Frankly, if I just wanted a count down to Christmas, I would make a paper chain.
For years I have searched for an advent calendar that suits my passions. They are not available. There are religious ones, cutesy ones, disposable versions and quilted-pass-down-for-generations versions.
Some are stupid and some are beautiful.
Last year I decided to make my own calendar. It is one sheet of plain white copy paper. It is not pretty or cute or creative. I do hope it is, however, something that is handed down from generation to generation.
I am a big fan of Santa Claus. My tree is lit with plenty of sparkly lights. We shop and make gifts and candy and chocolate. We go caroling. Wassail simmers on the stove the whole season through and eggnog does not even make it to the fridge before it is emptied by my fleet. Still, I want my family to know about the birth of our Savior. I want them to feel the voice of the Spirit whisper the value the gift of His life. I want to make sure that we don't only think of him on Christmas Eve during the always smooth (*cough*) nativity reenactment.
My advent calendar is that part of Christmas. It is also a little bit of me. I searched the scriptures and found those most valuable bits of the celebration to share with my family. Time is taken to explain terms and nouns (swaddling clothes, myrrh). The moving words of the prophets are read aloud. We explore ideas (Does it matter that Jesus was born in Bethlehem?) and apply the scriptures to ourselves (What gift can you bring to Jesus?) And after a few minutes of discussion (my children are young, remember), we listen to or sing a Christmas carol that binds together that evening's message. It takes less than ten minutes and we have re-focused our reason for celebration.
Then, we remove the next magnetic number and eat the chocolate Santa head.