The ultimate guide to Advent Calendars to count down to Christmas

What is it about Advent Calendars that makes them so popular?  Where does this tradition come from? I have asked myself these questions and went out to find out where the tradition has started and why we all love it so much. London Mums have also tried to make their own ones and kids club reporters have also provided a list of their favourite Advent Calendars for this Christmas. It's beginning to look like Christmas...

The tradition

The Advent Calendar was born in 19th Century Germany. The first known home made Advent Calendar is from 1851. The first idea came from protestant families who put a chalk line on the door for every day in December until Christmas Eve. An other tradition was to hang up little pictures on the wall - one for each day in December. Other early styles were the Advent Clock or the Advent Candle - a candle for each of the 24 days until Christmas, similar to what we call today the Advent Wreath.
German first advent calendar

In 1908 the first printed Advent Calendar with no windows to open was published. This Calendar was known as the Christmas-Calendar or Munich Christmas-Calendar.

In 1908 the first printed Advent Calendar with no windows to open was published.  It had little coloured pictures which could be affixed on a cardboard at every day in December. This Calendar was known as the Christmas-Calendar or Munich Christmas-Calendar. The next styles were religious Advent Calendars with Bible Verses instead of pictures behind the doors. World War II inevitably stopped the success of this popular German tradition because cardboard was rationed and it was forbidden to produce Calendars with pictures until 1946. Advent Calendars filled with Chocolate started to become available in 1958. Nowadays with more health conscious parents, the chocolate filled Advent Calendars are often (but not completely) replaced by little toys or gifts filled Calendars. They are clearly more expensive (the choccie filled calendars cost as little as £1 from supermarkets versus £12 to £50 toys calendars) and not always an affordable choice.  

DIY Advent Calendar made out of recycled material

For a few years in a row I made an Advent Calendar out of recycled household material or old wrappings - what I would like to call my Junk Advent Calendar. advent calendar home made collage This is the most cost effective and easiest Advent Calendar ever (although not the prettiest one)! Here are three simple steps to make it: 1- Recycle old gift bags or small envelopes (start recycling straight after Christmas); 2- Label them with number tags (we used some from cloth hangers and labeled them with the suitable numbers); 3- Fill them with little messages and pressies (not expensive but meaningful to your kids as messages from mum and dad, poems, songs, hand-written tales). I put them all in a basket. It does not need to be super cute or amazing looking. But if you add your thoughts about Christmas, songs, photos and other personal things, your child would love it because the idea of you making all these things makes it so special. To make this, I was inspired by this one I saw on the internet which is much prettier. But then I found myself time-deprived with all Christmas preparations and ended up putting everything in a basket. advent-calendar

Ideas for advent calendar pockets' fillers

Sweets and Chocolates are classic choices but not the healthiest options. The Chocolate Show Oct 2014 on offer at the show 'Star Wars' is back on 17 December so this year is certainly going to be a big one for Star Wars fans. This Han Solo LEGO® Star Wars™ Key Light is simply adorable. Han Solo is the latest character to join the LEGO Star Wars™ Key Lights range. xmas LEGO Star Wars Han Solo Keylight Pro HR The range brings together popular characters in the form of cool pose-able key lights with light up feet. They are quite simply the perfect stocking filler for Star Wars fans of any age. Available now Smythstoys.com, truffleshuffle.co.uk and all good toy retailers. SRP £6.99 Suitable from 6+

The prettiest Advent Calendars in 2015

Biscuiteers Rosh Hashanah Collection advent high res 2015 A great alternative to chocolate filled Advent Calendar is the Biscuiteers Advent Tin and cloth calendar. Somehow this is closer to the German tradition than the cheap supermarkets versions. biscuiteers high res advent calendar 2015 It does not come in cheap but these biscuits are delicious and bring a very Gingery Christmas taste. All Biscuiteers biscuits are handmade and iced by hand. Delivered in stylish, traditional square edged tins that have a life after biscuit, each collection is beautifully decorated according to its theme. You can visit the stores across London too to have a try: Biscuiteers Icing Cafes at 194 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill or 13 Northcote Road, Clapham. Biscuiteers are also stocked in Selfridges, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and The Conran shop, among others.   PLAYMOBIL For the past couple of years London Mums' top choice of Advent Calendars have been by Playmobil. For less than £20 you get a piece of solid German toy at £1 per day for your child. FOR BOYS This year PLAYMOBIL have partnered with London Fire Brigade for their 150th anniversary and to kick off the partnership, they've released a Fire Rescue Operation Advent Calendar along with a stop-motion video teaching little ones about fire safety and who our fire fighter heroes are. Advent calendars Playmobil Christmas Advent Calendar Fire Rescue Operation 4 This will be used for London Fire Brigade’s education service in schools for the upcoming academic year and online.
As each of the 24 doors is opened more of the scene is revealed showing the hard working fire-fighters putting out the fierce blaze taking hold of a stack of tyres. Advent calendars Playmobil Christmas Advent Calendar Fire Rescue Operation 1 Featuring many accessories including a water hose, a fire extinguisher, a stack of tyres and lots more there is plenty to keep you entertained. The set includes 2 Playmobil fire-fighters, a passer by and a boy with cat, matching pairs card game and many accessories. Advent calendars Playmobil Christmas Advent Calendar Fire Rescue Operation 2 The Box Contains the calendar including 4 Playmobil figures and fire rescue accessories, a motorbike workshop scene with a tyre fire in progress that needs extinguishing, fire team tracked fire vehicle with rotating base to help control the scene, a matching pairs card game. This calendar is ideal for role play and to stimulate imaginative play. It will keep busy over Christmas.   FOR GIRLS

Playmobil Christmas Advent Calendar Unicorn Fairyland has 24 boxes to count down to Christmas. As each box is opened it creates a good scene, with the fairy queen introducing the fairy prince and princess to her unicorn and other forest animals.

Playmobil 5492 Christmas Advent Calendar Unicorn Fairyland 1

The set comes complete with a jewellery box and ring.

Playmobil 5492 Christmas Advent Calendar Unicorn Fairyland 2 Mini figures include the fairy queen who watches over the forest, three Playmobil fairies, lots of woodland animals, as well as a mystical unicorn.  
LEGO FRIENDS LEGO Friends Advent Calendar for 2015 is inspired by a winter village in Heartlake City Square.
LEGO Friends 41102 Advent Calendar 1
Children can unveil a new piece every day - 24 buildable surprises  in total - and find special winter sports equipment,
fairground games and Christmas cakes and candies, a rabbit, Knock 'Em Over game and a Christmas tree!
LEGO Friends 41102 Advent Calendar 3
They are all so well made like perfect miniatures of the real world including furry winter friends.
LEGO Friends 41102 Advent Calendar 2 Each box includes Andrea and Liza mini-dollfigures.

About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London http://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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