Best Advent calendars don't cost the most

Ainsley enjoyed a piece of chocolate with her breakfast this morning.

Chocolate (unless it's in the Nutella on her waffles) typically isn't on the morning menu at our house, but it will be for the next 24 days as Ainsley opens the numbered squares on her Advent calendar.

She'll also take one of the characters from a numbered pocket and Velcro it in the manger scene on a large fabric Advent calendar hanging on the fridge. It was a gift her first Christmas from my friend (and our freelance writer) Sandy Bosch. Even though she's really outgrown it, it's a tradition at our house.

Although Advent calendars start Dec. 1, the season actually began Sunday and comprises the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The word comes from the Latin "ad-venire," which means "to come to," or the Latin "adventus," which means "arrival," depending on your source. According to, Advent was a season of preparation for new Christians who would be baptized at the January feast of Epiphany. They would spend 40 days in penance, prayer and fasting to prepare for the celebration.

Most Advent calendars sold today do not focus on penance or prayer and promote indulgence over abstinence. In addition to the ubiquitous chocolate Advent calendars, you can get them filled with popcorn, cookies, jams, jerky, wine and whiskey. Other options contain ornaments, mini beauty products, LEGO figures, socks, jewelry and Play-Doh. You can buy one pre-filled or fill your own. And there's a theme for just about any interest, from Dolly Parton, Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes to Disney, Star Wars and Marvel. You can even buy an Advent calendar for your dog.

I've had my eye on some beautiful wooden Advent calendars with little drawers I could fill (with "wee surprises" one description read) this year. I ran the idea past Ainsley and she will not have it. She wants the cardboard Advent calendar that costs $1.99 in the check-out lane at the grocery store. It's the one she used to receive every year from Gram, who has celebrated the past five Christmases in heaven.

I've followed faithfully in my mother-in-law's footsteps. This year I did make an unauthorized upgrade and purchased a Lindt Teddy Advent calendar. I recognize it might be less fun searching for the right numbered square, seeing as the photo on the front is much simpler, but I figured the chocolate would taste better.

I should have remembered the chocolate really isn't the most important thing. I learned that lesson years ago while helping my mom with her Christmas shopping. For years she would ask for Mint Meltaways from Fannie May, which cost a small fortune, while buying me a box of Queen Anne's chocolate covered cherries for about three bucks a box from the drug store. The first year I was in charge of buying my own gift, I picked up a small box of chocolate-covered cherries at Fannie May while buying the obligatory meltaways. They just didn't taste the same. And then, by the following Christmas, my mom was gone.

I think I know what I need to do! Stop by the drugstore on the way home from work and pick up a $1.99 Advent calendar for Ainsley and a $2.99 box of chocolate-covered cherries for myself. The candy will taste fine, and the memories will be extra-sweet.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean