Countdown till Christmas - the Advent Calendar

The other day I was chatting with a blogger friend, and I mentioned I was going to start wrapping little gifts for our advent calendar. She told me as she is Jewish, she didn't grow up with this custom. Oooohps! Naive old me thought that all the children in the world had an advent calendar -one of my very favorite childhood memory- at least like this:

open a window that contains a holiday themed picture
every day, Dec. 1st - 24
or like this: 
find a chocolate in each window
Colin had one of those when he was 2 years old: Colin's advent calendar movie 


Something fell out. Here! Something fell out! May I have another one?
I told you, Colin, if you can take it out by yourself you may have another one (we were several days behind)
How can I open this? And how do I get it out? 
You will find out, I am sure!
How do I get it out?
What could you do to remove it?
There - this one is already out. I don't know how to remove this!
Colin, do you want me to show you a trick?
Give me your advent calendar - watch! Oh! It fell out! Now tell me, who gave you this nice advent calendar?
It's from great-grandma!
And what did you say to her?
Thank you!
Do you like your chocolate?
Now we have to wait till tomorrow, then we can open another window!
(For the life of me, I don't get what that last word was that he said!)

As I said I was under the impression, the advent calendar was universal. 
Upon asking around in Asia, the Middle East and even in South America it dawned on me that it must be something Christian and only common in North-Western Europe, North America and Australia.

So this post is for those who don't know about advent calendars - and for those who do and can't get enough! I assorted some varieties:
envelopes in a basket
24 buckets

Then there's the themed advent calendars:
wine, whisky, beer, clearly a guy's kind of thing
Starbucks 2013 - magnetic treat tins
This isn't an actual advent calendar - BUT IT SHOULD BE:
add a charm to your bracelet every day
We've had 24 jute bags so far. 

Wait, we also had a LEGO choo choo train calendar:
So when I wanted to introduce another idea this year it turned out that in Colin's world, the bags were the real advent calendar! Even if the bags are too small to hold a Disney car, let alone a plane! So we will see. As it turns out I don't know where I stored the jute bags. (For real!)
Need a Cars bag for the large items! (2011)
Then there are the village advent calendars. People decorate a window that is visible from the street and unveil it on their assigned evening The house we live in as a bit remote from the street, so last year we signed up to be the Dec 11 window of our community's advent calendar at the office which is located on the main street. Plenty of people passing by.
(Polar) bears with their sleds, skis and hockey sticks
Typically the host of the day offers some holiday treats -
much appreciated by everyone!
Colin's daycare decorated a window, too and performed a song
a couple of glasses with a tea light, strategically placed
on shelves result in a wonderful looking giant number 17!
This year - apart from the one for our family - I am contributing to a couple of other advent calendars. As I don't want to spoil the surprise I will not share what they are about  beforehand. Expect a post called "More advent calendars" around Dec 10!