Web smarts

WHAT: Five advent calendars on the Web offer entertaining and educational ways to count down the days until Dec. 25.

BEST POINTS: Unlike their cardboard cousins, these advent calendars are free. You can also bookmark the sites and return each day for a new surprise.

For history and trivia buffs, go to http://www.castlearcana.com/christmas. On the black-and-white holiday scene, click on the character for the correct day. The figure will illuminate with color, and tell you the story behind a Christmas tradition. At http://www.north-pole.co.uk/advent/ advent5.htm, click on the number and learn what happened in history that day.

Recommended: 3 smart new historic novels

For children, a calendar filled with 25 activities awaits at http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/7134/ Christmas/chradvent.htm. Or read a new addition each day to the story of Tate, an accident-prone French cat, at http://www.advent-calendars.com. Note: The high-quality graphics require a Micromedia Flash Player, which you can download on the site.

And for the best whimsical graphics, check out http://www.rooneydesign.com/advntcal.html.

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