Introduction: Christmas Vacation Advent Calendar

About: I'm a geek, and I make things

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me - an advent calendar inspired by National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

To countdown the 12 days of Christmas with 12 projects, I wanted to start it off with an advent calendar to help me count down (or I guess it would technically be counting up...) the 12 days of Christmas.

Here's how I put it together:


The supplies I used for this build: (with affiliate links)

Christmas vacation:

1/8" 12x24 plywood (7 sheets):

Clear acrylic:

LED strip:

Fairy LED lights:

Tools I used:

Laser cutter:

Super glue:

Step 1: Creating Vectors

I found a template for a generic advent calendar and decided to make some alterations. Some of the things I changed:

- reduced the 24 boxes down to 12 (to count the 12 days of Christmas, rather than the full advent)

- changed the Christmas scenes to scenes from Christmas Vacation

- Altered the house and added a 2nd story to make it look like the Griswold house from the movie

I went and selected a few key scenes from the movie (the cover to the movie of Clark getting zapped, Eddie training his sewage tank, and Clark in a Santa hat) and brought them into Inkscape. I ran the 'trace bitmap' function, then went in with the selection tool and cleaned up the bitmap to be as simple as possible but still look close enough to the original that people could recognize it.

I moved the chimney to the right side of the roof, and added pieces to make up the second story of the house (trying to use the Griswold house from the movie as reference)

Step 2: Cutting Everything Out

I took my designs and cut them out on a laser cutter. Using 12"x24" plywood, it took 7 sheets to cut out all the wood pieces for the advent calendar. After assembling the advent calendar stands about a foot and a half tall. Scaling down would require less cutting, but I opted for a bigger version - so it took 7 sheets.

Step 3: Gluing All the Boxes

After all the pieces were cut out, I started by gluing together all the boxes. Rubber bands made for excellent clamps when putting the boxes together.

I measured the inside of the boxes just behind the number cutouts to get a size of acrylic I would need to fully cover the numbers. I went back into Inkscape, drew up 12 small boxes, and filled them in with color. The laser cutter filled the squares in, etching the acrylic and giving a diffused layer on one side.

I glued the acrylic to the inside of each box with the super glue.

Step 4: Assembling the Case

I took the rest of the cutouts and started assembling the case. I glued down each of the layers to the slots for the drawers. I glued together the base of the house, the second floor, and the chimney all together. I didn't glue the house to the top of the case, so that I could put the battery pack for the lights inside the house later.

Gluing together the tree and Santa's sled, I glued both of those to the top piece.

Step 5: Adding the Lights

I took the LED strip and started feeding it through the holes in the middle of each support piece in the center of the base. Feeding the LED strip up from the bottom to the top, then down the second hole, then up the third hole, I used the remainder and fed it into the house and up to the second story piece.

I took the fairy lights and wrapped them around the outside of the house. If you really want to match the movie, I would suggesting getting 86 more strands of fairy lights to really make the house look like it stepped out of the movie.

Step 6: Turn on the Awesome


After turning it an, the overwhelming scene of awesomeness unfolded as the advent calendar was lit from the inside - illuminating scenes from Christmas Vacation, and the lights around the house gave it a great little festive glow (even though the lights are not twinkling Clark)