I grew up having an Advent calendar counting down the 25 days of Christmas. We used the same calendar over and over, and as time went on, it became rather boring. For those of you who might be unaware, let me give you a brief history of the Advent Calendar.
What is Advent?
Advent is the four-week period beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30) through the following three Sundays. Historians estimate that Advent, which derives from the Latin word for coming, has been celebrated since the fourth century. The period originally began as a time for converts to Christianity to prepare for baptism, but is now more commonly associated with the anticipation of the anniversary of Christ’s birth on December 25.
Advent Calendar Origins
Advent calendars typically don’t follow the period of Advent described above. Instead, they begin on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas. Today, most Advent calendars include paper doors that open to reveal an image, Bible verse, or piece of chocolate. The tradition dates to the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. Learn more here.
The Advent Calendar originally started out as a religious activity, and many families still celebrate it that way. In more modern times, families, including mine, have come to make it more of a fun activity to count down the days leading up until Christmas.
We’ve done the chocolate advent calendar, which is always fun because what child doesn’t like getting chocolate first thing in the morning? There’s Lego Advent calendars out there that each day has a piece of a Lego village you can build. The Lego lovers in my family have been asking for this one for a while. Maybe next year will be the year for that one!
This year, however, I have decided that our Christmas, for all intents and purposes, will be practical. I’ve tried to not only pick out gifts that are of more practical use for my children (and some fun ones too of course – I’m not totally Bah Humbugging it!), but also ones that will last through the years.
Practical Means Long Lasting
The idea behind my practical gifts this year, including Advent, is simple. As a single mom, I work hard to give my children what I can. I want to know that the money I’ve spent, or more so invested into their gifts, will last. Yes, I realize that some toys and clothing they will outgrow (hence hand-me-downs for my younger son at some point). But for the rest of the gifts, I want to make sure that they are gifts that will be useful and practical.
Enter In, the 25 Books of Christmas
I’ve seen this done by some of my friends, and just thinking of it was overwhelming to me. But then practical mom kicked in and I asked myself, “What better gift to give to my children, then the gift of reading?” The daunting task of picking out 25 books for EACH of my boys is a huge undertaking, but I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do for them.
Now, this isn’t 25 Christmas themed books, although that IS a fun idea. But for me, again, practical books/themes outweighed the festive thoughts (as holiday books aren’t always fun to read year-round). And yes, it really IS 25 books for each of my boys. So, a total of 50 books. Honestly, if I had more children, I don’t know that I could do this. And also, if they were younger, I could absolutely have them share the books. But, as their reading levels are vastly different (one is in 1st grade, the other is in 4th grade), I decided they will EACH get 25 books.
Buying 50 books could break the bank, with as much as books cost these days. That was one of the main things that was stopping me in years past. But after some careful research and planning, I was able to get all 50 books for under $40 TOTAL. My children are not concerned with having brand new books or even toys most of the time. We have become big fans of consignment stores over the years. So, I have found that I am able to purchase books for $0.50 – $1.50 at various second hand stores as well as keeping an eye out for yard sales and church sales, as well as occasional library sales throughout the year. Again, careful planning made this happen so inexpensively.
Once I got all the books picked out and purchased, the time came to wrap them all! I just finished wrapping the last 8 books and it actually went really fast. Books are relatively easy to wrap thanks to their “normal” shape and rolls of wrapping paper work quite nicely. I’ve put all the books in a large gift bag, and they will open a new book each day during the month of December leading up to Christmas.
I was never a big reader growing up, and honestly, I’m still not. I made a decision that my boys would not be the same way. And thankfully, they both LOVE to read and both are several levels ahead in school. The greatest tangible gift I can gift them is the gift of reading and padding their reading collection.
I cannot wait to start our 25 Books of Christmas. I can’t say that this will be a yearly tradition, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to repeating in a few years as their reading tastes change. And honestly, what’s better than knowing you’re getting 25 gifts even before Christmas happens? This is a practical Advent Calendar I’m looking forward to immensely this year!