When I moved to Germany, I was surprised at Advent being a big deal EVERYWHERE, and calendars not only featured mostly snow and Santa scenes, they also had chocolate behind the doors, at the very least. There were also toy-themed ones, such as Lego or Barbie, adult-themed ones I didn't understand and figured I didn't want to, alcohol-filled ones, dog-treat filled ones, etc. Advent wreaths were not only in every home and church, they were also in schools and businesses. I don't think there was a single one of the 18 Decembers I lived in Germany that I didn't read at least one newspaper article about a fire caused by an Advent wreath in a business, usually towards the end of Advent, when the candles were quite low and were accidentally left burning after they closed for the evening.
I've never actually bought an Advent calendar, but the first year we were married, we did do Advent gifts for each other, and maybe two or three times in 19 years we've done something. We've also been given the occasional (filled) Advent calendar, but basically, it's not a regular tradition with our family. I did think it was cool that this year, the first of December and the first Sunday in Advent were the same day.
This year we helped collect toilet paper tubes for a friend to make Advent calendars for her playgroup, and last week she distributed them and had a couple left over, so gave us one:
Katie, unauthorized, added the numbers, and there was much debate about how or if we should fill it. I had some ideas, but then forgot to do it Saturday night.
Day one, December 1st
I woke up Sunday morning at 5:00, as I'd done every day in November to write for NaNoWriMo, and was first pleased to think I could go back to sleep, but then suddenly remembered the Advent calendar, so got up after all.
I filled it and made a "back" for it, which became the front:
The children were very excited to discover that this had happened, and Elisabeth, as the youngest, opened the first one:
Katie proclaimed it "boring" and "not fair" that there wasn't any candy, and Elisabeth was just confused about my little sketch (she thought it was a table) and what I meant by "set up the Advent wreath and light the first candle." But she happily followed me to the cupboard where I got down the ring and the plate and gave them to her and said she could put them on the kitchen table. Which she did. But still looked confused:
After I turned it around and we cut some branches off of the tree in front of our house and Jacob had added some bark and I'd put on the candles, Elisabeth was much more pleased, and even Katie wasn't so annoyed with me anymore:
Day two, December 2nd
Helen's turn to open it, and it said "set up the Nativity scenes". We didn't set up all of them this year--I have a rather ridiculously large collection of them--just the main Bethlehem olive wood one, one little wooden one, and the cards and pictures:
They've been moved around a lot and I took these photos the next day. Jacob keeps hiding pieces--I found the sheep and baby Jesus on top of a picture frame yesterday morning.
Day three, December 3rd
Katie had declared day two "boring and unfair" again, because "we always do that anyway." However, on the third day, her turn to open one, she finally got excited, because we did something that we'd never done before: made paper chains:
Also on this day, although not in the calendar, we got a Christmas tree. We've never gotten one this early before, but they were really cheap and there weren't any decent ones by the time we looked any of the previous years. Two years ago we didn't have a tree at all, which I thought was just fine, but I was seriously outvoted.
Lukas and I carried it home, about a kilometer:
Day four, December 4th
Lukas's turn, and the note said to do something secret and nice for somebody. This was intended for everyone, but if most of the family participated, they did it VERY secretly, because I don't know anything about it. I can't tell about what I did, of course, but Jörn and I found this:
And today when I used the camera, I found this inside the case:
I have my suspicions about the sources, but I'm not telling! :-)
Yesterday we also brought the tree inside, but haven't decorated it yet, and I'm not sure when we will:
Katie is finally getting into this, because she thought that "blow bubbles" was a very cool thing to find (Jacob opened it) today, and all the bubbles that I normally carry in my purse (handbag) have now been used up:
Stay tuned...I may get photos of the rest of the days of Advent, and I may even post them this year...