14 Advent Calendar FAQs

Christmas tree branches with Advent calendar on dark wooden background.

Traditional, quirky, DIY, food inspired, for the kids- I love them all!  Ok, love may not be strong enough. I am actually OBSESSED with advent calendars. They make me so happy! If you’re here hopefully they make you smile too.  

There are so many great options for advent calendars this year.  Check out suggestions for 2021 by age; 3-5, 6-10, 11-12, Teens, Adults.  Don’t forget you can also DIY an advent calendar for a fun personal touch too. For more details see The Perfect Filler Items For Your DIY Advent Calendar-by Age

But what do you do once you have your advent calendar?  Check-out these Advent Calendar FAQs and get to celebrating! 

Advent Calendar FAQs

How many types of advent calendars are there?

There are three main types of advent calendars. 

Number one is pre-assembled. These are the kind you can find at most major retailers during the holiday season. You do not need to add anything or do anything with these. They are 100% ready to go. Most are filled with candy or themed around a character, tv show, movie, or interest/hobby. 

Number two is to buy a calendar only. This gives you some choice in choosing your own surprise items and trinkets. There are a large variety of reusable as well as disposable options to choose from. Buy your calendar and then all you have to do is add your items. 

Number three is to make a complete DIY calendar. The versatility here is great, but it takes a bit of work. You get to choose the calendar, and sometimes decorate it or assemble it, and choose your surprise items. This can be as simple or complex as you like. 

Where do you start? Do you open 1 or 24 first? 

This all depends on who you ask.  After some extensive research there are 2 main opinions on this.

Use the advent as a Countdown to Christmas and start with 24.  Build anticipation by counting down to the big day and the arrival of Santa. This is a great option for little kids as it helps them keep track of the days in a way that is easy to understand.  

Use the advent as a way to count up toward Christmas and start with 1. This has historical ties as some of the earliest advents involved candles as part of Christian religious celebrations. More candles were lit as Christmas grew closer, so on Christmas you would have all the candles lit. If we use this historical reference, it makes sense to start with one and move toward 24.    

Either way is fine and there are no hard and fast rules that you must do it the same each year. There really is no way to get it wrong! Do whichever you like best.  

Advent calendar with craft carton boxes on the mesh board. Christmas celebration, xmas gifts,

Is an advent calendar the same as a countdown calendar?

No, there is one major difference between the two. Advent calendars typically come with one small piece of candy or a small toy each day. Countdown calendars do not come with candy or toys. They usually come with one small item like a magnet or clip to move from day to day visually representing the countdown of days to Christmas. There are a few calendars that blur the lines a bit, but this is really the easiest way to tell.  

A secondary difference is advent calendars must be refilled each year with new small surprises.  Countdown calendars can be used over and over again without buying or adding anything new. Be sure to check out 20 Christmas Countdown Calendars 2021.

Where do you keep your advent calendar?

This all depends on what type of advent calendar you have.  Some are made to be hung on the mantle, across a wall, window, or doorway.  Others are meant to sit out and double as festive decor.  Some fun and quirky options that center around food should be kept in the kitchen.  

If you make a DIY calendar do you fill all the days, or one at a time?

My guess is if you are concerned with this you have children or a curious adult in your home! Either is fine. My kids are small, elementary and younger. I only add items the night before when they are in bed, to avoid the temptation to peak or sneak ahead.  (One of nephews got a hold of a chocolate advent at age 3. He ate all of his and his brother’s. I’ll never forget his brother’s little voice “Hey, he ate all the days!”)  If your calendar is out of reach you can add all the items. Whatever works best for you.  

Why do most calendars have only 24 days and not 25?

It’s all about the building anticipation of Christmas. Whether religious or not, advent is a celebration of the days that lead to Christmas Day.  It wouldn’t make sense to include 25 days as the anticipation is over, the big day is here! 

several small packages with wrapping paper

When did modern advent calendars become popular in the U.S?

After World War II advent calendars as we know them today increased in popularity in the U.S. and around the world. They started off mostly in the paper variety and have expanded ever since.  Now you can find a calendar from almost any brand or retailer. 

When are you too old for an advent calendar?

Never! Advent calendars are fun for all ages! From little kids to older adults there is something for everyone. My 97 year-old grandmother will be enjoying a DIY advent calendar in her nursing home apartment this year!  

Advent calendars are made to be enjoyed over the 24 days directly preceding the Christmas holiday on December 25.  Every day you open one small item until you get to Christmas Eve on December 24 and open the last one. 

How do advent calendars work?

Many popular, and inexpensive, advent calendars are made from cardboard paper and plastic. Each one will have a fun Christmas picture or decoration on the front. Think Santa, Snowmen, winter scenes etc. These calendars feature a small perforated door or flap that can be broken and opened each day. Other popular styles feature wooden doors or drawers to open, or cloth bags to peek inside. 

The main things to remember is to buy early for the best selection and remember you only open one surprise per day! 

Are advent calendars religious?

An advent calendar filled with candy or trinkets as we know it today isn’t particularly religious. However, it’s origins are. Advent is a season observed by many Christian religions. It is the preparation for the celebration of the Nativity at Christmas. Early advent celebrations involved the lighting of candles marking the time passing as Christmas draws closer. 

Now most people use advent calendars as a secular or non-religious way to countdown to Christmas. There are many styles of advent calendars on the market that feature religious artwork or themes as well as many more that do not. You can celebrate the holiday with an advent calendar if you are religious or non-religious. There really is something for everyone. 

Kids opening Christmas presents. Child searching for candy and gifts in advent calendar on winter morning. Decorated Christmas tree for family with children. Little girl and boy in Xmas pajamas.

How much are advent calendars? 

Advent calendars vary in price from a few dollars to as much as you want to spend. One of the most popular advent calendar styles, and the least expensive, is the kind that comes with small pieces of chocolate inside a paper and plastic container. You can generally find these at your local grocery story or big box retailer. 

One the opposite end of the spectrum many luxury brands have started offering advent calendars as well.

In the middle you’ll find a wide variety of brands and themed calendars. DIY options generally fall somewhere in the middle the first year because you have the costs to create the calendar as well as purchase filler items.

You’re almost guaranteed to find a calendar within your budget! 

How do 12 day advent calendars work?

These calendars work the same as a traditional 24 day advent calendar. Instead of beginning on December 1, you begin opening surprises on December 13. These calendars are often referred to as 12 Days of Christmas calendars. 

Why is it getting harder to buy advent calendars?

Because their days are numbered! (I couldn’t resist!) Seriously all jokes aside, it does seem like it’s getting harder to find advent calendars. Many retailers will indicate if a limited number of calendars will be available. Such announcements have been seen with specific calendar releases such as Aldi’s wine calendars, Bonne Maman, popular beauty brands, etc. 

The best thing you can do is set a reminder to begin shopping for non-food calendars in September and calendars with food in October. Many non-food calendars for the year are released for pre-order even as early as summer. Many calendars featuring food will hit store shelves sometime in October. Keep an eye out and buy early. 

What do you place inside a DIY Advent Calendar?

Filling an advent calendar is so much fun, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. You want to keep a few things in mind when choosing items; the person who will open the calendar including their interests and age, the size of the calendar spaces, and if you prefer food v. non-food items. If you need help thinking of filler choices look over our helpful list- The Perfect Filler Items for Your DIY Advent Calendar by Age. This will get the ideas flowing so you can find the perfect pieces for your calendar!

Enjoy the season! 

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