Advent Calendars build anticipation. Once you buy one you can bring it out for 20 years and fill it with Halloween Candy (if you have that kind of discipline - we don't).
We filled it with my mother's caramels. Yum. One for each child in every pocket.
My mom suggested we do something a little different to reduce candy intake.
We wrote "Holiday Party," "Parade," "Sleep Over at NaNa's" on scraps of paper to mark days when something special is planned.
I might go back and add Last Day of School, Christmas Program, Bake Cookies, Make Salt Dough Ornaments, Make Snowflake Frosting Ornaments and Donate Clothes and Toys to Poor Kids.
I've added coupons for a few Popcorn and Christmas Movie coupons on Friday Nights when we have no plans in December. You could add Build a fire and drink Cocoa, Ice Skating, Driving around to look at Christmas Lights.
Notice most of my special occasions cost little to nothing. Most of them involve special time as a family or with other people they love. Maybe a movie rental and some gas, or ingredients we already have around the house. You could add something really special and expensive if it's part of your tradition, like The Nutcracker if that's available in your area. We're going to a tree festival in our community -- it's free.
The Advent Calendar is a good visual for "How many days are left until Christmas Mommy?"
They'll learn to count.
I bought this Advent calendar 1/2 off for $11 at my local craft store.
More on this at Boycott Christmas in November.