As a child I was always filled with excitement in opening the numbered flaps on our Advent calendar. For anyone who doesn’t know what an Advent calendar is, it’s a special way to count the days of Advent.
Advent, which means “arrival,” is a fitting description for this season of waiting and anticipating Jesus. The fourth Sunday before Christmas, ranging from November 27th through December 3rd in a given year, marks the start of Advent. Most modern Advent calendars, particularly those that are reusable, begin in the midst of that range on December 1. This is also, conveniently, the first day of the month. German Lutherans who made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas are credited with starting the Advent calendar in the 19th century.
I thought it was fun to explore the history of the Advent calendar. Because multiple lineages of my family are German and Lutheran, I would love to know if this tradition in my family traces back to that time.
Growing up we used a few different types of Advent calendars. We had a fabric calendar with felt pockets. But we used Christian focused Advent calendars, with each day contributing to the story of Jesus’ birth. Growing up with two siblings meant rotating days so we each had our turns. As a child I loved when we would have a calendar with a chocolate surprise behind each door, making it even more exciting to open.
For my own family, I had several reasons for wanting an Advent calendar that would last many years. Two years ago I realized late in the first week of December that that girls were old enough to participate and we didn’t have one. I scrambled to find an Advent calendar I liked and it was the middle of the month before it arrived. After that I didn’t want to take time to search for a new calendar each year or add one more thing to my holiday shopping list. And while a single use calendar may seem like the cheaper alternative, if I spent $5-$10 on a disposable one annually, at the end of our children’s childhood years I would be money ahead to have invested in the long-term.
This is just the second season using our Advent calendar and I have loved seeing how the girls remembered it from last year. Another benefit to having a reusable Advent calendar is seeing it become an icon in our family’s Christmas season traditions from year to year.
It was essential to me to have a Christian focused Advent calendar and I ended up purchasing a wooden nativity advent calendar. I love the quality, structure, and magnetic pieces. But as we used it for the first time last year I realized that it was missing something very important. The disposable ones I grew up with generally had a Bible verse or phrase that told the Biblical Christmas story. The one I purchased did not come with any instructions specifying the order for the pieces or anything to read with it.
Before this Advent season I was determined to develop a set of readings to make the Advent calendar tradition more meaningful for all of us. I found two websites that were extremely helpful in creating my personal devotional guide. Most days are taken directly from “Advent Readings for the Very Young” a fabulous set of daily devotionals and Bible readings put together in 2011 by Alex and Betsy Kirk. I also used a few snippets from the “Advent Study for Kids” published by Good Morning Girls in 2013. I pieced together the devotions to fit the magnets in our Advent calendar, accounting for restrictions on order due to size of the magnets and boxes. I made minor edits to ensure devotionals I wanted to use fit with the magnet they would go with but credit for the composition of individual devotions is due to those two sources.
Because the girls we still so young and their attention span is only so long, we are only doing the daily reading and prayer. I plan to add the daily Bible readings as the girls get older.
As a Christian, Advent is not only a season for looking back to celebrate the birth of Christ, but is also a season for anticipating His promised return. If you would like to join our family next Advent season, we are using the Kurt Adler Nativity Calendar. It is now out of stock at most retailers, but is still available on Amazon.
I am also sharing the accompanying devotional guide I compiled so you can use it too, if you wish. May you be filled with great joy over the next week as you celebrate Christmas!
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