A newer, 19th century German tradition is that of setting up
an Advent Calendar. Advent calendars are calendars, made mostly for
children, to count down the days 'til Christmas, from 1 December to 24
December inclusive. For each of the twenty-four days on the calendar is
either a "window" that reveals something when opened, or a pouch which
might hold one or more of the following: a trinket, piece of candy,
coin, picture, Bible verse, or even a "treasure hunt-like" instruction,
for example, the parent might hide a small toy or Bible verse under the
child's bed and leave an instruction behind the window or inside the
pouch for that day that says, "Look under your bed and see what you can
The children are only allowed to open one "window" or pouch on each day.
Advent calendars can be store-bought, homemade, two dimensional, three
dimensional, hung from walls or laid upon tables. They can be created
from paper, cloth, wood or whatever your imagination dictates. They can
be shaped into anything from Christmas trees to rectangles to elaborate
houses, churches of village scenes. In elaborate Advent calendars, the
windows might open up to reveal domestic scenes, people at Mass, a
grocer selling fruit -- what have you. Some might have light, crepe
paper windows that are illuminated when the calendar is set in front of
a light source.
One could easily make an Advent calendar by sewing 24 pouches onto a
piece of fabric that can be hung on a wall -- perhaps 4 rows of 6
pouches. Each of the pieces of fabric used for the pouches could be
embroidered or appliquéd with symbols of Christmas or the number of the
days left until Christmas, starting with 24 and ending with 1.
You can find some gorgeous, old-fashioned Advent Calendars here
(offsite, will open in new browser window): http://www.sellmer-verlag.de/shop2/index.html.
Some families have the Advent practice of sort of "reversing" the idea
of opening calendar doors and removing treats for oneself: they start
with a large, empty basket, and have each family member add, each day,
something to it so a full basket of goodies can be given to someone in
need -- perhaps a lonely older person, a neighbor who never seems to
have any company, someone in a nursing home, etc. The sorts of things
that can be added can range from candies to canned goods to jewelry to
books -- anything that'd fit and that would please the intended
As somewhat of an aside, you can couple the opening of your Advent
calendar's windows with listening to a nightly episode of the
pre-Christmas radio serial "The Cinnamon
Bear." This 1937 children's radio series is meant to be listened to
in the weeks before Christmas.