Yahoo! News, but I saw it in print in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times.)
I don't know how many American families use Advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas. Judging by today's illustration, it may not be just a Catholic thing.
We had multiple children -- so we always had multiple Advent calendars in the Curmudgeon house. This reduced the fights over who could open the little doors on any given calendar on any given day. We also had a December calendar with a little Christmas mouse who was moved from date to date until the truly magic number was reached. The task of moving the mouse was left to the youngest child of the moment. This usually resulted in every day being Christmas, at least for awhile, because the youngest would put the mouse in the slot marked 25 and insist that this made it Christmas.
Long Suffering Spouse still puts up Advent calendars and the mouse calendar too (despite my wife's well documented loathing of real mice). But Youngest Son, now 16, seems uninterested in moving the mouse each day. When my wife called this to my attention I tried to console her by pointing out that -- some day -- if we are fortunate -- we may have grandchildren who will fight over the calendars. And move the mouse.
But Long Suffering Spouse doesn't want to wait that long. She mentioned to Youngest Son just the other night that he was shirking his calendar-related obligations. "Yeah, sure, Mom," said Youngest Son, and got whatever he was looking for in the refrigerator before retreating to his room to resume studying for finals.