag. To save you hours and yours of obsessive-compulsive computer time, I have created a PDF of all of the question strips that you are free to use. The link: Advent 2021 Question Strips.

Sample clue sheet (click to enlarge)

But at this point the fun has just begun. Once the numbers game is over and all of your bags have the correct day of the month and have been attached in order to the lace garland, participants are instructed to turn all of the bags over so the back of the bag is facing outward.

Whoa, a secret message!

A secret message is revealed! In this case the message reads: "When you have figured out these puzzles and think that you are done, you will learn to your amazement: The games have just begun." And yes folks, that is exactly twenty-four words, one word on the back of each bag.

So what is inside? Puzzles! Turns out that buying batches of puzzles online is very affordable. I alternated between 3-d wood puzzles, 3-d metal puzzles, and blank jigsaw puzzles they may embellish with their own artwork.

Inside the bags: more puzzles!

And more puzzles...

...and more puzzles.

And of course, each bag also contains a small piece of candy for each girl each day.

But wait, there's more...

Just to completely wow my little audience of two, I decided to throw in a few rounds of mail art, which will arrive throughout the month of December. Using the book, "Tricks and Puzzles," by Silver Dog Press, 1973, I used their muddy, black and white images of old German picture puzzle postcards from the turn of the century and recreated them at full postcard size by recreating the images using water colors. (Note I have searched far and wide on the internet for examples of these puzzles but so far my only source is this book, which is available used on Amazon). The idea is to randomly send one postcard every few days from an assortment of four different picture puzzles so that the recipients have to guess what the total picture will eventually look like and which postcard fits into which puzzle. I offer just one example below.

Sample puzzle postcard: What could it be?

The answer becomes apparent when you receive all four of the postcards that are part of this picture postcard puzzle.

Full set of four postcards

And that wraps up the 2021 version of the advent calendar.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing! How lucky those girls are to receive such wonderful gifts from you.


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