I wanted to do some kind of Advent countdown with the kids this year, something that would build up anticipation and allow for discussion about the meaning of Christmas, that didn't involve cheap foil-wrapped chocolate or me wrapping twenty-five times three tiny treats.
I found the perfect answer in this birthday ring, which I adapted for Advent. The wooden German-made rings are by Spiel und Holz Design, come in four sections and are available with twelve or sixteen holes. They hold candles, wooden figures, vases and picture holders.
In our family, a different person selects an item for the ring each day. We light the candles at dinner time, and little hands position the donkey and the ox to gaze at whatever's deemed most exciting in the ring that night.
The setup is flexible. I've arranged the quarters in all sorts of ways, and in the first week sometimes put out just the piece or two that was in use, not the entire ring.
I'm already looking forward to using this for the next birthday (Ariana's in May). I plan to pick up a few more figures that would particularly appeal to her, and to put photos, cards and notes in the holders with Leif and Saskia the night before.
There's actually a spiral that's intended specifically for Advent. However, the shape doesn't appeal to me, and I didn't want the cost and clutter of buying both the spiral and the ring.
It doesn't bother us that we're only counting down sixteen days until Christmas. I could use a bit of leeway in the first weeks of December, anyway.