Growing up our family had one of the Avon Christmas Count-Down Calendars from 1987 with the mouse that moved from one day to the next. While not a true Advent calendar as it simply counts 1 – 24, the practice of building expectation by marking the days leading up to Christ’s coming is etched in my memory (as is the spirit of competition with my siblings to be the one to wake up and move the mouse first, complete with gloating, “I moved the mousey” song that sits squarely outside the spirit of Advent).
Advent calendars and similar traditions can be helpful tools for faith formation at home. Here are a number of options, some of which are free and some require purchase or donations.
1. Lego Advent
The Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas has developed a free printable set of prayers to accompany the Lego City Advent Calendar. The prayers for each day of the calendar from December 1 – 24 connect with the brick builds and lift up various members of our wider communities, like musicians, farmers, grocery workers, and firefighters. You can access the Lego Advent Calendar 2023 prayers as a PDF on the diocese’s website.
The diocese encourages congregations to adapt this prayer calendar for their own communities (no attribution needed) and would love to hear from people who use it. If you use or share this resource, please consider contacting Ministry Developer Randall Curtis at the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas by email and offering your feedback.
AdventWord is a global Advent Calendar offering images and meditations for reflection every day of Advent. You can download official #AdventWord graphics, find additional resources, and sign up for a daily email at the AdventWord resources page. AdventWord is great for concentrating on specific terms pulled from the lectionary readings.
3. Praying in Color
“Praying in Color” creator Sybil MacBeth offers free printable Advent calendars for “doodling” prayers, as she describes it, each day of Advent. She also provides guidance on how to introduce “Praying in Color” as a practice. You can access her 2023 Advent templates at the Praying in Color website.
4. Way of Love Calendar
“Journeying the Way of Love” Advent Calendar 2023 is free from The Episcopal Church via download. It is particularly good for older children, teens, and adults. There are prompts for reflection and conversation. Examples include “set a timer for three minutes to sit in silence and hear what God might be saying back to you” and “as you are out and about for the rest of this week, notice the people you pass.” This could pair well with other Way of Love resources like the Advent Curriculum (available in English, Spanish, and French). Follow these links to access the Way of Love calendar: “Advent Calendar 2023” (English), “Calendario de adviento 2023” (Spanish), and “Calendrier de l’avent 2023” (French).
5. Advent Calendar Cards
The SALT Advent Calendar features printable cards with illustrations for each day of the season. The cards include activities to do on weekdays and scriptures and meditations to read on Sundays. You can put the cards in numbered envelopes, as SALT suggests, hang them up, or use them in another way. We love the beauty of these. The personal use download is $10, and they offer very reasonable increased costs for use on a larger scale. They have a handful of other Advent and Christmas resources, including “A Mason Jar Advent” calendar and “A ‘Less Is More’ Christmas Poster and Devotional” on their Digital/Printable Resources page.
6. Rituals & Prayers Advent Cards
Families Celebrate Advent & Christmas 2023-2024 contains cards for each day of the Advent and Christmas seasons with illustrations, short reflections, practices, and prayers. These are great for families to incorporate rituals or activities into their day-to-day lives during these seasons. The pack of cards is $9.99 and is published by Augsburg Fortress. You can also download a free promotional pack on their website with ideas for using the cards in your church and several coloring pages.
7. “It’s Advent!” Poster
“Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent!” is an Advent poster calendar from Forward Movement. It includes illustrations, scriptures, and activities to do to prepare for Christmas. The cost of $15 per pack of 25 posters is even manageable on a large scale, and the price decreases to $12 per pack if you purchase 3 or more packs of 25.
8. Scripture Advent Calendar
Be on the lookout for the December 2023 “Everyday Faith Calendar” from Concordia Publishing House. Throughout the year, they offer monthly calendars that include daily scripture passages to read and questions for reflection. These are great ways to start daily faith practices at home. The December calendar isn’t out yet, but you can see previous months to get an idea of what to expect.
9. BIPOC Leaders Advent Calendar
For Advent 2021, the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts published a “BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Leaders Advent Calendar.” Each day gives people an opportunity to learn about a different leader. The calendar is ordered from December 1 – 24, so it can be adapted to this year’s Advent season as well. You can check out their BIPOC Leaders Advent calendar website here.
10. “How Does a Weary World Rejoice?” Calendar
A Sanctified Art has released their 2023 Advent resources, and the collection includes printable “How Does a Weary World Rejoice? Advent Calendars for Children and Adults.” Their 2023 focus is “practicing joy in a weary world.” The children’s calendar involves coloring a part of the calendar for each day of Advent, and both the children’s and adult calendars suggest daily activities to invite joy into the season. Both calendars are sold together. Copies for personal use can be purchased for $5 each, and copies for church use can be purchased at varying rates by quantity starting at $20 for up to 25 copies.
11. Illustrated Advent Calendar
Illustrated Ministry has developed “An Illustrated Advent Calendar” as a digital printable for family or church use. As of this article’s publication date, three different editions of the calendar are currently available: a geometric shapes design, one that features shepherds and stars, and a new version with strands of Christmas lights. Each edition begins on December 1 and ends on Christmas and involves coloring and other activities. Pricing is on a sliding scale for the shepherds and stars edition ($2.99 for a household, $9.99 – 15.99 by church size) and a flat rate of $11.99 for the light strands and geometric editions.
12. Outdoor Advent Calendar
Although this list of calendars is designed to focus on faith-related resources, one calendar that isn’t explicitly Christian deserves mention. 1000 Hours Outside, a practice launched by Ginny Yurich to promote time outdoors for children and families, created a free “Outdoor Advent Calendar.” It includes 29 activities to do outside, and two different versions are available: one tailored to warm climates and another for cool areas. Because the calendar is undated, it can be used in any Advent season. It can be a helpful resource for incorporating creation care into your Advent celebration.
What is your favorite Advent Calendar? Know of a new one to add to our list? Tell us in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This article was first published on November 2, 2020. It has been revised, updated, and republished for 2023 on October 31, 2023 with the author’s permission.