Three years ago, I (somewhat) last minute, made a simple paper chain to help our oldest son countdown to Christmas (without driving us crazy!) Little did I know then that this easy paper project would become one of our most favorite holiday traditions ever. Since I’m now getting ready to assemble our beloved chain for the 4th year in a row, I thought it was a great time to break down exactly how to make a DIY Christmas Countdown Chain so you can start this favorite family tradition as well!

Christmas Countdown Chain in pastel colors with glitter numbers.

Countdown to Christmas Series

This post is part of my Countdown to Christmas Series, where I share all the resources you need to create an amazing “Christmas Countdown” tradition your family will love (without adding stress or breaking the bank)! Be sure to check out each post in this series below!

Why a Paper Chain?

Christmas paper chains are a classic festive decoration and one of the quickest and easiest holiday crafts you can make. Essentially, they are just strips of pretty paper, looped then stapled into a long chain. They are great for decorating a Christmas Tree or even as garlands on a mantel, around the home, or in a classroom. But one of their most common uses is to help children (and adults!) count down days to a special event!

Christmas Countdown Chain in pastel colors with glitter numbers.

We’ve used paper chains to count down to the first day of school, last day of school, special vacation, and the end of deployments. So when trying to help kids understand “how many sleeps” there are until Christmas, this basic paper chain is a simple and oh-so-fun idea!

Christmas Countdown Chain in pastel colors with glitter numbers.

However, we take our Christmas Countdown Chain one step further. Instead of just being simple strips of paper with numbers on them…each link reveals a special family activity for us to do together.

Christmas family activities on paper chain.

In essence, our Christmas Countdown Chain acts not just as our “Advent Calendar,” but also helps guide and schedule our entire holiday season!

Christmas Countdown Chain on a white playroom shelf.

A Christmas Countdown Chain that Lasts!

As much as I love to craft at Christmastime, it’s also a season with LOTS and LOTS to do. So when I can, I try to make projects that will last year after year. After all, if I don’t have to make it new each year, it’s much more likely to get done!

The Christmas Countdown Chain links I’m going to show today are really sturdy and have super simple self assembly thanks to points and slits that hook together. This allows you to assemble (and then disassemble) the paper chain without any staples, sticky tape, or glue. Once all the links are “opened” for the year, we simply bag them up and save them for next season!

Red paper chain link. Pink paper chain link.

Christmas Countdown Chain with a Cricut

This DIY Christmas Countdown Chain is made in a snap with the help of a Cricut machine. If you don’t have a Cricut machine, snag my Printable Christmas Countdown Chain Template HERE!

Supplies Needed

Stack of cardstock, Cricut mat, glitter vinyl, and paper trimmer.

Step 1: Open Cricut Design Space

Start by opening my Christmas Countdown Chain file in Cricut Design Space. Although the file is 100% ready-to-cut, feel free to re-size and adjust elements as desired.

Step 2: Cut the Chain Links from Cardstock

Next, cut 25 chain links in different color paper. These links are nice and chunky (11.5″ x 2.75″), which will result in a sizable chain with a stunning effect! Unless you adjust the size of the paper pieces, four will fit on a 12×12″ sheet.

TIP! By using double-sided cardstock, you can get lots of different colors for your chain with fewer cuts!

Paper chain links cut in pastel papers with a Cricut machine.

Step 3: Cut the Numbers from Vinyl

To eliminate the “did we take a link off the chain today?” problem, the next step is to add numbers to your Christmas Countdown Chain. Although you can use stickers or printed numbers, I recommend cutting them out of glitter vinyl since 1) they’ll stick right on, and 2) they add a lovely dose of sparkle to this project! The Design Space template has the 2″ numbers all ready for you to cut!

TIP! Cutting glitter vinyl can be tricky. See all my glitter vinyl tips and tricks here!

Glitter vinyl numbers cut from a Cricut machine.

Step 4: Add Chain Activities (Optional)

To make your Christmas Countdown Chain a little more fun and interactive for the whole family, I recommend adding something to the inside of each chain. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Festive Family ActivitiesThis is what we do and the whole reason our kids love this chain so much. I’m going to share AAALL the activities we do and how we plan them back here on Friday!
  • Bible Versus
  • Holiday Jokes
  • Christmas Song TitlesListen to it each morning or evening
  • Christmas Book TitlesRead it at bedtime each night

Once you have the 25 “activities” identified, type them up and print them out onto white sticker paper.

Christmas family activities printed onto sticker paper

Countdown to Christmas Activity Strips Template HERE.

Once printed, trim the strips out with a paper trimmer or scissors.

Christmas activities printed onto strips on top of a paper cutter.

Step 5: Assemble Your Christmas Countdown Chain

Assembling your paper chain is so much fun, and your kiddos can probably help you do it! (Unless you want to keep the various activities a surprise!).

Started by removing the paper backing from each activity strip and sticking them to the underside of the paper links (if desired).

Christmas activity on the inside of a paper chain link.

Place the corresponding glitter vinyl number onto the top side of the paper link.

TIP! If you want your numbers to all face the same (readable) direction when the chain is assembled, you’ll want to either place the numbers in the exact middle (so the link can be rotated any direction) or alternate sides as I show below.

Glitter numbers on two paper chain links.

Finally, loop the paper strips all together! Start by making a loop with the #1 strip…

Christmas Countdown chain link.

…then add the next strip, then the next, until all 25 are strung together.

Christmas Countdown Chain in pastel colors with glitter numbers.

TIP! If you’d like to adjust the garland length or want all the numbers facing front, consider adding a non-numbered link between each numbered link!

Christmas Countdown Chain in pastel colors with glitter numbers.

Step 6: Display and “Unlink” Your Chain

With your Christmas Countdown Chain assembled, place it where the whole family can see it each and every day. Start removing links on December 1st and work your way down to Christmas Day!

TIP! Whether you count down or up is completely up to you! We count up so that the number on the chain matches the calendar date (making it easier to stay on track!)

Christmas Countdown Chain in pastel colors with glitter numbers.Christmas Countdown Chain on a white playroom shelf.

I still can’t believe that this simple paper chain I made 4 years ago now is still going strong and something we all look forward to year after year. In fact, when I was working on this post this week, Henry saw the pictures and said “Are you getting our Christmas chain ready, Mom?!?” It just goes to show that homemade holiday projects can go a long way in creating fun family memories, no matter how simple and inexpensive they are! I hope you give this easy project a try…I think your family will love it as much as ours does!

See You Soon!