Whether in boxes, pouches, envelopes, windows or doors… or hanging from trees, walls, mobiles or branches… being December 1st, marks the start of a morning tradition. Opening up a little something to see what is inside the Advent Calendar. It is the excitement of another day closer to Christmas and finding a hidden surprise, that gives the calendar popularity.
There is great history to this tradition. With Advent meaning, the expected arrival of an important person or event, brings the use of this special countdown calendar.
History of the Advent Calendar
The 19th century is where we find evidence of the first calendars. Early styles were the Adventclock or the Adventcandle – a candle for each of the 24 days until Christmas. For the calendar, making a chalk line for each day for the 24 days until Christmas, was sometimes was used.
In 1839, the first known Advent calendar was hung in a relief house in Hamburg, Germany. As to when the first printed calendar was made there is a dispute. Some say it was produced by a Protestant shop, in Hamburg, in 1902, while others argue a parishioner was the first to make one in 1908.
Whatever the case, it’s a tradition that many, even non-Christians follow to this date.
Gerhard Lang, the Swabian parishioner, is credited with inventing today’s version of the Advent calendar, when the firm for which he was a printer for in 1908, made 24 little colored pictures that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard. Years later, he came up with the idea of the 24 little doors, for which he created and sold at least 30 designs, until his business closed shop in the 1930s.
During that time, another company had started producing Advent calendars with Bible verses behind the closed doors.
This gave way to the modern version that we know today, where 24 doors, are closed and one is opened each day to reveal the number of days left until Christmas Eve. Some have the numbers in descending order, to count down the days.
Versions have images of Bible passages and some have Christmas decorations as the image behind the closed door. Sometimes there is a surprise, like candy or chocolate on the last door. Advent Calendars filled with chocolate were already available in 1958.
Creating your own Advent Calendar
For our Advent Calendar, we have found and purchased a traditional wooden house with windows and doors for our children to open. We hope to have it as an heirloom within our family for years to come. If you cannot find a calendar, you can create your own!
There are so many ideas and ways to make a special DIY Advent Calendar. You can make it simple, meaningful or fun with a range of ideas using scavenger hunts to little holiday dates. Just make it unique for your family and home.
Photography: Kristen Smith (NAPCP)