Hands up if you're already getting excited about Christmas? As a child I loved the countdown to Christmas that was marked by opening a window in my advent calendar every day. My sister and I had advent calendars with bright, jolly pictures behind the windows, and as we got a bit older we were allowed to have chocolate advent calendars, which felt like such a treat! Now of course you can buy some amazing advent calendars - he got me the 2013 version of this Ciate advent calendar last year which had a pot of mini nail varnish behind each window! And I have a feeling that he is after the Lego advent calendar this year....
But you don't have to spend a lot on advent calendars - you can pick them up in the poundshop including branded children's cartoon character ones, which should keep most kids happy for under a quid.
Sometimes though it's nice to add the personal touch and give something
home made. Last year I found this cardboard Santa in Ikea's January sale
for only 50p, and kept it right through until Christmas. It stands
about two feet tall and has little cardboard boxes that you can slide
out and open to place a treat inside. It's freestanding which means you could place it anywhere around the house.
I filled the boxes with all sorts of things. I bought a box of Cadbury's Miniature Heroes and spread them throughout the boxes, making sure he wouldn't find the same thing on consecutive days. I then hunted high and low in shops and on Ebay, to find little gifts that would fit inside the boxes. The treats ranged from a key ring to a mini magic puzzle to some tiny Lego figurines. If you were giving this to a woman, you could use the boxes for jewellery (either costume jewellery from Claire's Accessories or something more expensive), lipgloss, nail varnish, and so on.
The beauty of these boxes is that the recipient won't know what is inside - if indeed there is anything inside. So you could also give some baked treats, either homemade or shop bought, but place them inside the relevant day's box nearer the time. Just make sure you get there first so they don't open an empty box in the morning!
Last year I baked some advent cookies with cookie cutters from the Dot Com Gift Shop; you could make smaller versions of these or bake something like these Hershey's Kisses thumbprint cookies.
Women and children would love these homemade bath fizzers, which can also be made small enough to fit inside an advent calendar.
The Dot Com Gift Shop, one of my favourite online shops, has some brilliant advent calendars. There are traditional ones with picture windows to open, featuring Santa or their cute character Rusty the Fox, but I particularly like these advent gift bags - they are a really good size so you would have a lot more options for things to put inside, and you could hide them all around the house and make it into a treasure hunt. This house advent calendar is more in the style of the Santa one I used, and would look great on the mantlepiece above the Christmas stockings. And finally, this one is really innovative - a string of advent pegs, all numbered, which you could combine with the gift bags mentioned above, or use to peg on some IOUs or Christmas wishes.
Whatever you do, marking advent - whether it is with a calendar, or a candle, or something else, it's a great way to build the anticipation for Christmas and to make your home feel festive. I can't wait for Christmas now!