Advent Calendars – Counting Down to Christmas

If Advent Calendars are a tradition in your house, chances are you’ll be getting ready to open door number one on Saturday morning.

Today, most calendars feature 24 doors, each opening to reveal a Christmassy image or treat. Chocolate calendars are most popular for children, and for adults there are now advent calendars featuring beauty products, gin, candles, and even cheese!

Where did the tradition of counting down to Christmas come from? It’s thought to have its origins in Germany; children would traditionally make one chalk mark on a door every day in December until Christmas Eve. Other early Advent traditions included lighting a candle or hanging up a little religious picture every December day.

The First Printed Calendars

The first known advent ‘calendar’ is thought to have been a hand-made wooden one made around 1850. The first printed calendars were made in Germany, by Gerhard Lang (1881-1974). When he was a little boy, Gerhard’s mother made him a little countdown calendar, with a picture and a treat for every day of Advent. He always remembered it, and later, when he was in business, he produced small, coloured pictures which were to be affixed on cardboard, one day at a time throughout December. Lang’s printed commercial advent calendars were sold from around 1908, and were illustrated by Ernst Kepler, a famed artist of the time.

Lang would later produce the first calendars with little doors to open. Both world wars would affect the production of the calendars, and the Nazi regime banned printing calendars with images. But light always overcomes darkness, and after WW2, the German publisher Richard Sellmer Verlag became known as “the home of the Advent Calendar”. Despite paper shortages, they produced beautiful, traditional calendars which they still make today – An American President would increase their popularity.

Presidential Seal Of Approval

In the US, President Dwight D. (‘Ike’) Eisenhower is credited with influencing the advent calendar’s increase in popularity, after being photographed opening one with his grandchildren. The presidential seal of approval helped boost sales and make this lovely tradition part of our traditions, too.

Which brings us back to the present day. Three or four years ago, I thought I could safely forego buying Advent calendars for my older children. Wrong! Three disappointed faces meant that late-night panic visits to many garages ensued, until I managed to find what must have been the last three in Dundee!

Wishing you a peaceful Advent season from us all here at the “Friend”.

Feeling Christmassy? Why not pop to our shop for lovely, traditional gift ideas –

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 150 years of 'Friend' fiction!