Nativity Advent with Elf on the Shelf

I am really excited to be doing this new advent countdown with my little ones! I hope this becomes a wonderful, cherished tradition and that we just begin to expand on it and learn more every year. I think it’s one of those things we’ll look back on and not realize the importance and significance of its moment until years down the road when we are going down memory lane.

I had waited to buy a nativity scene for years because I just couldn’t find one I liked…at least, not in my price range, lol. I have found one on Amazon that I liked fairly well for $20. I thought that would be a good place to start instead of putting it off another year just because I want a “pretty” one. Besides, if I had a pretty one, I wouldn’t let my little ones TOUCH it, hahaha. And I really do want to let them. My daughter plays with her Nana’s and Grammy’s every time she visits them. She is so in love with the nativity story and scene. I’m really looking forward to presenting them with our own this year!

Unfortunately, the set wasn’t quite what I expected and needed. I wanted the angel, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus to be separate pieces from the manger, but I thought I would just have to find a way to make it work…then I found an inexpensive nativity ornament set from Hobby Lobby and thought, well, I don’t have to pry our new one apart; I can make these work! So, here’s what we have:


I printed out the character “cards” and laminated them to reuse in future years (I’m very hopeful this is a hit, lol). Put one ornament in each bag and attach the matching card. You will start with the star on December 13 to end on Christmas Eve (or as early as December 1st if you like that idea better). You can either have the bag set up with/near/”from” the Elf, or you can do a scavenger hunt them and Scout Elf can be holding their clue!! You continue this until you’ve gone through all the bags and cards, counting down to baby Jesus!

Each card comes with a short description of the nativity story character or animal to tell the little ones the role they played. There is a bible verse that you read with it, as well. You can let them set it up (or place it on the tree as in our case) and play with it as you add each piece. 🙂 I think it’s a sweet way for them to learn and remember the reason we celebrate Christmas.

I found these perfect sized canvas bags at Target yesterday. They had some decorated ones, too, but I thought I could use this for other surprises if I have the plain canvas. And I like to dress things up with my themes, so it was the right choice for me. There were only 6 at our store and I would have needed 12 for the countdown to have them all ready, so I decided to buy 2 and use just one over and over for this advent.


You can find the printable cards over on this site:

The 12 Days of Christmas – A Celebration of the Nativity (FREE Printables!)

12 Days of Nativity Christmas Countdown

The nativity pieces you will need are:

  • 3 wise men ` Matthew 2:1, Matthew 2:11a, Matthew 2:11b
  • an angel ~ Luke 2:14
  • a shepherd ~ Luke 2:15
  • Joseph ~ Luke 2:4-5
  • Mary ~ Luke 1:30-31
  • baby Jesus ~ Luke 2:11
  • a camel ~ Matthew 2:2
  • sheep ~ Luke 2:20
  • star ~ Matthew 2:9-10
  • a donkey ~ Luke 2:3

Our nativity I got from Amazon that we will still set up:


Another option (much more affordable) is this cute window cling set from Walmart. You can put one cling on a day if you don’t have a nativity. Also, on the printable, it does come with each character to cut out and you could use those to make a portrait on construction paper (again, 1 for each day).


My daughter totally loves window clings! In our bags, I will add the nativity piece we do have, the window cling, and the cutout. I would like to keep adding to this post as we go to include a craft and a food that goes with each day.


You can use envelopes if you don’t have bags (or you can use brown paper bags or white paper bags, both found in the craft section and the housewares/plastic bags/trash bags section in stores) or you can use Christmas gift bags.


The order that I personally liked goes as follows:

  1. Star
  2. Angel
  3. Shepherd
  4. Wise man with gold
  5. Wise man with frankincense
  6. Wise man with myhr
  7. Joseph
  8. Mary
  9. Donkey
  10. Animals – camel and/or cow
  11. Sheep
  12. Jesus



Our elves will present the nativity countdown, with a craft and themed food for each 12 days of Christmas.

For our friends and some family, I will make these bags to give out (like the You’ve Been Elfed! bags, but Christ centered!)



You can find the printable for the front of the bag here:


Just print this out and put it on the front of your bag with the 12 Days of Christmas Nativity printables inside and deliver to a friend, neighbor, family member, or even gift it as a random act of kindness!

I think it will make a cute addition to our growing list of RAOK.





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