This entry's by request..
Starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Danes will open so-called "advent presents" and light a candle in their advent krans (I have not made an advent krans since the year one caught fire in my Copenhagen flat and nearly burned down the house). The presents are usually small - I have been known to find novelty socks in my parcels.
However, my gran has obviously decided that a "small present" equals giving me 11 (ELEVEN) balls of yummy DK-weight superwash wool in a rather fetching shade of red. She's included a pattern for a yoked cardigan too. I have three more parcels to go. I dread to think what she might have come up with. Incidentally David found a handknitted beanie in his advent present. I seem to spot a theme..
(Sorry about the '80s feel about this photo - it was the best I could do in order to capture the colour)
The advent calendar is a variation upon a theme. When I was very young, I would get a julekalender instead, much like the one Linn is blogging about. Twenty-four tiny parcels, one for each day leading up to Christmas. The presents were tiny - maybe a pencil or a piece of chocolate - but they served their purpose. I got out of bed on time and I kept track of how many days I had to wait until Christmas.
Linn mentions something which I really miss here in Scotland: the calendar candle (not to be confused with the advent krans). One candle with numbers 1 to 24 clearly marked and each day you burn away one number. Just before December 1st, you make a "juledekoration" to really display the candle (I have fond memories of going to the woods with my family and finding materials for these things) and then each night as you are having dinner or tea, you light the candle. The trick is to get the right size candle so you do not burn away the numbers too quickly or slowly.
And the final way of counting the days? The televised yule calendar. Yup, twenty-four episodes of a special Christmas children's show with one episode shown per day. It's usually about how Christmas is in danger for one reason or another.. You'd get a royal version with princesses and Christmas gnomes,one taking place in Greenland, a puppet version, a 19th century version and, well, one for the grown-ups (all YouTube links and, yes, Danes are very fond of singing..)
Any particular Christmas traditions in your family or in your culture?