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Heidi Tetzman Roepke, Published November 28 2013

5 advent calendar gifts

Advent calendars mark the days leading up to Christmas and were originally used by German Lutherans as early as the beginning of the 19th century. Families counted down in various ways such as marking a chalk line on a door or lighting a candle.

Today these charming reminders of the season that often come with a small gift for each day can take many creative permutations. They can be made of fabric with pockets or take the form of a wooden house with tiny doors or drawers to hold pocket-sized presents.

Some calendars will hold larger items than others, so checking what size your advent calendar will hold before buying for it is a good idea.

Here are some ideas to get your advent calendar going, starting Sunday.

1. 2-inch Swedish Dala horse. This traditional painted wooden handcraft is one of Sweden’s most popular souvenirs. It comes in many sizes, including tiny and tinier, and is pretty cute, too. Stabo Imports, Fargo West Acres Shopping Center, 3902 13th Ave. S., $23.95.

2. Reusable hand warmers.

Microwave these 2½-inch-by-2½-inch cotton squares filled with rice for 30 seconds. Test to make sure it’s not too hot for little hands. Or put them in the freezer to use as cold packs. Etsy.com, MopHeadShop, $6

3. USB flash drive.There’s more than meets the eye with a flash drive full of family photos. Add fun flare to this small but meaningful gift with one themed for the holidays or a movie character, like this Despicable Me 2 8GB flash drive, Walmart.com, $10.98.

4. ChocolateThese petite treats are sure to please young and old alike. Bug Bites Endangered Species dark chocolate squares each come with an educational insect trading card. They are also certified organic, vegan and gluten-free. Swanson Health Products, 109 Broadway, Fargo, 69 cents apiece.

5. Lip balm. As the temperatures drop, pucker up and prevent chapped lips with a fun lip balm like these beeswax balms from SweetBeeHoney in flavors including mint & cocoa, lemongrass or lavender and sage, at Unglued, 408 Broadway in Fargo, $3.

Readers can reach assistant features editor Heidi Tetzman Roepke at (701) 241-5544