Mickey Advent CalendarThe end of Thanksgiving weekend means the real excitement starts now for kids: the countdown to Christmas. If you don't want to be answering "when is Santa coming" every night, there's an easy answer Mom.

Buy (or make) an advent calendar. But let's skip the flimsy cardboard filled with candy and hanging in every Christmas-celebrating home in America, shall we?

You can try the decorative versions for the adults, or you can force your kids to get creative this holiday season with advent calendars that (gasp) don't have any chocolate. They might even be better than the gifts under the tree:

Mickey Mouse Advent Calendar Gift Drawers $19.99 at The Disney Store

Twenty-four little drawers force you to think big as you pack them full of tiny prizes that your kids will discover each day up until Christmas. Try the candy-free alternatives that were such a hit with the neighborhood kids on Halloween or sneak in clues for a treasure hunt.

Playmobil advent calendar

Playmobil Advent Calendar $19.89 at Amazon

What's better than Christmas presents? A present every day until the real thing arrives. Each day's prize in the Playmobil calendars is related, so you have an entire set by Christmas Day.

Advent Storybook

Advent Storybook by Antoine Schneider $10.49 at Amazon

Set aside the calendar for a new tradition. This book offers up 24 holiday stories, so you can mix bedtime fun with the wait for Santa. Read one a night until the big reveal.

paper plate advent calendarPaper Plate Advent Calendar Free

Pull out your paper plates. It's time for some crafty Christmas fun. Blogger Filth Wizardry calls this a Christmas count down calendar for slackers, but this had to take some time to make. You can cut your work in half by getting the kids involved. Just send them out of the room when you pack the plates with prizes.

LEGO City Advent CalendarLEGO City Advent Calendar $33.75 at Amazon

Another calendar that offers up prizes that come together as a set by Christmas, the LEGO version is holiday specific but not religious so all sorts of families can bask in the holiday spirit.

Does your family advent calendar offer them activities?