All About Advent Calendars!
By Carol Zimmermann – The Advent calendar with one tab or box to open each day for 24 or 25 days taps into something people really like: countdowns.
It also highlights the anticipation that is at the heart of the four-week liturgical season of Advent.
These calendars, which are religious in nature — hence always with the name Advent — also at times can take the religious theme and run with it, sometimes leaving the biblical manger scene in the dust with daily surprises of anything from whiskey, cosmetics, toys, chocolates, books, coffee, and for pets, daily treats.
But not all Advent calendars are alike. Some simply display, when each window is opened, either Christmas symbols, Bible passages or inspirational daily motivations. Most contain a chocolate, perhaps with a moulded image with some Christmassy connection.
Some are online, some are traditional paper and others are way more elaborate with daily gifts in drawers or boxes.
No matter what their size or design, Advent calendars all count down to Christmas. Since they start with the number 1, for December 1, they technically do not begin at the start of Advent; the first Sunday of Advent varies each year and often comes at the end of November.
Some calendars come with 25 windows, end after Advent with the biggest prize, or image, on the 25th window, or Christmas, but most end at 24.
Whether they come from a secular or religious supplier, these calendars are based on the practice of counting down the days until Christmas that once was done with chalk marks on doors or straw placed in Nativity mangers.
The ancient tradition of counting down to Christmas eventually made its way into calendars initially called “Nicholas calendars” because they were distributed on December 6, the feast of St Nicholas, but then the name changed to “Christmas calendars” and even “Advent calendars” as some initial calendars appeared with the annual number of Advent days.
The first official Advent calendar as we now know it is attributed to Gerhard Lang from Germany who produced a cardboard Advent calendar in 1908 with coloured pictures that could be attached to each day in December.
He replicated the calendar his mother had made when he was a child, with 24 sweets to stick on cardboard.
Lang, who worked for a printing company, further developed this paper calendar to have tabs to open each day of December.
Today, Advent calendars run a gamut of themes, and range from simple to expensive.
The world’s most expensive Advent calendar reportedly was filled with 24 diamonds and gold, along with diamond-shaped fairies. Made by a Belgian company, it weighed 81 carats and cost R30 million.
The world’s largest Advent calendar, according to the Guinness World Records, was in London in 2007 at the St Pancras train station to celebrate the station’s reopening. It stood 70m high and 23m wide.
A benefit of current paper Advent calendars is that they can be reused each year—albeit without surprises under each flap.
Alternatively, there are plenty of annually updated online Advent calendars. —CNS