Amy also has a post about this topic here on her blog if you want to get her perspective.
When I was growing up, I don't remember my family ever having an advent calendar of any kind. I imagine it's because it's a little hard to manage just pulling off Christmas day when you have 6 kids, let alone remembering to do something 25 days in a row.
Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday and one that I want to stretch out as long as I can, so when our kids were little I thought it would be great to have some kind of an advent calendar. I was a little picky though. I didn't want one that gave them a piece of candy every day. There were enough sweets to be had and that's not a habit that I wanted to reinforce. We also couldn't afford (and didn't have the time to shop for) one that gave them a little present every day. Besides, how do you share that with 2 kids unless they each had one?
I also wanted one that focused on the birth of our Lord and not on Santa. Those are not exactly easy to come by, but in those early days there was a woman at our church, ODF...I don't remember her name now, but she made the most awesome crafts that focused on Christ and this was one of them!
This advent calendar (click photo to see the detail) has 25 slots, and the idea was to insert a piece of brown paper bag folded up and fringed a little on the end (to represent the hay in the manger) in each slot. Each day the kids would take turns opening one up to find a special activity to celebrate the season.
December is always a busy month, so near the end of November I would sit down and calendar all of our family commitments for church, school, etc. then fill in the dates when we'd get the tree, decorate it, hang stockings, go see Christmas lights and more. On the days that were left, I'd look at the TV schedule for all those great Christmas shows like Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch and all and fill those in as well. Of course, that was before TiVo and DVRs and VCRs and Netflix, etc. so if you didn't watch the show when it was on, you missed it for the year....and we couldn't let that happen. Finally on those odd days when we didn't already have something planned, I'd try to squeeze in some quiet activities, like reading a Christmas story or listening to Christmas music. One of my very favorites was turning out all the lights in the living room except the tree, laying on the floor and watching how the colored twinkle lights shown on the ceiling and walls making beautiful patterns and designs that were simply mesmerizing (and very relaxing during that crazy busy month). I do miss our twinkle lights sometimes because of this very activity.
When I got out the Baby Jesus Advent Calendar to take a picture this year, I looked at the slips that were still in it and discovered that it was last used in 1996 (our 19th anniversary was Dec 9th that year). Amy would have been 14 and Kevin was 12...right about the time that they started getting bored with the whole idea and probably a little too busy as well.
Even though we don't have anyone around to pull the slips each day, I decided to keep it hanging up this year, just for the fun of it. I love this little treasure and hope that either Amy or Kevin will adopt it (or something like it) someday.