Advent Calendar

You’re never too old for an Advent calendar!

As a child, advent calendars are always part of the pre-Christmas season, but also among students they are really popular. What is the history of this tradition? And to what extent are there trends or international specialties?


by Viktoria Eckert, translation: Wendy Sexton

I make a confession right at the beginning of this article: I am 26 years old and proud owner of an Advent calendar. Among my friends and acquaintances, I am not at all an exception with this, quite on the contrary.

A glance back in history shows that Advent calendars have their origin in Germany, namely in the Protestantism of the 19th century. While for children the time until Christmas was shortened, for example by hanging up 24 pictures or rubbing out 24 chalk lines, the first printed Advent calendars came up at the beginning of the 20th century. These often were designed by illustrators and artists and had their most popular phase in the 1920s.

Advent calendars with small doors followed, surprising children with pictures, small pastries, or chocolate. During the Nazi reign, this tradition was instrumentalized for political purposes. Christian symbols, for example, were replaced by pictures of German soldiers to let the population participate at the war front.

From the post-war period until today the multitude of Advent calendars have developed to unexpected dimensions: Regardless of whether classical ones, with pictures, chocolate, or small toys, or books for reading – there are no limits to a child's imagination. Also, young-in-mind adults can participate in this tradition: There are Advent calendars for tea lovers or filled with crisps or other unhealthy treats or even wine calendars to make you tipsy. Versions with riddles inside, straining your head, with the solution of which is only revealed after eager thinking and logical combining on Christmas Eve.  Couples can also sweeten each others Advent season in different ways. I think this list makes it more than clear that even in the "adult world" there are no restrictions in this regard – certainly depending on the individual financial budget and one's own values.

Apart from the business aspects, Advent calendars can be given a personal touch. Self-made models are also becoming increasingly popular and, in many cases, can even be reused, which is definitely a benefit in times of climate change and resource preservation.

As already mentioned, the Advent calendar stems from an Evangelical-Lutheran tradition; the celebration of Christmas on December 24th  is part of this tradition. In Turkey or Russia, for example, no small doors are opened during the Advent season, and also in Asian countries the tradition is largely unknown.

In student residences foreign students from very different countries live together. Here, the arrangements for the Advent season are quite diverse: some have adopted the tradition of the Advent calendar for themselves, others haven’t. In Scandinavian countries, for example, there is the tradition of an Advent calendar candle, which is burned down bit by bit every day.

All traditions and customs have basically the same goal: to bring additional joy into the pre-Christmas time – and you are never too old for that!

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