The countdown to Christmas has started! In Germany – and I think by now in many other countries – we make the time to Christmas go by faster with a fun tradition: the Advent Calendar. During the Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, you get to open a “door” every day, starting December 1 until December 24, Christmas Eve. Behind every “door” of the traditional calendar is a little piece of chocolate. Growing up in East Germany I had paper calendars with pictures of gingerbread, stars, dolls, Christmas wreaths, Santa and other things “Christmas” behind each door. Sometimes we would get a package from family in West Germany with a beautiful Christmas calendar in it. Not only were the colors brighter, but also the best little treats: delicious chocolates shaped in everything “Christmas”. With the Berlin wall falling and the calendar industry growing, I suddenly faced countless options – from tea to beer calendars, from lego to calendars with little books and so many more.(Funny: My favorites are the little Christmas card calendars with pictures in them.)
But nothing is more fun than making the Advent calendars for your loved ones yourself. In our house that means Mama is frantically shopping on November 30 and wrapping and packing until midnight – and then I enjoy happy faces and radiant smiles every morning for 24 days.
One person, who is much better organized than me and makes the most beautiful calendars, is Maike in Bremen, Germany. She has been crafting Advent Calendars for her step daughter for 8 years. And they are not just calendars, they are pieces of art, and love. Mine are love too, but not so much art.
Maike starts the preparations for her calendars in October. She comes up with ideas and starts the shopping for the little gifts. First, the calendar was filled with little toy animals. With her daughter growing older, the ponies for the horse farm were replaced with little perfume samples and nail polish. While the little gifts look like they require months to be finished, it takes Maike only one evening to pack them. (Well, unless the cats help, which may extend production time.)
Maike’s 2017 calendar: each letter on the 24 bags is hand-made.