There’s only one sure way to stop the little ones from pestering with “How many more sleeps to Christmas? How many more sleeps to Christmas?” … and that is to put up an Advent calendar. Let the little darlings count down the days for themselves!

Marking the Passing of Advent

In popular usage, Advent is the month of December up to Christmas Day. A common way of marking the days of this advent, particularly among children who believe in Santa Claus, is an Advent Calendar. These can carry religious messages, seasonal pictures or little chocolate shapes…

Besides, it’s a rather nice tradition.

As I recall the Decembers of my own childhood, our usual Advent calendar was a cheap cardboard construction with little doors that we popped open, one a day, to reveal a seasonal picture. Perhaps this is showing my age, but I recall being quite excited about the whole thing… :)

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These days, kids expect their Advent calendars to be more, er, rewarding than that — there’s supposed to be a treat for each day. And the cardboard calendar has evolved into much more interesting forms, doubling as often quite tasteful holiday decorations for the home.

Advent calendar free stockings quilt patternA natural progression is the Advent calendar as wall hanging.

Tree and wreath shapes are popular, and easy to create with simple shapes of felt.

Or you might like to sew up a quick Advent calendar quilt with a free pattern from Kameleon Quilts, featuring tiny stockings to hold a daily surprise.

Gingerbread House model Advent calendarWith a bow to some of our best-loved holiday food traditions, Sur La Table presented the Advent calendar as an upscale Gingerbread House with doors and windows that open to reveal any little treats you choose to hide within. How cool is that?

That particular Advent calender in the shape of a gingerbread house (sadly, no longer available) always reminded me of the pre-Christmas baking flurry when I was little, coming home from school to wonderful smells and dipping my fingers into the cookie-dough bowl when Mother’s back was turned! One year she even made a real gingerbread house for us kids to decorate (and eat, later).

I also have a memory of my creative Mom, one Christmas season, helping us to make a big Santa Claus face out of construction paper. Then, every night before bed, we were allowed to glue one piece of popped popcarn onto a numbered space on Santa’s beard. As the numbers were covered up, and as the jolly old St. Nick grew a full white popcorn beard, we knew we were getting closer to Christmas.

Santa Claus paper Advent calendar pattern

There’s a free pattern for a similar paper Santa calendar at Families Online Magazine, if you don’t feel up to free-hand drawing the face.

The only real difference is that the directions call for the use of “cotton balls” (cosmetic puffs) for the count-down beard instead of my Mom’s popcorn.

Divine Chocolate fair trade Advent calendarFor myself, I’d stick with the popcorn for Santa’s beard, because then you’d also have the fun of popping the corn, of stringing some onto a heavy thread for decorating the tree, and of eating all the extra! As a bonus, when we were finished with the Advent calendar and moving on towards the New Year, it could be disposed of in the compost instead of the trash.

But if chocolate’s your pleasure, why not mark the true meaning of the season with fair trade chocolate, and help out some less fortunate people in developing countries while you count down to Christmas?

A beautiful blue Advent calendar by Divine Chocolate, for example, is available online through Amnesty International,

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