Holiday Traditions: The Advent Calendar

November 28, 2014 Miscellany 16

I will be exploring some holiday traditions over the next few weeks, as my family prepares for Christmas.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an Advent calendar each Christmas. There was something magical about opening each day’s door to reveal a tiny picture of a toy or angel or decoration.  I loved them as a child, and I love them still as an adult. Once our daughter was old enough, the calendar was usually hers rather than mine, and we may have missed a year or two here or there, but Advent and Advent calendars are inextricably entwined in my mind.

Vintage Advent calendar


Advent (in case you’re not familiar with the term) is the period of time leading up to Christmas. In many Christian denominations, it begins four Sundays before Christmas, which means the first Sunday of Advent for 2014 is this coming Sunday. Advent is a time of solemn but joyful preparation, as we get ready for the coming of Christ. But as a child, all I really understood was that an Advent calendar was a countdown to Christmas.

Vintage German Advent calendar, c. 1960s


Although the actual date when Advent begins varies from year to year, Advent calendars all seem to start on December first.  That was great once I was grown and on my own, because it meant that if my mom didn’t send me a calendar, I could reuse one of my older ones. I still have a few of those older calendars in a box of Christmas decorations.

Tasha Tudor 3D Christmas Village (Advent calendar)

Tasha Tudor 3D Christmas Village (Advent calendar)


Most of my early Advent calendars were German, but they seemed to grow in popularity over the years, and I began to see more and more variety. I received a marvelous 3D Tasha Tudor Christmas village one year, complete with her favorite corgis. Another year there was a Victorian mansion, pictured in cutaway like a doll’s house; as I opened the windows, the house was decorated and prepared for Christmas.  I always preferred the strictly visual calendars, but you can now buy calendars where there’s a little ornament, toy, candy, or even mini-bottle of whiskey behind the door. And of course, there are any number of DIY calendar ideas and printables online.

Wooden Advent calendar, with compartments for small toys, candy, etc. (Byers Choice)


In the last few years, my mother, daughter, and I have all enjoyed Jacqui Larson’s desktop Advent calendars. These are lovely animated calendars for your computer. Each day, you click on the date for that day’s goody. Sometimes you see a short animated “movie”; other days you can design your own wreath or centerpiece or decorate a tree, which is then displayed somewhere on the main page. There are puzzles; you can make your own “paper” snowflakes, and there’s usually lovely music to listen to, as well. So far, she’s done an English village, an English town, an Edwardian mansion, and for this year, a European open-air holiday marketplace. I can’t wait to see what each day reveals!


Do you or your family use an Advent calendar? What kind is your favorite? I’d love to hear about it, or any other holiday traditions you hold dear. (Not limited to Christmas – those who celebrate Hanukkah, Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, etc. are welcome to chime in!)


16 Responses to “Holiday Traditions: The Advent Calendar”

  1. Selah @ A Bibliophile's Style

    We have a felt Advent calendar with little numbered pockets on it. Every day we move a little wooden Christmas tree to the pocket with the date on it. For years now I’ve been putting a piece of paper in each pocket with an activity printed on it: Write a letter to Santa. Watch a Christmas movie. Check out Christmas books at the library. Bake Christmas cookies.

    Last year my sister gave my son a Lego Advent calendar. It’s like the cardboard kind with the little chocolates, except it has little Lego sets behind each door. He LOVED it!
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  2. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    Growing up I had a reusable felt Advent calender where I got a piece of candy everyday. We have a Christmas tree (about a foot tall) that’s on a little stand and each day you put a new little ornament. The kids used to alternate but now it’s just the Tornado. He adores it. We meant to get him a Lego Advent Calender this year but forgot until it was too late. I love the ones on the computer! Those look like such fun!
    Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library recently posted…Friday Linkups: The Big FourMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      The computer one is fun – just as much for adults as older children! At his age, though, I’m pretty sure the Tornado would still prefer something tangible like adding an ornament to the little tree each day – which is a lovely idea, BTW!

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      There’s a link to the Jacqui Lawson calendar; they’re not expensive. Have fun with it! And how lovely that your parents still send you one!

  3. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    We had an Advent calendar growing up which my mom made, with an ornament to put on a Christmas tree each day. My sister made a copy for each of us and I’m so glad I can hand it down to my son. We also used to have the paper calendars with doors to open, which are fun, but I love the permanent ones that can be kept from year to year. I also made another calendar in which the Christ child descends down a ladder of stars to the manger. This year thanks to your recommendation I got the Jacquie Lawson calendar for my parents and siblings. It’s fun to have something we can all share, even though we are far away.
    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted…Put the Library on Hold: A month of reading from our own shelvesMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      What wonderful Advent calendar traditions! And I’m delighted that you liked the Jacquie Lawson calendar enough to share it with your family. Which reminds me – time to open Day 2!