Homemade Christmas Gift: Our Family Calendar

Go Gingham: Family Calendar

Every year since 1994, we have given the exact same gift to our extended families for Christmas: a family calendar. This isn’t just any calendar. It’s one that we make. Our homemade Christmas gift tradition is a family calendar that we still make the old fashioned way with pictures, scissors, and yes, double-sided tape. We set aside a weekend in October to make the collages and we just finished our 2013 calendar. With family spread across the country as well as other countries, this gift is a wonderful way for us to stay connected no matter where family lives.

Homemade Gifts: Family Calendar

Homemade Christmas

The reason we came up with making our homemade Christmas gift was we wanted something that didn’t come from a store, had sentimental value, and could be shared or transported easily. It’s also gotten much easier to make this gift since our kids got in on the act of calendar making!

Family calendar

The best part in making this homemade Christmas gift is going through all of the pictures people have sent us over the year. It’s also fun to go through old photographs and have our kids ask, “Who is that?” when it’s their dad or me or one of their crazy uncles. Another favorite is the, “Mom, did you really wear your hair like that?” Of course the answer is yes, it was the ‘80s!

Family calendar

Both my husband and I come from large families so trying to get each person (or their spouses or their kids) on every page can be challenging. I send an email out to family members in the summer to ask them to send us pictures. Digital pictures have made this easier. Prints can be ordered from anywhere and then mailed to our home for the big family calendar day.

Previously, by this I mean before the year 2000 (or Y2K), I used software specifically for calendars. It didn’t survive the change over so I had to switch to another software package which was fine but it wasn’t very user friendly. Or was it that I couldn’t remember how to use it properly? Either way, last year, I switched over to using Google calendar for our family calendar software and simply print them on our printer. I have a separate family calendars (his, hers and ours) so that my extended family doesn’t get his and visa versa.

Family calendar

We include birthdays and anniversaries so that everyone is in “the know” about important dates. I can also share the online version of the calendar with family members who would like all of the dates. Our calendar, which hangs on our refrigerator, combines the two and includes both extended families.

We make a picture collages (one for each month) and then have color copies printed. I made a template which we use as a guide for the collages. It’s very low tech and measures an inch in on every side, except on the bottom, which is about 1 1/2 inches so that there’s plenty of room for the binding.

Family calendar

Next, we take the copies of the calendars and the color picture collage pages and collate them together. We then use the hand crack binding machine at the stationary store in our neighborhood.

The finished product.

Family calendar

Even though everyone knows they’re receiving a homemade Christmas gift and it’s the same one every single year (with different pictures), our families always looks forward to it (at least that’s what they tell us!).

Go Gingham: Homemade Christmas Family Calendar

It’s one of my favorite gifts to give, we have fun putting it together, relatives are pleasantly surprised by what vintage photos of them show up and they’re easy to mail, too.

Do you have a homemade family gift tradition? What is it?

Go Gingham related links:

Kid’s birthday party gifts that are budget friendly and very sweet
Frugal gift ideas for teachers – lovely and homemade
How to handle the group gift for teachers – bowing out gracefully
Frugal and easy gifts to give – very easy
Frugal and green wedding gifts – simple gifts with an upgrade element, too
Wrapping paper alternatives – old maps!
Displaying holiday cards – don’t put them away, just leave them out to enjoy

I really liked this from Amy of Frugal Mama – 7 tips for holiday giving while still being generous.

15 thoughts on “Homemade Christmas Gift: Our Family Calendar

  1. First thing I do after unwrapping is look through each month with my wife and daughter so we can ooo and aaahhh over the photos. Best is when you have included a photo from long ago that sparks great memories of the time or the event.


    1. Dear Peter,
      Thank you for leaving this comment. As one of many recipients to this gift, I’m glad to read your take on it. I’ll be heading to the post office shortly to mail yours.
      Thanks, Bro 😉


  2. I love this idea, Sara. I think it’s smart and useful to put birthdays and other special occasions right on the calendar too. I bet the kids love seeing it throughout the year and remembering good times. It’s so fun to see your kids cutting and assembling!



    1. Amy, it’s so true. Our kids really enjoy this and every single month when we flip the page, it’s fun all over again.
      I should add also that I print ours on 8 1/2 x 14 paper because we use it as our family planner as well.
      My kids do a little grumbling about this project but they also really enjoy it. They really enjoy seeing the fashions over the years – especially with my hair!
      Thank, Amy.


  3. What a great idea! This year I finally made a photo book for my husband’s side of the family, including family events we had all attended. Just from doing that I realize how tricky it is to include pictures of everyone (and his side of the family is small!) so I’m sure it’s no mean feat for you to include a large number of people in your calendar. But how fun and meaningful!


    1. Kris,
      Your gift sounds lovely. Pictures have such nice memories and the photos we hold and touch in an album get enjoyed much more than those on a computer! I miss having printed pictures and am often torn about the space they take up vs. the convenience of having them on my laptop.
      What a nice gift to give your family. I’m sure they really appreciated your hard work.
      Thanks, Kris!


  4. I love gifts like this! If this is what Christmas were really about for all of us, I would be so much more into the season. (And am, since I made it more like this for me and our family.)

    I give my parents a photo calendar of my kids each year. Like you, I include family birthdays and special days. I always have to make sure I include exactly the same number of pictures of each child. (Yes, they count!) Because I’m only getting 1, I splurge a little and order them from online photos companies. They look so nice! (Before these were available, I made my own.)

    Loved seeing how you make this work for you. Thanks!


    1. Oh, thanks, Rita! Your calendar sounds great and I’m sure your parents love it. Your kids counting their photos made me laugh! I’ll bet your parents love the gift, too. Homemade gifts are very heartfelt whether you print them yourself or not!!
      Thanks for sharing that, Rita.
      PS Tomorrow I’m having a giveaway with Shutterfly so if you haven’t ordered your calendar yet, you could get it for free!


  5. What a great idea! I have seen this done where there are only pics of one family and their kids (cute but I don’t need to see them everyday of the year) – but making it full of pics of the entire extended family makes this really something everyone would love to get and use! It looks like it takes some effort too! Great idea!


    1. Annie, this gift is so much easier than it used to be when our kids were younger! Now, the 4 of us each do 3 sheets of pictures to equal 12 months. We put on Christmas music (yes, in October!!) and make it as fun as possible.
      Our UPS store has an old binding/hand crack machine that we borrow and use to bind it ourselves.
      Everyone does really like it, too.
      Thanks, Annie!!


    1. Mimi,
      Don’t tell but you and your new hubby are in the calendar this year 😉 and his birthday AND your wedding anniversary!
      Thanks, sista! Love it that 2 out of my 5 siblings left comments on this. SWAK.


    1. Ginger Kay,
      If you come up with any ideas, I’d love to hear them! Getting teens involved with low cost gift giving can be hard because well – everything can be hard with teens! 🙂
      Seriously, we do try and focus on gifts that are handmade or books. I also have my husband and kids memorize and recite a poem to me for my birthday every year. It’s my absolute favorite gift and I always looks forward to what they’ll choose.
      Thanks, Ginger Kay.


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