When I was growing up, my brothers and I always looked forward to the first of December, because that was when my mother would hang up the Advent Calendar, starting the countdown to Christmas. We had a large felt wall calendar that Mom made, probably from a design she found in one of the women's magazines to which she subscribed.
This particular Advent Calendar looked like a two-story house, with numerous windows with the numbers from 1 to 23, and an arched front door with the number 24. Each window was a separate piece of decorated felt that was taped to the house and to be removed on that particular day in December, revealing a holiday picture (cut from old Christmas cards) every day. Each morning, my brothers and I would take a turn at removing the window for the day, and as December went by and more and more pictures were exposed, the excitement would grow. Christmas was coming! When the door with the number 24 finally came off on Christmas Eve, showing a manger scene with Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, we knew that Christmas had nearly arrived.
And in our house, Christmas meant all sorts of good things, since Mom was a very good baker and cook. It meant pumpkin pie and mincemeat pie and pecan pie. It meant fudge and divinity and Christmas cookies. It meant hard candy in the candy jar and egg nog in the glass and hot chocolate in the mug (extra marshmallows, please!). It meant putting up the Christmas tree (a real one, of course), and stringing the lights, hanging the glass ornaments, putting on the tinsel and spraying on a light dusting of artificial snow. And it meant a small mountain of packages in brightly-colored paper under the boughs, as well as Mom telling us not to shake and rattle them as we tried to guess what was inside the ones with our names on them.
I wonder if Mom still has that old Advent Calendar, packed away some place? It wouldn't surprise me. It probably has the same sentimental value for her that it does for me.