If you love the Christmas season with all its glitter and kitsch, you have to get an Advent calendar.
But, what is Advent?
Advent is the period of four weeks leading up to Christmas. It is the time everyone takes to prepare for the Christmas celebrations. Get into the mood if you haven’t already. An Advent calendar will help you count down the days until Christmas Day. It usually lasts for four Sundays leading up to the joyous day.
But do remember, that it is more than just marking dates on a calendar, but today we will focus on just that for the brevity.
What Is an Advent Calendar?
Here, we have compiled ten free online Advent calendars, including ones you can prepare yourself.
At its core, the Advent calendar is a Christmas countdown calendar. In its simplest form, it consists of at least 24 numbered flaps that cover festive images printed onto cardboard. Starting on the first Sunday of the Advent season (this year it is December 3rd) with Door Number 1. The calendar owner gets to open one door per day, up until Christmas Eve (December 24) or Christmas Day (December 25).
Image Credit: Turris Davidica via Wikimedia Commons
The Advent calendar has been a staple of Christmas traditions since the 19th century. First used by German Lutherans, it was soon adopted by Christians around the world to celebrate the season leading up to Christmas. Throughout its history, the Advent calendar took on many forms, such as 24 chalk lines painted on a wall or door, to visualize the Christmas countdown.
Today, Advent calendars are predominantly made for children. Hence, the festive images are commonly combined with small pieces of chocolate. Other modern takes on the Advent calendar include colorful numbered sacks or boxes. And these can be filled with simple gifts, including candy, nuts, dry fruit, toys, and small useful items like socks or pencils.
While you can buy a variety of calendars in stores, friends, and family often handcraft Advent calendars as part of Christmas DIY projects for their loved ones. In recent years, digital calendars have become a popular promotional tool. You’ll find companies that organize giveaways around an Advent calendar or tourist destinations that showcase their attractions.
The Musical Advent Calendar is an app for Android and iOS. It features 25 free pieces of classical Christmas music, one for each day of the Christmas season. You can replay the songs offline and as often as you like.
Last year, the National Museums Liverpool launched their online Advent calendar as part of their season festivities. This year’s theme is on man’s best friend — dogs. Click on the dates to reveal each part of the collection. Last year, the focus of the exhibits was on cats. Read more about it on their blog.
There are special tours and events too (for instance, plan a night out with an evening overlooking Liverpool’s iconic waterfront at Merseyside Maritime Museum). They promise “lots of surprises from our collections and displays waiting behind the advent calendar’s doors”.
Also, check out their free Christmas online exhibition. This virtual tour features festive treats from the museums’ collections, including a Reindeer. It’s a good opportunity to combine Advent with a bit of history education.
Boowa & Kwala present a countdown to Christmas on their interactive page for kids up to ten years old. The calendar features child-friendly surprises each day.
While you’re waiting for the first sock to reveal its content, let your child play one of the many interactive games, such as decorating the Christmas tree.
SantaGames.Net brings you an Advent calendar for kids, full of online games, crosswords, puzzles, screensavers, and Christmas surprises. There’s a good chance your child will get disracted with the Christmas themed games on the site.
The only thing that’s regrettable about this calendar is the auto-play midi and sound effects that you cannot turn off. The quickest way to do is is to hit a date and go to the game on the linked page. If you’re using Chrome, you can mute individual tabs: just right-click the offending tab and select Mute tab.
The Advent calendar by the Jesuit Ministry Loyola Press will help grownups slow down during an often stressful holiday season.
Authors and bloggers Vinita Hampton Wright, Joe Paprocki, Becky Eldredge, James Martin, SJ, and others share resources to nurture your spirituality at this busy time of year.
In good old tradition, Loyola Press’s calendar starts on the first day of the Advent season, which is the first of four Advent Sundays prior to Christmas Eve. In 2017, that day falls on December 3rd.
Loyola Press invites you to take a moment on each of the days leading up to Christmas Day, to embrace the spirit of Christmas and get into a calm and contemplative mood for the holidays. Maybe, you can start on a happiness habit before the New Year comes around.
The Anglican Communion’s Global Advent Calendar is an interactive, multicultural online calendar, and you can contribute to it!
Simply respond to the daily meditation emailed to you with images and prayers that speak to your heart. Your images and prayers will appear in the Advent Calendar with others from around the world.
The calendar comes in nine different languages, including Arabic. You can sign up now to receive your daily meditation respond with an image on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #AdventWord.
The calendar is a great way to participate in the global community and experience the joy as the world prays together. The responses from all participants are pulled into a crowdsourced calendar every day.
Okay, for a change let’s move away from the everyday and walk into geekdom. It’s a Shape Christmas is a beautiful digital advent calendar made by design geeks. The idea is simple — it is a digital calendar on the surface. But, click the dates that countdown to Christmas and you get to download free artwork for your iPhone or iPad.
Each day reveals one illustration that is themed around 4 different Shapes (Square, Triangle, Circle and Hexagon) & Christmas. This is a global collaborative project by 25 designers from around the world.
If you love web design then check out the 24Ways Calendar too. Each day on the calendar brings you a daily dose of web design and development goodness.
Your Custom DIY Christmas Calendar
Do none of the calendars above appeal to you? Or would you like to gift a digital calendar to a friend? Then why not just make your own online Advent calendar!
To create your personal online advent calendar with MyAdvent, just upload photos, add written messages and video links, customize the style, and share the link with your friend.
There’s no pressure to finish the entire calendar by December 1 or before you share the link! You can go back and make changes whenever you have time. Just remember to complete each door before it’s due. MyAdvent also has apps for iOS and Android.
On Türchen.com you can design your Advent calendar in three simple steps, no registration required. First, fill your calendar with video URLs, GIFs, images, and personal messages. Second, decorate your calendar using your own pictures or templates. Finally, share your calendar with a lucky recipient.
What’s unique about this calendar is that you can customize the calendar’s time frame. Moreover, you can fill your calendar with preset content. As with MyAdvent, you can go back and edit your calendar as often as you like.
Advent My Friend offers another free DIY online advent calendar. Have a look at their calendar demo to see what a finished calendar could look like. Like on Türchen.com, you can auto-fill your calendar with items from the demo, or add your own images, video URLs, and personal messages.
Furthermore, you can personalize the name, background image, and hide the numbers. You can share the link to your calendar through social media networks or email, and you can embed the calendar on your website. You’ll also receive an email with an administration link, which will allow you to edit the calendar anytime.
Bonus Calendars for German Speakers
If you speak German, check out the following advent calendars:
- CHIP Download-Adventskalender (with Chrome app)
- Weltbild Online-Adventskalender
- PC Welt Xmas Special 2017
This Is Your Season
Are you in the mood for Christmas, yet? Thought.co has a list of 25 advent activities for parents and their children to countdown to Christmas. You’ll find plenty more inspiration on Pinterest. And if the days until the big day get too long, you can always watch a Christmas movie on Netflix.
Did I miss your favorite free online advent calendar? Please hurry and share the link with the rest of us!
Updated by Saikat Basu