Yep, I'm an atheist but, as previously documented here, I love Christmas (or should that be 'christmas'?) and love to celebrate my friends and family and create family traditions. I really want my kids to use this time of year to think about others, and to give freely of themselves, so to that end I created and advent calendar. It's a work-in-progress I started last year and I'll continue refining it, but it's based around a different activity or discussion point for each day. Last year I put the little slips, along with treats (stickers, chocolates, sweets, temporary tattoos, etc) in red envelopes and hung them on a tinsel-y string with cute mini red pegs. I did copies for a few friends with similar age kids. The effect was somewhat amateur hour but cheerful, and the kids seemed to like it. This year, considering we are in the process of buying and selling our house, and with the various family weddings and illnesses I didn't get to create calendars for friends, I just sent them the updated 'activities' file but I made one for us, out of the little screw-together containers you can get at craft and sewing shops as storage for beads, findings, whatever.
I just used ribbon to hide the goodies and we are taking them from the bottom, so the top container is an extra specially decorated number 25. I like the simplicity, the fact that I can re-do with different ribbon next year to match my mood (or decor, if I was that organised) and also the fact that as we go through the days we get to see the proportion of days gone vs still to come. I think it helps little kids understand how far away Christmas is, considering their kooky sense of how quickly/slowly time passes.
The note book with the elephant on it is for me to record some of the things that come up in discussion - sometimes the little note asks things like what each person in the family's favourite tree decoration is and I'd love to watch how that changes (or doesn't!) over the next few years.
Today we didn't get to paint wrapping paper, but I'm not going to get worked up about it - I did manage to skip work to attend Asher's preschool Christmas Concert, drop a signed contract for the sale of our apartment off to the solicitor, do some housework, take Asher to swimming lessons AND do two sudoku...
UPDATED 20th December
I just saw this blog and really like the activities she includes! Really nice for younger kids. I might even plagiarize a little next year ;-)