Everyone loves chocolate, right? It seems we are putting it on everything these days.

Well, tis the season to have it every day this month!

Whether store-bought or DIY, an Advent Calendar is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to celebrate the countdown to the crux of winter festivities... Christmas! As iconic as Starbucks' red cups, but far less controversial, advent calendars are one of the best ways to get even the Grinchiest of folk into the holiday spirit.

A brief history of the advent calendar

For some of us, advent calendars were a staple growing up.

But for those of you who are less familiar with the chocolatey goodness, advent calendars have a surprisingly detailed history.

Advent is the season leading up to December 25th, Christmas day. Each Sunday leading to Christmas has its own special service in church. Advent is a period of reflection and preparation for the coming of Jesus. An advent calendar is designed to help with the countdown.

Recognizable advent calendars were first used by German Lutherans, but have now spread in use to most Christian denominations and to people who may not have a religious affiliation but still celebrate Christmas. The earliest advent calendars were more similar to the traditional Nativity scene than to the cardboard containers of chocolate we see today, which feature a variety of scenes.

Commercially, the earliest advent calendars are thought to be made by Gerhard Lang in the early 19th century. Rather than containing chocolate, the calendar was printed onto paper and assembled at home, with a Bible verse behind each little window for children to read. Former president Dwight D. Eisenhower is accredited with bringing advent calendars to the United States, as a photo of him opening one with his grandchildren ran in several newspapers.

After WWII, when materials were scarce, advent calendars were increasingly produced in the US and around the world.

Today, advent calendars are available in a variety of price ranges, from yummy, inexpensive chocolate ones to containing luxury products. There are more kinds of advents calendars than days in Advent!

Variations on the advent calendar

The Scandinavian countries have their own version, called a "Julekalender," in the form of TV and radio programs running up through Christmas. This tradition began in Sweden in 1957 and is still popular. The Hallmark channel and ABC Family do a similar sort of thing, featuring Christmas movies each night through December.

In addition, they have something that will remind you of the cheeky "Elf on the Shelf" dolls that are so popular today. Nisse, or tomte, are essentially little elves that live around a home. Characterized with long white beards and pointy red hats, these little fellows can make or break the good luck for a family in the new year. To ensure good fortune and cheer, families leave bowls of porridge out for the nisse to enjoy during the holiday season.

If he or she is pleased, they leave presents behind, similar to Santa Claus.

Make your own!

Chocolate-filled advent calendars are pretty inexpensive, with Trader Joe's selling them for an affordable 99 cents. They are typically available in multiple flavors to suit your taste buds and in a variety of cute packaging, depicting secular and religious scenery.

However, it can be really fun and easy to make your own advent calendar, and it can double as decor. Here is a super easy way to DIY an advent calendar:

Make some little bags from wrapping or colored paper by cutting out long rectangles, folding them in half, and stapling the sides closed. Drop a small candy or cheerful note into the bag before taping or stapling the bag shut.

Write the numbers 1-24 on the front of the bags, then measure out a long piece of yarn or twine. Use some paper clips or binder clips to attach the bags, in order, to the string. Hang this up on a wall in your home with some pushpins. Voila! You can make this fancier if you have more to spend and more time, but it won't take longer to make than the length of one of those Hallmark holiday movies!

There's still a bit of time before Advent begins, (looking at you, last minute shoppers) so happy chocolate eating!