We had advent calendars sporadically as children. They were the paper ones with glitter and had little pictures behind the doors. We had to take turns opening the doors since we never had more than one at a time. I don't remember them being much of a Christmas item back in the fifties and sixties but I do remember that we liked having one around.
When Heidi was old enough, I purchased a felt Advent calendar from Lilian Vernon. It has little pockets on it with felt ornaments and you place an ornament on the tree everyday. Heidi has a little pattern that she does with it and the last two years she has taken it to college and then brings it back over vacation to finish up. I have also purchased Steve one from Starbucks a few years ago. It is made of cardboard and has 24 little drawers which you flip around each day. The best part for Steve is that it has a little piece of chocolate in each drawer. We have been using this for three years now.
I doubt that we will have an advent calendar at home when Heidi is living somewhere else. I know that day is coming and it makes me sad:(