Sunday, October 11, 2009

Advent - The Count Down

I loved reading what you had to say last Sunday about Advent and traditions old and new in your families - thanks! This week I've been collecting facts and pictures about the most obvious and entertaining Advent decoration - the Advent Calendar in its many forms. This lovely one was made for our boys by Ben's mum, years ago. Advent means ‘Coming’, and in Christian history it’s been used as a time to prepare for the coming of Jesus as a baby, celebrated in the feast of Christmas. In Medieval times it was a season of fasting, and was even known as ‘Little Lent’, because it was something like the big season of fasting before Easter. Not much of that idea remains in how we celebrate now, though...If you’re a family that includes Jesus in your Festive celebrations, Advent still provides a month to give children the overview of the Nativity story. Whether that's a part of Advent for you or not, Advent can always be a lot more than a chocolate calendar which gets fought over by the children! It’s a way to have something special to get excited about before Christmas, so that the real festivities, when they come, aren’t a let-down, with already-dusty decorations and pine needles dropping from a tired tree. I found this amazing quote, which sums up that sentiment, when I was preparing for my MOPS talk last year: "What many people don't stop to consider is that there is a difference between preparation and celebration. If our houses are decorated and trees put up the week after Thanksgiving, if we sing "Joy to the World" on the first Sunday of Advent, if the Christmas cookies have all been eaten and the holiday parties held before mid-December, it is hardly surprising that we are sick of celebrating by December twenty-sixth." Keeping Christmas - All Twelve Days by Carol P. Myers, 1987 (
For years we resisted having a chocolate Advent Calendar, but then Son 2, whose birthday is in December, was given the Divine Fair Trade Chocolate Advent Calendar as a very special present by his uncle. These really are the best if you want a chocolate one, because the chocolate is ethical - no child slaves or exploited workers, plus delicious milk chocs. In the States you can buy them here, and in the UK here. I wonder about the Antipodes..?
But the best, and thriftiest Advent Calendars, have to be hand made, and needn't be chocolatey! I started Googling 'Handmade Advent Calendars' yesterday and came up with an excellent blog with really super ideas, collected by Helena Philips in the UK. Her blog is called 'Hand Made Advent Calendars'! Because I only started yesterday, I haven't had a reply to my request to show some photos from her blog, but I do suggest that you pop over and have a look. I've tried to be very careful not to copy photos if they are copyright, but here are a few hand made ideas for you:
This simple one is on a family fun website. I like the idea of a long scroll!
There's a whole Flickr group dedicated to Home Made Advent Calendars - check it out for ideas.
For great use of bits and pieces you already have at home, a cookie tray Advent Calendar would look really impressive.
This one (below) uses party favour tins and scrapbooking bits and pieces you might already have.
And here is a great tutorial for this pretty pocketed one.
Now, if you make or already have an Advent Calendar which requires 'stuff', you can probably identify with Sarah's statement last week: "I would love some suggestions as to what others put in the wee bags. Always difficult but even more now with the challenge. I do like a challenge though! " When our boys were little, stickers, small decorative bits of stationery, tiny toys and tree decorations used to go in, as well as a few sweets. Now that they are older and get pocket money, they either don't want those things, or they can buy them whenever they want them. It's pretty much chocolates or nothing, so let's get back to the Fair Trade shopping, quickly!

Chocolate gold coins are fun, if you don't want to wait for the ones in the bottom of the Christmas stocking!
But chocolate santas and snowmen are more fun, I think!
Or there's always the mini-fair-trade-chocolate-Christmas-pudding-option!
Please do leave a comment, either on the general idea of a Count Down to Christmas, or on the practical ideas for what to make and/or how to fill it. My ideas are only half the interest of this series - what you have to say is what's going to make it work!


Michela said...

It's funny because I haven't never had an Advent calendar! As you wrote, Advent provide a month to give children the overview of the Nativity story and that was what I listened to when I attended church. And I used to put Jesus in my crib only on the 25th December!
We use to be given in a stocking the goodies you fill your Advent calender on the 6th January(Ephiphany)!
Thank you for setting up this exciting worldwide Christmas community!

P.S. A "recup" idea for the Advent Calendar..

Elizabethd said...

We did this when our children were small, made the felt calendar with pockets, filled with tiny sweets and chocs. It was so much nicer than a bought one.
Advent is such a special time. Children, I think, need to know that Christmas isnt just one day of eating and opening presents.

Chandra said...

I am going to be making Advent felt envelopes...because I have three boys and those little pockets, though adorable, don't fit all of my treasures! I got the idea from AllSorts blog. I just love Advent calendars!!

Pomona said...

I am already pondering what I will put in my handmade Advent calendar (when I have made it). I think girls are generally easier than boys for little presents - I can make hair scrunchies from scrap fabric, stitch a covered button onto a hair elastic, make a hankie from my own fabric, find small bracelets or rings in charity shops, make a lavender bag ... but for boys? Probably chocolate! As they get older, their toys tend to become few but expensive. Thinking ahead, it is worth saving cracker toys, and I have bought small gimmicky things in charity shops before, eg those little metal puzzles and mazes, which were probably someone else's discarded stocking filler.

