A trend that started in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century, advent calendars are a relatively recent addition to our Christmas celebrations. Read on to learn about their history.
Traditionally, Lutherans marked the days running up to Christmas Day by making chalk marks on their front doors from the 1st to the 24th of December. This anticipation of the holy day explains the name – advent means ‘coming towards’.
It is believed that German publisher Gerhard Lang’s company was the first to produce a commercially printed advent calendar, which was based on his own family’s idea of sticking 24 small sweets on a square of card for the children to eat each day of December. Early versions were simple pictures, but later, the idea of a window for each day developed, and the biblical quotes behind each door then gave way to more secular offerings, like sweets and chocolates. Soon, advent calendars became as popular as Christmas lights and Christmas trees.
In more recent years, more sophisticated and elaborate advent calendars have become popular, with expensive, high-end versions being produced by fragrance houses and jewellers. Not to be outdone, last year, Porsche introduced what it claimed was the largest and most expensive advent calendar in history. Coming in at a million dollars, and including a full-sized car, a motor yacht and a host of other luxury items, this was a far cry from the modest treats of Lang’s childhood.
For most of us, advent calendars are less about extravagant gifts, and more about the joyful anticipation of Christmas.