Advent calendar

Advent calendar

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count the days of Advent. Today, they are mostly made for children.


The origins of the Advent calendar come from German Lutherans who, at least as early as the beginning of the 19th century, would count down from 24 to the days of Advent physically. Often this meant simply drawing a chalk line on the door each day, beginning on December 1. Some families had more elaborate means of marking the days, such as lighting a new candle (perhaps the genesis of today's Advent wreath) or hanging a little religious picture on the wall each day.

The 24 candles might also be placed on a structure, which was known as an "Advent clock". In December, 1839, the first verifiable public Advent wreath was hung in the prayer hall of the Rauhes Haus (relief house) in Hamburg, although it had been a family practice in parts of German-speaking Europe since the 17th century.

The first known Advent calendar was handmade in 1851. According to the Austrian (NÖ) Landesmuseum, the first printed Advent calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1902 or 1903. Other authorities state that a Swabian parishioner, Gerhard Lang, was responsible for the first printed calendar in 1908.

Lang was certainly the progenitor of today's calendar. He was a printer in the firm Reichhold & Lang of Munich who, in 1908, made 24 little colored pictures that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard. Several years later, he introduced a calendar with 24 little doors. He created and marketed at least 30 designs before his firm went out of business in the 1930s. In this same time period, Sankt Johannis Printing Company started producing religious Advent calendars, with Bible verses instead of pictures behind the doors.

The practice disappeared during World War II, apparently to save paper. After the war, Richard Sellmer of Stuttgart resurrected the commercial Advent calendar and is responsible for its widespread popularity. His company, Richard Sellmer Verlag, today maintains a stock of over 1,000,000 calendars worldwide. His company has now been established as one of the biggest sellers of advent produce. Other companies such as Cadbury's who specialise in the making of calendars have similar stocks, if not higher.

Modern calendars

The traditional calendar consists of two pieces of cardboard on top of each other. Twenty four doors are cut out in the top layer, with a number ranging from one to twenty four on each. Beginning on the first day of December, one door is opened each day, counting down the days remaining until Christmas Eve, from twenty four to one. Each compartment displays an image, which can be either a feature of the Nativity story and the birth of Jesus or a piece of paraphernalia to do with Christmas (e.g., bells or holly).

Advent calendars can also consist of cloth sheets with small pockets to be filled with candy or other small items. Many calendars have been adapted by merchandisers and manufacturers to include a piece of chocolate or other confectionery behind each compartment. These are often aimed at children who are counting down to Christmas and the arrival of Santa Claus, and have often been criticised for not relating to the Nativity and simply cashing in on Christmas sales.

The number of doors can also increase to twenty five or twenty six to cover Christmas Day, Hanukkah and Boxing Day, and further to thirty one or thirty two to include New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. This latter act was particularly evident over December 1999, counting down to January 1, 2000 and what was largely perceived as the start of the third millennium (although the same thing did not happen a year later in the lead up to what was technically the real third millennium on January 1, 2001).

The Advent calendar is normally of standard dimensions, but can be found in other shapes, such as a model of a house. There are alternative forms of Advent calendar, such as those made from felt or other material, or a chain of candles that can be lit day by day. The German city of Dresden has a giant calendar built into a fairytale castle on its Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt. Nowadays there are also digital Advent calendars.

The Scandinavian "Julekalender"/"Julkalender"

In Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland there is "also" a tradition of having a so-called "Julekalender" (Swedish: "Julkalender") in the form of a television show starting on the first of December, and ending on Christmas Eve. The "Julkalender" was first aired on Swedish TV in 1960 with the program "Titteliture" [ [ Julkalendern 50 år - Bakgrund ] ] . The first "Julekalender" aired in Denmark was "Historier fra hele verden" in 1962. The televised jul(e)kalender has now extended into the other Scandinavian countries. In Finland, the show is called "Joulukalenteri" which means "Christmas Calendar". Over the years, there have been several different kinds of "Julekalender"; some directed at children, some at both children and adults, and even some directed at adults alone. A classic example of a "Julekalender" enjoyed by children (as well as adults, if purely for nostalgic reasons) is the show 'Jul i Skomakergata'. A more modern version of the "Julekalender" is the show "The 24th", which is obviously something of a parody on the popular series "24" starring Kiefer Sutherland. The "Julekalender" often leads to controversy, there always being someone regarding it as too dirty, too boring for older children, too little connection with Christmas, etc. The only stories which don't get these complaints are adventure stories that are not "too" exciting and who regularly mention Christmas, like "Mysteriet på Greveholm".

Community Advent calendars

In Gengenbach, a town in Germany's Black Forest, the "Rathaus" (town hall)—which fortuitously has 24 main windows—is turned into a giant Advent calendar each year. An artist, often an illustrator of children's books, is invited to set a scene or painting in each of the 24 main windows. These are unveiled one by one, beginning on the evening of November 30. The town of Reith (near Kitzbühel) has a similar tradition; however, each of the 24 windows in its "walking Advent calendar" are located in a different building.

External links

* [ History of the Advent Calendar]
* [ Christmas Vacation Advent House Replica]
* [ Online Advent Calendars]
* [ Pages with origami advent calendar]
* [ Advent calendar with mathematical animations]
* [ Advent calendar on sustainable developement]
* [ A Reformed Biblical Advent Calendar]
* [ An Online Bible Reference Site]


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Advent calendar — UK US noun [countable] [singular Advent calendar plural Advent calendars] a picture, usually of a Christmas scene, with a series of 24 hidden pictures behind it. Children open one part of the main picture to see one of the hidden pictures each… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Advent calendar — Advent ,calendar noun count a picture, usually of a Christmas scene, with a series of 24 hidden pictures behind it. Children open one part of the main picture to see one of the hidden pictures each day during Advent …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Advent calendar — Advent .calendar n a picture on thick paper which has parts like doors with smaller pictures behind them. You open one door each day in December until Christmas …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Advent calendar — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms Advent calendar : singular Advent calendar plural Advent calendars a picture, usually of a Christmas scene, with a series of 24 hidden pictures behind it. Children open one part of the main picture to see one… …   English dictionary

  • Advent calendar — noun A calendar used to count down the days of Advent, having windows revealing a hidden picture or gift on each day …   Wiktionary

  • Advent calendar — noun a calendar containing small numbered flaps, one of which is opened on each day of Advent to reveal a picture appropriate to the season …   English new terms dictionary

  • Advent calendar — /ædvɛnt ˈkæləndə/ (say advent kaluhnduh) noun a calendar of the days leading up to Christmas, usually starting on December 1, and designed and decorated in various ways …   Australian English dictionary

  • Advent calendar — n a cardboard picture with tiny doors in it, given to children as a present for Advent. They open one door for each day in Advent, usually from 1 December to 24 December. Behind each one is a picture, and sometimes a small gift. * * * …   Universalium

  • Advent — (from the Latin word la. adventus , meaning coming ) is a season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, in other words, the period immediately before Christmas. It is …   Wikipedia

  • Advent — n. 1 the season before Christmas, including the four preceding Sundays. 2 the coming or second coming of Christ. 3 (advent) the arrival of esp. an important person or thing. Phrases and idioms: Advent calendar Brit. a calendar for Advent, usu. of …   Useful english dictionary

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