Pomona x

LissyLou said...

I love advent calendars - and the more traditional the better for me. Thanks for all the links!! xx said...

hmmm, I don't want to think about christmas!!! I say that every year

one year we got 24 cello bags and white cards to go in them...on each card me and Miss BC wrote a different 'thing' to do, eg - 'do crazy hairstyles' so that night we did all of our hair in weird styles, another one was go out in our pj's when we should be in bed and do a drive by light watch with hot chocolate....stuff like that...we wrapped ribbon in them and tied them up and put in a big christmas box and each morning did a lucky dip on them

they were sooooo excited and loved it...think they are all probably a bit too old for that now (sigh I hate typing that!)

I did it because I was so over the commercialism and wanted to find something that was more 'celebrating'

i was only thinking the other day when I was in Target where they are in full-on christmas mode that I want the children again not to expect too much and it is about us and what that means

phew, sorry I've rambled


Sarah said...

Floss I look forward to following all those links you have found for us. It's getting me rather excited already! I think I will have to make a new advent calendar this year and have two. Guess one will be decoration only as I'm not going to get sucked into filing 48 pockets! I do love advent calendars too. Thanks for all your hard work!

Sarah said...

Please no more links for advent calendars, please. Now I have so many ideas I could probably make one for everyone!! Do you think it would be OK to have quite a few in one house? They are all so beautiful I can't choose which one to make. said...

I think I said in your last post that I made an advent calendar for my chilren, all sewn, and they loved it. I also had control of what went in it too! We made quite a big thing of it all, and it was a daily ritual of talking together, trying to impress on them the meaning of Christmas and that it wasn't all about getting, but more about giving and kindness to others. I think the build up to christmas is the best bit! Suzie. xxx

The Curious Cat said...

Lots of things to say here - Little Lent - I like this! I like the idea of fasting and then rewarding yourself at the end, I think the celebration will be more exciting and deserved then.

I also understand what you mean about the whole baby Jesus aspect. Where is the meaning in a cadbury's spiderman (or whatever cartoon character) christmas advent calendar?! It is just greed and consumerism rolled into one if you ask me...We used to get these kind of calendars - though back in the day of my childhood they seemed more religious themed, delicate and pretty - though we never had the lovely handmade ones though my friend's family nice to use that tradition when I finally have a family.
I like the fairtrade idea too as an alternative - well worth the purchase here. xxx

Lola Nova said...

I saw some lovely handmade Advent calendars online last year and wanted to make one. Maybe this year I will finally get to it. My daughter is young enough to not have an expectation of what might be found (chocolate) in an Advent pocket so, I think I might do some stickers, handmade finger puppets, and either notes about or pictures of some of her favorite activities.
For instance, on one day there might be a note about baking with Mama - on that day we will bake something together. Other ideas could be finger painting, going to the library, fort building, puddle jumping, going for a carousel ride at a nearby park, family game night, etc.

For me, the holiday is about spending time as a family, creating memories that will last a lifetime and nurturing an appreciation for the less tangible riches we are blessed with.

Lululiz said...

My boys have always had advent calenders. Would you believe that my darling No. 3 son still insists on having one? I used to make them myself as well when the boys were little, I had so much fun doing that.

Floss said...

What great suggestions and comments everyone is making! I just wanted to add (to my own post - why?) that my greatest handmade success with the tree advent calendar was when I made a set of finger puppets, as Lola suggests. I did three litle pigs and the big bad wolf, and the boys had a lot of fun with those that year. (I think I saw one of the pigs in the bottom of a toybox this year, I think!)

Sarah said...

Finger puppets sound like a winner then! I'm also thinking buttons for a collection, pieces of fabric or felt, hair ties, handmade brooches, other craft items, Christmas decorations, special activity ideas like visiting the lights, baking. Things that will actually get used and not just left on the bookcase.

Apron of the Month Club said...

Hello Floss, thanks for the visit earlier. I love the advent time. I try to do a spirtual study during that time. It makes the season more meaningful. I like the pocket calendar.

I like your thoughts about soldering with peace. Most of the time I feel so overwhelmed as a single mom having to fight off the bad influences that come towards my teen kids. I try to monitor their television programs and try to guide their internet use. I do feel like I'm always on-guard. I am often shocked to hear what teenagers are exposed to at school. We need to pray for our youth.

Take care and hope to talk to you soon!
Yoli :)

Angela said...

We had very little money when the kids were small - I hid a shoebox in my wardrobe and through the year collected small 'freebies' - advertising pencils, guest soaps/shampoos from hotels, etc and then I made finger puppets and other tiny toys. Also we only had ONE calendar for the two girls to share - but each day there was a gift for one child and a Bible verse for the other to read, relating to the Christmas story - we stuck these on a chart and by 25th, there was the whole story! Blessings x

bad penny said...

hi Floss - pop by for an award ! xx

Lace hearts said...

What a fabulous post - it's a joy blog hopping today, there's so many interesting posts out there. I love all the suggestions for advent calendars. You've made me feel all Christmas-y!
Oh, nope, the hall isn't finished yet! Watch this space, yet again.