Advent calendars have been part of the German Christmas tradition for over a century: by opening a little door, one for each day, children would be able to gage the amount of time they had to wait until Christmas Eve and their presents. In recent years, they have made an appearance in Britain, too, and you can buy a wide range of versions in supermarkets (usually chocolate-filled) as well as in toy shops – even interior design outfits provide you with stylish alternatives to suit your stylish home.
We grew up with beautiful little felt sacks, which my mum had made, suspended from the large advent wreath that hung above a side table in the living room. Every morning my brother and I would rush through the dark flat to find out what was in that day’s little sack, as well as checking how much longer we would have to wait for the ‘real’ presents on Christmas Eve.
The aim of the calendars is to bring sum fun and excitement into those dark mornings, not to add more financial pressure to families in the run-up to Christmas. The cheapest – and healthiest! – version of an advent calendar are made of paper, such as the little postcards Granny sent to the children this year. On this one you can see an advent wreath suspended from the ceiling of a home with numeracy issues:
For my firstborn, I simply copied my mum’s idea of the little sacks when I made his calendar, over a decade ago. Instead of suspending it from an advent wreath, which I didn’t have space for, we use a pretty branch and suspend it over the fireplace:
As the calendar is now used by the little one, the presents it includes are are cheap and cheerful: a pack of crayons can last a very long time indeed, especially when interspersed with chocolate!
The teenager, whose faith in Father Christmas and the likes has taken a severe beating over the years, had to hand over his calendar to the younger sister. This year I folded little boxes out of wrapping paper, an idea I found in a German magazine, Brigitte. You can find their instructions here (in pictures).
I filled this calendar with spare batteries (to ensure our remote controls, doorbells and the like are left alone), the usual mix of stationery and chocolates as well as with a set of glow-in-the-dark planets. You never know when you need those.
But adults can have advent calendars, too. My friend Frau Dietz over at Eating Wiesbaden made a very special advent calendar for her husband: filled with a variety of different beers, it should keep him happy for a few weeks 😉
Ingenious, isn’t it?
Over the next weeks I hope to make yet another calendar, this time for my readers: every day – hopefully! – you should be able to open a new post with some ideas for Christmas, as well as recipes and traditions that make the run up to Christmas such a wonderful time!