Many people are searching for Advent Calendar apps this time of year to begin the fun holiday countdown — till Christmas Day. Most of the iOS apps that you’ll find in the iTunes app store offer the commercialized aspects of the season (Santa, snowmen, falling snow, jingling bells, Christmas trees, candy, and lots of winter-themed games), but if you’re looking for an Advent Calendar app that celebrates the true reason for the Christmas season (the Birth of Christ), then you’ll be glad to find Bethlehem the Beginning Advent Calendar, an iPad Entertainment app by DMiNTERACTIVE.
This Advent calendar app features fun original artwork with cute caricature-type characters from DMiNTERACTIVE’s interactive storybook, Bethlehem The Beginning, which sells for $3.99 for the full book. Or you can test out their Lite version for Free first, which gives you 1 full chapter (17 pages) with 5 classic songs, and an amusing storyline told from the sheep herd’s perspective. One of my favorite sheep characters is Grandpa Sheep because he’s a funny and panicky naysayer.
The actual Advent calendar features a nighttime scene of Bethlehem and the lovable storybook characters hovering atop the adobe building, which holds the 24 padlocked wooden doors. With each new day, a door magically disappears to reveal a “weathered” papyrus-looking page with nicely done original artwork. You’ll also see the December date (December 1), 1 Bible scripture from the Book of Luke that will obviously lead you day by day through each of the 24 days leading up until the Birth of Christ event.
I looked at this Advent calendar app a few days ago, but was disappointed to find out that there is no option to open the doors, nor peek ahead at any of the upcoming activities, unlike some of the other Advent calendars. So one must wait patiently. And, when I opened the door on December 1st, I was a little disappointed to find out that the padlocked door opens automatically. This feature takes away from some of the anticipation and fun. Aside from the daily bible verse and pleasing artwork, starting of the 13th day (December 13th) the funny animal characters will begin to appear for each day allowing kids to tap on them to reveal the day’s surprise. I don’t know what it is yet, so I’ll have to update this post after taking a look. (see Update below)
In the mean time, there is the wonderful interactive storybook that you can download from within the app for you and your kids to enjoy reading together. This lengthy story is told from the animals’ perspective (Mr. Mouse, the Ewe, the Lamb, Grandpa Sheep, the Ram, Bettima, Lily & Jasmina the camels, and more). Looking through the Lite version, Bethlehem The Beginning storybook, I discovered a wonderfully funny book with a fresh storyline, exceptional navigation, nice narration, classic music, fun animations, and lovable characters. I can honestly tell you that I appreciated the Advent calendar app a lot more after being introduced to the personalities from within the iPad Books app.
So, if you’re looking for a Free Advent Calendar that offers something a bit different from the rest, check out Bethlehem the Beginning Advent Calendar to help you focus on the reason for the season as you and your family count down the days left till Christmas.
Update 12/14/12: At the beginning of December I checked out Bethlehem the Beginning Advent Calendar originally posted on December 1st, but since there was no way to unlock the wooden doors ahead of time to reveal what was behind each door, I had to wait till December 1st and then again till the 13th. According to the Developer’s iTune description: “The characters from the interactive Bethlehem The Beginning book host the 12 days of Christmas Advent Calendar! Starting on December 13th, the doors in Bethlehem will unlock and your children can touch the image of the Bethlehem character to look at that day’s surprise.”
So with much anticipation, I revisiting this Advent Calendar again today looking to discover the surprise behind the door — which was a let down. I didn’t find anything any different than what I had before (nice graphic, bible verse, and some sound interactions from the Bethlehem the Beginning storybook). However, upon investigating a little further, I went to the developer’s website, www.bethlehemthebeginning.com, and it was there that I was pleasantly surprised to discover and “meet” 12 of the storybook characters from this hilarious storybook, with the option to download a few wallpapers and ringtones as well.
The developer website introduces each of the 12 characters in a nice graphic and text description, along with soundbites from the story when available. There are 3 wallpapers (that come in 5 sizes). The wallpapers are nice but not overly exciting, and my favorite background is similar to the nighttime Bethlehem scene that comes in the Advent Calendar app. But the best thing I found was the 3 downloadable ringtone choices featuring the feisty camel characters (Jasmina and Bettima). They are funny camel ladies — bordering on annoying, especially as a ringtone, but I still like them. Take a listen to one: Bettima. So although I didn’t get to find the “day’s surprise” I was looking for in the Advent Calendar itself, I did stumble upon a few fun surprises that made me appreciate the Bethlehem the Beginning storybook app even more. And hopefully you will too.
Update: As of 11/19/13, Bethlehem the Beginning Advent Calendar has been updated for the 2013 Christmas season.
Bethlehem the Beginning Advent Calendar Download App Now