It’s the Final Countdown: Advent and the Advent Calendar

Well good morning friend!

This is the time of year you either love or hate. I sit firmly in the camp of love and enjoy the festivities. This year I’ve been stopping to think about the origins of the things we do and see.

Of course today marks the start of Advent – and not because it’s December 1st. Today is the first of four Sundays before the celebration of the birth of Christ. I’m sure many of you knew that but I was surprised to learn that for some Eastern Christians, Advent started two weeks ago, after the feast of Philip. The period is considered to be a time of reflection in much the same way as Lent and is sometimes referred to as the Winter Fast.

Hand in hand with Advent there’s the Advent calendar. Whilst these days all manner of luxury filled calendars can be found on shop shelves (gin, beer or make-up anyone?), the idea of a countdown to Christmas appears to have originated in the mid 19th Century, with Protestant Christians marking off the passing of Advent with a simple white chalk mark on the door. The modern version of the Advent calendar, with its windows revealing a hidden item, originates from other rituals of the same period, such as hanging a different picture up for each day leading up to Christmas.

There seems to be some consensus that the introduction of a door to open each day was introduced in the early 20th Century, and is of German origin. Gerhard Lang is a name most associated with this invention, when he set up a printing office and set about creating the first printed Advent calendar. The idea came from his mother sticking 24 chocolates on a card to mark the passing of Advent when he was a child, although it was some time until this would become a commercial possibility.

The Church, presumably in an attempt to draw attention back to the religious association of advent as well as cash in on this new craze (who can blame them?), picked up on Lang’s creation of 24 doors revealing a Christmas scene and produced calendars that revealed biblical verse behind each door.

It wasn’t until after the second world war that Advent calendars really took off and it was the 1950s that saw them being mass produced with chocolate in them.

What does the future hold for the Advent calendar? As we make more conscious decisions on what waste we create or clutter we have in our homes, perhaps some of us will return to the tradition of lighting a candle on each Sunday of Advent. The internet is full of ideas for making our own out of materials in our homes, and treats we may make giving them a personal touch and encouraging creativity in our children (here’s some ideas). Or perhaps a return to the picture based calendar, one we can use again and again.

What’s my choice? I’m happy to mark the days off in my head!

Only 24 sleeps until Christmas!

What’s your choice? Have you made one this year? I’d love to see your pictures on Facebook!

Best wishes,

Earworm: The Final Countdown, Europe