What is an Advent Calendar?

Three Alabaster content books surrounded by Christmas decor

The season of Advent is one of remembrance and anticipation leading up to the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent invites us to enter into the Christmas season with intention, marking the passage of time and pausing to reflect and give thanks. Participating in Advent can take several different forms, from the use of Advent candles to enjoying an Advent calendar. This is a calendar filled with treats, trinkets, or scripture. Each day, a number representing a day in December is opened and a new treat is revealed. This helps countdown the days to Christmas eve in a fun way that brings Christmas traditions into every day of December, allowing us to reflect upon many different aspects of the Nativity story. 

There are two main ways of using an Advent calendar. Read on to learn about both and decide which is best for your needs.

How to Use an Advent Calendar

The first step of using an Advent calendar is deciding what to fill each day's box with. You can purchase a calendar that comes prefilled with a piece of candy for each day. Or, you can find or make a refillable calendar to reuse each year and fill with small gifts or messages. In addition to the goodies, Advent calendars often have Bible verses or passages from the Christmas story associated with each day, enabling you to begin each day with a brief reflection time.

Sun behind mountain

There are two main methods for counting time with Advent calendars. Since they are a range of numbers from 1-24, you can either use them for the corresponding date (e.g., on December 1st you would open box one, etc.) or as a countdown (on the 1st you open box 24, as it is the 24th day before Christmas). 

Counting backward

Counting backward highlights the anticipation of the Advent season. Breaking from the usual routine of Advent calendars as simply a means of marking time, counting down from 24 builds momentum as we anxiously and excitedly approach Christmas Day. 

Counting forward

Perhaps more intuitive, counting forward in a "one, two, three" way is the other way of using your Advent calendar. While counting forward is standard procedure for Advent calendars, this method still encourages intentional engagement by making our calendar time active. We return each day to open the next box or little paper doors—to read the day's Bible verse and enjoy its little treasure. For the whole of our Advent celebration, the calendar becomes a part of our daily rhythm, keeping Christ's birth and the holiday season at the top of our minds. 

Should I Use an Advent calendar?

Using an Advent calendar can be a fun way to make Christmas traditions last the whole month of December. This can also be used as a way to have family bonding time in the morning when children are excited to reveal what is behind the next door of the Advent calendar. 

brown rock and sea beach

Traditional Advent calendars are increasingly easy to find available for purchase in stores, but you can also make your own as a family. This can make using your Advent calendar all the more special for years to come. 

All an Advent calendar needs are 24 hidden slots to represent the days of December leading up to Christmas. This can be a fun way to add your own spin on this Christmas tradition, allowing you to choose the best-hidden surprises for your family. 


An Advent calendar is a creative way to celebrate Christmas that uses the days of December to count down the season of Advent. There is a range of Advent calendars available, and you can even make your own.

Learn more about Advent and the Christmas story with the Gospels Hardcover from Alabaster.