This idea needs some advance planning unless you work really quick, ha. It's based on the traditional "Advent Calendar." Advent is the four week lead up to Christmas Day. An Advent Calendar is a picture of a Christmas scene with a closed "window" for each day in December. On December 1 the first window "1" is opened. If it's a paper calendar it reveals a scene. If it is a three dimensional Advent Calendar, of paper/cardboard, wood, etc. it is often shaped like a drawer and a small toy or candy can be found inside.
I always enjoyed one as a child and still do. It's a devotional item because traditionally the scene is of the Nativity and each door simply reveals more of the picture until the December 24 door shows the Baby Jesus and Holy Family around the manger. They are also nicely done traditional holiday scenes, such as Santa, or winter scenes and so forth. They are especially great for children to give them an enjoyable treat each day leading up to Christmas, helping them to wait for the big day, but also a way to remind them of "the reason for the season."
Well, I've always thought that making one's own Advent Calendar as an advance Christmas present would be a fun and terrific thing to do. All you need is one of those organizers with lots of drawers, such as found in art supply or home improvement stores. For example you can use a standing type with drawers as found in hardware section or flat organizers such as in arts and crafts (like what beading hobbyists use). It really depends on the number and size of drawers needed.
Suppose you have a friend who is an artist. Imagine what fun it would be to give him or her one of these Advent Calendars (you glue a picture on the front and number the drawers) and in each drawer you have a tube of paint or other small art supply. So your friend opens drawer "1" on Dec 1 and already gets a gift. Save the best gift for drawer "24" ha. You can see what I mean that this requires some thought and organizing to make it by Dec 1, but hey, whenever they receive it they can open all the doors up to that date :-)
What if you have a friend who collects, especially small items, like buttons, coins, badges? Again, you put an item that adds to their collection in each drawer.
You could give someone a charm bracelet by putting a charm in each drawer and the bracelet in the Dec 24 door. Likewise you can put friendship bracelets, wrist bands, backpack accessories, and so forth, one in each door.
Obviously this is great for children. They can have a small piece of age appropriate candy in each drawer for an inexpensive but exciting month long experience for them.
You can do this for Advent leading up to Christmas or the Days of Hanukkah!
The Catholic Bishops have an online Advent Calendar at their website www.usccb.org where you click on each door and have faith based ideas for activities, plus the Bible readings for the day. If you do a secular one with your child you might also want to have a printout of the religious Advent Calendar so you can remind your child why the holiday exists and the love of God.
Hallmark and other greeting card stores carry a few designs of the traditional Advent Calendars so do pick one up for yourself. They used to sell out rapidly but every year I see fewer people buying these and even knowing about them. It's such a small thing (having the paper calendar for one's self) but such a great treat each day.
Have fun with this, whatever level you are able to take it to!