Here is an easy-to-make advent calendar with lots of options for your own creative touches and family traditions. The focus is on everyone enjoying a story together, rather than toys and candy.
Quick Read: Divide a Christmas-themed story in to 25 parts (printed) and roll each in to a scroll. Tie them with a ribbon and a tag numbered 1-25. Each day, the recipient can read one part of the story until Christmas.
~ a story that can be broken in to 25 parts. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of Christmas story books in print, and many public domain stories that are free online to print.
~ enough ribbon or string to tie around 25 scrolls with a tag. For a simple knot, 30 feet should be enough. Use more if you want big bows or curls.
~ 25 blank gift tags, or blank paper to make your own tags
What to do:
Once you have your book or printed story, physically divide it in to 25 parts (or 24, or however many days you want to count down). This is easiest when the story is formatted to end a scene, or at least complete a sentence, by the end of each page. The parts don't have to be the same length, but should provide a balanced amount of value to the reader, so each day's reading feels worth the wait.
Create a tag for each day by writing the numbers 1 through 25 on each of your tags. If they don't already have holes, add them using a hole punch or the end of a pen.
Measure out enough your ribbon or string to tie around the page(s) for each day. Add more if you want to make bows, curls, or allow the tag to swing freely away from the roll. Once you know the length you need, cut 25 pieces at this length.
Roll up the first page(s) in to a scroll. Tie the ribbon or string around it to hold it closed, and tie the #1 tag onto one of the ends. Repeat for each day -- one at a time to help keep them in the right order.
Ideas for arranging and presenting:
Arrange the finished scrolls in numerical order wherever you'd like to display them. There are various options here. Think of how plastic drinking straws or bottles are boxed and displayed.... grouped standing vertically (starting with #1 on the outside and winding around in order) or stacked horizontally (the highest numbers go on the bottom). You could also line them up like candles on a mantel, or create a dispenser from a cardboard box that produces the scrolls out one at a time through a slot in the bottom (the scrolls should be fed into the box starting with #1 and #25 at the end).
Most important is the presentation of each day's reading. The ceremony can be like for any other advent calendar, or combined with a traditional candy and toy calendar. Open a scroll to start the day, over dinner, or before bed. There can be one designated reader, reading aloud, or you can take turns. After each page is read, they can be pressed flat in a folder to bind (or re-bind) in to a book, or stored to use again next year. However you want to use it, this is a relatively quick and easy way to fit Christmas storytelling in to your busy holiday season.