When I was growing up, advent calendars held a lot of fascination for me. While it's possible some of that interest was because my family didn't have one, I found the anticipation of finding something hidden away behind a small door, a paper flap, or in a little pouch almost irresistible.
As a parent, I was determined that our family was going to have an advent calendar. A few months after my first child was born, my husband and I found a hanging advent calendar at a Christmas shop in rural Michigan. It featured a Christmas tree made of green Velcro-like fabric to be decorated, day by day, with tiny dolls from 24 pockets directly below the tree. Each numbered pocket held a doll on whose dress was stitched a different country flag. Using an advent calendar to help my boys learn numbers and flags of different countries felt, well, very educational.
Our family still uses that advent calendar because it's a tradition, but it's one I'm willing to break with since I've found advent calendars that I like so much better. Käthe Kruse has made German style fabric advent calendars for many years and all of them are wonderfully unique. Little bags - or hats, or mittens, or boots - attached to a bright red cord which can be strung over a fireplace, on the stairs, across a wall, or in a window.
These knitted hats and stockings have room for candies or tiny toys or even ornaments, while the larger cloth bags, below, can accommodate small gifts.
A third advent calendar, shown below, features mittens and boots with a variety of textures and styles including knitted, furry and cotton fabrics. This particular advent calendar is unnumbered so that children can have more of a challenge counting up or down to see how many days have passed or are to come.
While most advent calendar enthusiasts enjoy filling their calendars with candy or gifts, there are other ways of using advent calendars to create family time. In the next few days, I'll post ideas for filling your advent calendars with activities instead of gifts. Your family will be able to enjoy the anticipation of doing something together!