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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)