If you haven't already grabbed an Advent calendar, expect your options to be limited and be prepared to go the do-it-yourself route.
For many of the holiday calendars, Dec. 1 is the first day to count down the days of Advent, the religious days leading up to Christmas Eve.
The festive calendars traditionally offer simple treats like chocolate, but in recent years, fancier fare has been tucked behind paper flaps from perfume to liquor as a way to woo holiday shoppers. There are also beauty, toy and pet calendars.
Discount grocer Aldi kicked off its Advent calendar season Nov. 3 with its second annual National Advent Calendar Day and sold a variety of options including wine, beer, cheese, candy, candles and more.
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At many Aldi locations, calendars sold out fast and some calendars were selling on eBay Wednesday at double, triple and quadruple the store prices.
Costco released its 2021 wine and beer Advent calendars in September, which included a wine calendar selling for $99.99 and the beer calendar for $59.99. Prices and availability vary by location.
This year, many major retailers sold the cheese calendar that considers itself the original cheese Advent calendar.
The "Ilchester So Wrong It's Nom Cheese Advent Calendar" sold for $20 at stores nationwide including Sam’s Club, Target, Supervalu, Sprouts, Schnucks, Meijer, Jewel, Lidl and Publix.
What is Advent season?
Advent is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. This year, it takes place from Nov. 28 through Friday, Dec. 24.
The tradition of Advent calendars began in the 1800s, according to Mental Floss. German Protestants allegedly decorated their doors with chalk marks or lit candles to count each day leading up to Christmas.
Advent calendars as we know them now were invented by Gerhard Lang in the early 1900s. When Lang was a kid, his mother gave him 24 cookies and ate one a day. This served as his inspiration to create the first printed, commercial Advent calendar in 1908, according to the German Christmas Museum.
Do you start an Advent calendar at 1 or 24?
According to Calendar.com, there are two trains of thought on how to start an Advent calendar.
“The first is that you would start with the highest number and countdown. In other words, you would count back from 24 to 1,” the Calendar.com blog notes. “The second is the calendar would begin with one and work up towards the highest number.”
In 2016, Bustle.com broke down how to open an Advent calendar properly.
“Using the historical context, it seems that the proper way to work through an advent calendar is starting with the box labeled ‘one.’ The point of the calendar is not to count down, but rather to count up towards the days before Christmas,” Bustle wrote.
Advent calendars sold out? You can make a homemade one
Clara Gorski of Mosinee, Wisconsin uses an Advent calendar her sister made in the early 1960s, she told the Stevens Point Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network. When turned over, each square of the calendar reveals a person, animal or item involved in the Nativity scene, from the baby Jesus to Mary, Joseph and the three wise men.
Diana Goen, a member of The Button Buds of Northeastern Wisconsin, created a calendar with the group using buttons to count down the days. The calendars eventually evolved into bingo cards. Goen said she's started using the cards with her granddaughter and nieces and nephews. They can win prizes throughout the season, she said.
The calendars can also be tailored to the user's interest and also include cards for other holidays, Gorski said. From dogs and sweet treats to angels and snowmen, there's a theme for everyone in the family.
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Contributing: Emma Stein, Detroit Free Press; Melissa Siegler, Stevens Point Journal
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Advent calendar: Do you start with 1 or 24 for countdown to Christmas?