Unwrapping the Magic of Family Advent Calendars

Countdown to Christmas in a festive way!

Unwrapping the Magic of Family Advent Calendars

Credit: Jenn Cox

For as long as I can remember, every December my brother and I got a chocolate advent calendar from our mom. Truth be told, it was the creamiest, most delicious chocolate ever—or maybe it was the fact that we could only have one morsel a day. Each time I opened one of those cardboard doors, I loved seeing what Christmas-themed shape I’d get.

While I was a trustworthy advent calendar participant, my younger brother was not—one year he opened every door, ate every chocolate and promptly closed the doors back up—he got caught, don't worry. The holiday tradition has become a mainstay in our family, but we're not the only ones.

advent calendar under a tree iStock

They have been around for centuries

Advent calendars have been around for a long time—they originated in Germany in the early nineteenth century when Protestants started to mark the days of Advent either by burning a candle or marking walls or doors with a line of chalk every day.

Starting in the 1950s, chocolate advent calendars were released—today, the concept has evolved into an endless supply of options. There are foodie ones (tea, coffee, wine, beer), beauty-related ones, Legos, puzzles, socks, fishing accessories, brain teasers, and even a few spicy ones for couples.

They can be easily personalized

My mom has carried on our family tradition with my 10-year-old son. He’s had toy-related ones every year—this year she got him a calendar with 24 little fidget toys behind each door. Like always, I get a chocolate one, while my brother and husband have been banned for cheating in recent years. Believe it or not, she even gets one for my dog!

When my son was little, I started doing a book advent calendar for him. We put a felt tree on his bedroom wall and I leaned 24 wrapped books against it. Each night he picks and unwraps a book. As he's gotten older, I’ve updated the titles with all the classics including The Night Before Christmas, Home Alone and Elf. It’s a fun way to cuddle and connect every evening leading up to the big day.

author Jenn's son holding up a christmas book Credit: Jenn Cox

They're a small token of appreciation for loved ones


This year, I decided to make my mom a little advent calendar—after all, I owe her about 43 year’s worth! I asked a few close family members to describe the best gift my mom ever got for them. I wrote each one down on tiny slips of paper and bought a bead organizer from the dollar store. I made small cardboard boxes for each one and added some treats and additional memories.

While it wasn't overcomplicated, it’s my way of letting my mom know how much we appreciate her every day of December!

With so much going on around the holidays, everything can fly by in a blur. Advent calendars are a fun way to count your way through the last month of the year. It doesn’t have to be anything over the top–even a magnetized countdown on your fridge with riddles or questions can be a creative and festive way to take part in this holiday tradition all month long.

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