When I was a child Mom made an advent calendar (which I still have) out of felt. It had a Christmas Tree on the top and 25 pockets on the bottom. In the pockets were shapes cut our of felt that looked like Christmas Tree ornaments, and in fact, each day we were supposed to hang one ornament on the tree on the top of the calendar. Among the ornaments would be candy canes, candles, reindeer, a star, an angel, a teddy bear, a Christmas present, a dove, a mitten, a little manger, and a Santa Clause. It was a lot of fun and built up the excitement for us as kids. I don’t remember if we said special prayers for each ornament or if there were any special criteria for who got to take the ornaments out of the pockets and put them on the tree, but a simple ritual would be easy to come up with.
Did you know that the first handmade Advent Calendar was created in 1851? It followed other traditions of counting down the days until Christmas, such as making chalk marks over your door or hanging a small religious picture on your wall -- one each day of December until Christmas Eve. One source says the first printed Advent Calendar was inserted into Austrian newspapers in 1904 as a gift for the readers, while yet another source claims the first printed Advent Calendar didn’t appear until 1908 in Germany. Regardless of when or where, early Advent calendars had windows or doors that could be opened to reveal Bible verses related to the coming celebration of the birth of Christ. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that chocolate treats began to appear behind the calendar’s doors and windows, making the wait for Christmas even sweeter!