Over the past few years the Advent calendar has become more popular than ever. It wasn’t that long ago that we had to order ours through the mail or find a specialty store that might carry them at a fairly high price. Recently I ran across traditional looking Advent calendars in Walgreens for $1.99 each. These were the ones with the chocolate behind each day of the month! Now there is no excuse not to put an extra smile on the little ones’ faces during the hectic month of December. And at that price, buy one for each child in the family.
The beginnings of the Advent calendar can be found in Germany. Like so many of our Christmas customs in the United States, the calendar dates back to the 19th century.
Early methods included a simple drawing with chalk to mark the day, later years it would be lighting a candle or using small religious pictures to mark the days until Christmas.
Gerhard Lang is credited with producing the first printed calendar, he grew up with a family tradition (started by his mother) with candies attached to cardboard and each day he was allowed to take one off.
Lang’s first printed calender was miniature colored pictures that were attached to cardboard each day in December. Later calendars were made with little doors to open on each day with a treasure to discovered. It could be a Christmas picture, a bible verse, or best of all a piece of candy.
Germany produced advent calendars until World War II, at which time production was stopped due to the war shortages. After the war, the production of calendars was started up again by in 1946 by Richard Selmer. Selmer credits President Eisenhower with helping the tradition grow in the United States during his term of office. A newspaper article at the time showed the Eisenhower grandchildren with The Little Town Advent calendar. Selmer’s company still produces calendars today.
Early Advent calendars were based on 24 days with the ending as Christmas Eve, but times has changed. The traditional German calendars will still have the 24 days, but in the United States most calendars have 25 days with the last opening to be done on Christmas day.
Today Advent calendars can be found in a wide range of prices and designs. The original and traditional paper calendars with pictures behind each opening, to the small pieces of candy are still very popular.
But it doesn’t stop there, wooden trains, houses, chests with drawers, licensed calendars with cartoon characters have all been made and still found with a little sleuthing.
Our family’s tradition is a calendar that dates back to 1969 when I found a wooden tree Advent calendar at a craft show. There are tiny wooden ornaments depicting various family life activities that are hung on the tree as the days to Christmas countdown.
Another popular and timely Advent calendar are made by the LEGO company. The Star Wars calendar is particularly popular and often sells out early in the season.
This is a wonderful tradition to start for your family, children or grandchildren will all enjoy the countdown!