3 advent calendars

advent-1 It's almost time for the official count-down to Christmas to begin. The advent calendar was one of my favourite Christmas activities when I was a child. Normally my aunt or my Nanna would give us a calendar, and we couldn't wait to open the new little window each morning. All that anticipation. WHAT will be behind the window? What's in the picture? Sometimes the calendars had chocolate behind the windows but to be honest that wasn't such a big deal. It was the surprise and the anticipation that made the advent calendars so special.

There are three advent calendars in our house this year.

1. The North Pole Express

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This lovely wooden Christmas train was a gift from my parents last year. The idea is that you hide little ornaments or sweets in each drawer in the train. I don't want Scout and Ralph to go straight for the sugar without understanding the anticipation so, this year, they'll get a Christmas story instead. I'll hide a slip of paper with one sentence of the story in each box and we can read it together every morning.

2. The Victorian calendar

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This traditional calendar will be our main advent calendar. The cardboard tree folds out and stands on your table. The snow-scene picture is filled with numbered windows, like a traditional advent calendar. There's a tiny cardboard tree-ornament behind each window, which the children can then take out of a morning and place on the cardboard tree.

3. The children's book

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The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder is a favourite children's story of mine, with 24 chapters, named to match the advent. A little boy finds an old, dusty advent calendar in bookstore. When he opens the first window, a tiny story falls out, about a little girl who followed a lamb back through time and across continents, to the origin of the Christmas story. This year I'll read The Christmas Mystery (again) myself but, when the children are older, I'll read them one chapter a night until we reach Christmas Eve.

What are your favourite advent calendars?

If you're a fan of the homemade variety, I still love this punch-it-through calendar, and this one made out of old match boxes.

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