I got one of these “Tony Wolf Advent Calendars” from my local catholic bookstore (not on the website – call and ask if they still have them in stock), though I see you can find them at any number of major retailers.
What it is: A sturdy tri-fold 24-day reusable Advent calendar. Opens up kind of like a science fair display, so you can set it on your mantle or sideboard or wherever. I don’t see a place to hang it on a wall, but it does seal closed with velcro, so you can just put it away after supper and pull it out off the bookshelve the next night (closed dimensions are 14″x13″).
The outside front cover images are of the nativity, and the inside covers are cheerful winter scenes. For each day of the countdown (December 1-24), there is a tiny board book. It either contains a bible story, a prayer, or a christmas carol. Each 1 inch book is designed to be hung on your tree after you read it. Note this is an authentically catholic Advent calendar, and includes 2 Marian prayers in the set. (So I’m not sure how that’s going to fly with the spouse. Maybe we’ll eat out that night.) The other 22 days are completely protestant-friendly.
The books hit many of the highlights of salvation history, from the creation of the world through the nativity. Includes David & Goliath, Noah, Jacob & Esau, Moses, all that good stuff. The carols are “Away in a Manger”, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “We Three Kings”.
Why I like it: First of all, my kids are gonna love it. The whole thing of 24 miniature books to play school with, all that. And no candy to fight over. Then I like the reusable thing, and it folds down compactly, so not much to store from year to year. (Yes it costs more up front than a cheapo calendar. But long-term I think you end out ahead.) As a catechist/christian mom, I like that my kids are getting a refresher of the outline of scripture. Good stuff.
But the big benefit is An End to the Advent Tree Debate.
First let’s clarify: There is no way I could ever be organized enough to have a Jesse Tree. And meanwhile my beloved SuperHusband is desperate, just desperate, to pull the pretend Christmas Tree out the attic as soon as Thanksgiving rolls around. So now we have a solution. The tree can come down, and starting December 1 we can add one truly Advent-y decoration to the tree per day. And then put the Christmas decorations on Christmas Eve.
See? Marital problems solved by the wonders of modern merchandise.
[Technical Notes: Yes, it is printed in China. The irony does not escape me. Also has an imprimatur and a nihil obstat (from NY, not China). Note on the back says “not recommended for use by children under 3 years of age”, with which I would agree, given that at least two of my toddlers liked to eat board books. The text is more for older children, and the board-book quality is really there so that the things last from year to year. I strongly recommend hanging these up high on the tree, and making holiday-card ornaments for the lower half of your Advent-tree.]