Anticipation is on the rise in a holiday season that began extra early this year, with adults and kids alike spending more hours at home than ever before. Maybe that’s why advent calendars are suddenly all the rage. We’re all eagerly anticipating the coming of Christmas, leading to the pressing question, “Are we there yet?” And who can blame us for asking? A little Christmas spirit might be just what the doctor ordered.
Counting down to Christmas from December 1, Advent — derived from the Latin word meaning arrival — began in the Middle Ages with early Christians paying homage to the coming of the Christ Child. The tradition took form as German Lutherans began to observe the days leading up to Christmas, and it became a full-fledged commercial enterprise with the first printed advent calendar credited to Gerhard Lang in the early 1900s. As is often the case, Lang’s inspiration came from his mother who made him a calendar of 24 colored pictures she’d attached to cardboard. He simply turned the pictures into little doors and voila — the calendar we know so well came into existence in all of its unpredictable glory.
After an attempted appropriation by the Nazis who, uncomfortable with Jesus’ Jewish origins, sought to turn Christmas and all its trappings into a celebration of the fatherland, the advent calendar made its way to America. Once the idea was set upon US shores, it was cemented in the hearts and minds of children young and old after seeing a photograph of President Eisenhower opening an advent calendar with his grandchildren in the national news. Bearing some resemblance to gifting throughout Hanukkah, the various manifestations of advent calendars have carried us to Christmas for years, and this year — a year like no other — can comfortingly resemble seasons past, with a return to this age-old tradition.
Here are a few of our favorite calendars and some savvy out-of-the-(calendar)-box ways to celebrate Advent. Yes we know we’re already a few days into the season, but opening a handful of days in one round takes less time than binge-watching The Crown this weekend. Just don’t get ahead of yourself…
FUN, FAITH-FILLED, FABULOUS WAYS TO CELEBRATE ADVENT
GET IN THE SPIRIT
Walk through the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones with these inspiring hand-lettered Advent cards from Crew and Co. No two are alike, and the beautiful artwork is sure to usher in a sense of awe and wonder.
Make it an arts and crafts Advent with this Jesse Tree and follow along with the scriptures each day.
Turn it into a daily devotional with this Advent 2020 Digital Study Book from She Reads Truth which includes 4 weeks of guided scripture readings following the Advent journey, along with holiday hymns, recipes and more. Download instantly and use across all your devices.
Get started now with these downloadable Advent calendars. This one from Little Liturgy Press has twenty-five unique works of classic art covering creation to Christ’s birth, accompanied by a detailed devotional. Or these simple Advent Scripture Cards fit nicely on the mantle. These Names of Jesus Advent Ornament Cards come with a study guide exploring all the names of Christ.
FOR THE KIDS (IN ALL OF US)
Train up a child… with this illustrated book of 25 Bible Characters for Advent, exploring the Bible from creation to the birth of Jesus. Don’t want to wait on the shipping? It’s available as a downloadable e-book too.
Fun for the whole family with this Advent Activity Pack of 25 adorable double-sided cards with a scripture, prayer and activity for each day. You can rearrange them to suit your schedule, and hang them festively with twine and clothespins included in the pack.
Or try Advent Conversation Cards from Kids Read Truth including 29 4×6 full-color coated cards, 25 discussion cards with Scripture reading and questions for all ages, and a 4×6 art print of Isaiah 9:6. Ages 3+.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”… Countdown to Christmas with Melissa and Doug and this festive wooden tree with magnetic ornaments.
Get creative — color your way to Christmas in this Advent Colouring Book for kids and adults alike.
MAKE THE YULETIDE BRIGHT
Light a candle each day, we recommend battery-powered tea lights, to practice the ritual of anticipation with this festival of lights calendar.
Countdown the days with this custom classic Christmas calendar from Lindsay Letters — less to do, more to experience, and it can be used again next year.
Have a Fixer Upper Christmas with this Hearth & Hand Magnolia Wood Tree Advent Calendar from Chip and JoAnna Gaines.
A ONE-OF-A-KIND CHRISTMAS
Get personal with this beautiful wooden keepsake calendar destined to become a family heirloom. Simply fill up each box with a special treat of your choosing.
Get nostalgic. Try a one-of-a-kind vintage advent calender made where they started in the first place, Germany.
Or go total DIY with a magnetic board, 24 small mason jars, magnets for each, and a glue gun. Design and print or hand paint your own numbers on the lids, like this Kindness Kit given to Sam by her mom.