You don’t need an Advent calendar to know that Christmas is coming, but opening a little numbered door to reveal a prize is an idea that everyone—religious or not—can get behind. Here’s a brief history of Advent calendars.
WHAT IS ADVENT?
Advent is the four-week period beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30) through the following three Sundays. Historians estimate that Advent, which derives from the Latin word for coming, has been celebrated since the 4th century. Originally, the period was a time for converts to Christianity to prepare for baptism, but it’s now more commonly associated with the anticipation of the anniversary of Christ’s birth on December 25.
ADVENT CALENDAR ORIGINS
Advent calendars typically don’t follow the period of Advent described above. Instead, they begin on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas. Today, most Advent calendars include paper doors that open to reveal an image, Bible verse, or piece of chocolate. The tradition dates to the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. The first known Advent Calendar which is from 1851. Other early styles were the Advent clock or the Advent candle – a candle for each of the 24 days until Christmas, like today’s Advent wreath. In religious families little pictures were hung up on the wall – one for each day in December. Another tradition was to paint chalk strokes on the door, one per day until Christmas Eve.
THE FIRST PRINTED ADVENT CALENDARS
The German Gerhard Lang is widely considered the producer of the first printed Advent calendar in the early 1900s.
Around the same time, a German newspaper the “Neues Tagblatt Stuttgart” included an Advent calendar insert as a gift to its readers. Lang’s calendar was inspired by one that his mother had made for him and featured 24 colored pictures that attached to a piece of cardboard. Lang modified his calendars to include the little doors that are a staple of most Advent calendars today and they became a commercial success in Germany. Production stopped due to a cardboard shortage during World War II, but resumed soon after, with Richard Sellmer emerging as the leading producer of commercial Advent calendars.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is often credited for the proliferation of the Advent calendar tradition in the United States. During his presidency, Eisenhower was photographed opening an Advent calendar with his grandchildren and the photo ran in several national newspapers.
THE $50,000 ADVENT CALENDAR
One of the most expensive Advent calendars to ever hit the shelves was a 4-foot, Christmas-tree shaped structure carved from burrelm and walnut wood available through Harrods in 2007. Each of the $50,000 calendar’s 24 compartments housed a piece of organic chocolate from Green & Black, with proceeds going to support cocoa farmers in Belize.
THE WORLD’S LARGEST ADVENT CALENDAR
According to Guinness World Records, the world’s largest advent calendar was built in 2007 at the St. Pancras train station in London. The massive calendar, which measured 232 feet and 11 inches tall, and 75 feet and 5 inches wide, celebrated the reopening of the station following a renovation.
THE LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR
For several years, LEGO has produced an Advent calendar set, featuring figures or constructible accessories behind every numbered door.
source: sellmer-verlag.de, mentalfloss
And now that you are familiar with the history of the advent calendars watch the video and fill in the gaps in the script.
Advent is the start of the Christmas season in Britain, it begins four …… (1) before Christmas. Advent calendars are a …… (2) to Christmas Day, they start on the 1st December. The windows of the calendar are opened every day leading up to Christmas where you can see a pretty picture or find some chocolate inside.
The very first advent calendars were produced in the early 1800’s in …… (3) although not the cardboard type we get these days. Christians thought of different ways of counting down the days from the start of Advent to Christmas Day. At first Christians kept track of the days by making …… (4) on their door, which were rubbed off one by one as Christmas got closer. Advent Candles and putting up a small religious picture to mark each day were other ways of counting down the days.
The first actual advent calendar which we still buy today was produced in the early 1900’s, although first mass-produced in 1908 by Gerhard Lang who worked at the Reichhold & Lang printing office in Munich, Germany. The business produced over thirty different calendar patterns until the 1930’s. These calendars had 24 …… (5) and were a lot better decorated than the advent calendars we have these days.
Before long, advent calendars had doors which when opened contained religious pictures, and some had chocolate in to keep the children’s attention. This was proving to be popular over the years but had to be put on hold when World War Two started, because paper, …… (6) and chocolate were limited. However, once the war was over the production of advent calendars soon picked back up in 1946, not containing chocolates though.
Towards the end of the 1950’s, chocolate advent calendars re-appeared and started to spread across the world. Ten years later, many countries were using the advent calendar to count the days to …… (7).
Advent calendars are still very popular all across the world and now come in thousands of different varieties, some with just pictures in, others with just chocolate. The religious meaning of the advent calendars has been lost though. Also they don’t stop on Christmas Eve, normally they have a bigger door for Christmas Day.
Just remember, you’re never too old for an advent calendar, I got a Thorntons Advent Calendar this year, you can see it in the video above!
1. Sundays 2. countdown 3. Germany 4. chalk marks 5. doors 6. cardboard 7. Christmas Day