Pewter gnome figurines sit inside an Advent calendar, one in each slot. Behind it, a Christmas tree glows with soft yellow light.

As many people know, an Advent Calendar is not only a way to count down the days till Christmas. It's also an opportunity to create fun, interactive, memorable traditions for families of all ages. A chance to be playful as well as spiritual, honoring both the religious meaning of Christmas as well as having fun with cherished holiday stories and characters like elves, gnomes, and reindeer.

We hope to help make this tradition even more joyful with these seven creative ideas for filling your Advent Calendar.

1. Nativity Figurines

The Nativity Set is a wonderful way to interact with the story of Christ's birth.

While the "norm" might be to set up all the figurines at one time, there's room for creativty here​—especially because in the Bible, not everyone arrived at the same time! Many people keep the baby Jesus in their Advent Calendar until the last day, so that He can arrive in the manger exactly "on time." The Wisemen and Shepherds traveled from afar, so it's fitting to keep them in the Advent Calendar until their arrival, too.

Danforth's Nativity Set is a great way to do this, not only because it's available in smaller sets as well as the complete set, but also because our miniature figurines fit perfectly inside most Advent Calendars. (For example, the figure of Joseph, pictured, stands two inches high.) 

2. Gnomes

What do Gnomes have to do with Advent, you might ask? Sure, they're not part of the original Christmas story. But they've come to be a sweet addition to many homes, especially around the holidays. Lilla and Gron (pictured), as well as their friends Aiko and Bimpni, love to explore your house in all its yuletide glory, whether they're shopping at the bakery in your Christmas village on the mantle, stopping by the manger to see how the angels and shepherds are doing, or hanging out with various snowmen, gingerbread folks, and other holiday characters. 

At just about one inch tall, Gnomes fit perfectly inside most Advent Calendars. 

Your (and your kids') imagination is the only limit to how Gnomes can join in on the Christmas fun...and we all know the imagination has no limits!

3. Mini Ornaments

Keep a mini Christmas tree in your living room, kitchen, or any room that could use a little more "decking the halls." This tree can be real (maybe even a rosemary plant) or fake, or it could be a varation on a tree, such as a wreath or evergreen boughs woven through a stair rail.

Whatever you choose, you can then decorate it one day at a time starting with the first day of Advent, when you open your Advent Calendar and find a new mini ornament that you can then hang on your "second tree."

Our classic pewter mini ornament sets are include the Nutcracker Set (pictured), Penguins, Elves, Christmas Party, Deck the Halls, Snowflake Bentleys, and more. See them all here.

4. Twelve Days of Christmas Mini Bell Ornaments

Say you've got your "second tree" all set up...and now you need enough ornaments to fill the Calendar!

Enter these twelve mini bells, each one representing one of the 12 Days of Christmas. These make especially fun surprises because you and your little ones can use the visual depiction on each bell to see which "day" it is. These twelve bells also make a lovely display when hung in an archway or doorway.

5. Netsukes

Gnomes aren't the only small wonders that love to explore your holiday decor! With our selection of netsukes ("net-skees") ranging from the Koala and her baby to Hedgehog, Turtle, Owl, Whale, Pig, Cow, and many more, these adorable miniatures make fun additions to your Advent Calendar and then to your Christmas village or Nativity.

When it's time to pack up the ornaments and compost the tree, Netsukes can stay out year-round; they love to hang out in a bookshelf, fairy garden, or as part of your desk decor.

6. Milagros

What are milagros?

Spanish for "miracles," these pocket tokens are inspired by the Latin American tradition of leaving small charms out for a patron saint when asking for a favor or a particular blessing.

With everything from a Heart to a Dragonfly and even Peas in a Pod, these make wonderful good luck charms, gifts for coworkers, surprises in a lunchbox, game pieces...and of course, Advent Calendar surprises.

7. Pocket Charms

A popular gift or token for meaningful events such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms, these lovely pocket coins also make sweet Advent Calendar fillers.

Our most popular design is the Muse Angel (an angel on one side and a word such as "love" or "faith" on the other). We also have designs such as Clover, Heart, Cross, Tree of Life, Sand Dollars, and many others.

See all pocket charm designs here.

We hope our handcrafted figurines, charms, and more help you get creative and make your own meaningful traditions with your family, during Advent and all year round.