The period of hope, joy, and waiting for Christmas has a name in the Christian calendar: Advent. “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “coming.” German Lutherans began celebrating this period of waiting for the coming of Christ, which begins on the fourth Sunday before December 25th. With each Sunday in Advent, a candle is lit in a round wreath to symbolize the approach of Christmas, when all candles will be lit.
We can bring the beautiful Advent tradition into our homes by creating and using our own, unique Advent calendars! Rather than celebrating the passage of each week leading to Christmas, Advent calendars mark each passing day—either the 28 days of Advent, or the preceding 25 days of December. Advent calendars can be found in stores, but they are more meaningful and special if you make them yourself.
Here are some suggestions to get you started making your own advent calendar:
One great, basic advent calendar idea begins with bulletin board or a piece of painted plywood stuck with 25 pins. Write a number above each of the pins, 1-25. Punch holes at the top left corner of 25 Christmas cards. (They’re even better if they’re recycled from years past!) Slip-knot loops of ribbon through the holes in your Christmas cards and hang them on the pins. With each day of Advent that passes, you can remove a card, watching the time between you and Christmas as it shrinks!
This idea has several variations. For example, you can paint a tree on your pin board and make your Christmas cards look like ornaments. You could write a Bible verse or quote inside of each Christmas card. Instead of hanging Christmas cards from your pin board, you could hang ornaments beneath each number, putting an ornament on the tree for each day that passes.
Another idea that is great for kids is a matchbox advent calendar. You will need 25 small, empty matchboxes, wrapping paper, 25 tiny trinkets, a Sharpie marker and a pretty tray. Place a trinket inside of each box—a peppermint, plastic animal, or even a rolled up dollar. Carefully wrap each matchbox separately, numbering them with the Sharpie marker. Arrange them in a pyramid on the tray in reverse numerical order. Each day will mean a special prize for your little one, and an opportunity talk about the greatest prize that was born on Christmas morning. If matchboxes don’t seem right for you, you could use any kind of box or drawer—the thought behind the Advent calendar is the same.
A final style of Advent calendar to consider is the garland-style. These are popular because they are so simple and pretty! Run a length of twine across the mantel, the top of a window or even around the tree. Hang numbered Christmas cards from the twine, removing one with each day that passes. This style allows for infinite variety. You can use ribbon or tinsel instead of twine, and you can hang numbered sacks filled with little prizes, tiny stockings, brightly colored felt shapes—virtually anything!
Guest post by Erin Levine