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Advent calendars have been used for generations all across the world, always adding spirited excitement for the holiday season.
What is an Advent Calendar?
A basic Advent calendar is a board that counts down the days to Christmas. The calendars are usually numbered from December 1 – December 25.
Each day, children peel back one of the compartments for that day, and inside is a representation of the advent for that day. The objects that represent the Advent are usually chocolates or candies.
When I was younger, my mom would buy my siblings and I these paper Advent calendars from Trader Joe’s that had the most synthetic-tasting chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. Still ate it, though. Chocolate is chocolate.
Advent calendars are usually made out of paper or cardboard and shaped into a normal square or a Christmas figure. Sometimes, designs of a Christmas character or object are imprinted on the calendar.
Or, some people opt for giving bigger gifts via a cute medium like this:
Advent Calendar History
The first known Advent calendar was made in 1851 from Germany. German’s were already accustomed to celebrating Advent, so they added an Advent calendar to their traditions.
In the early 1900’s, the first printed calendar was created. By 1920, German inventor Gerhard Lang began to add doors to the calendars and is believed to be the creator of modern day calendars.
In quick succession, in the 1930’s, bible verses and pictures were placed behind the doors for each day. Lang’s company later shut down because of the issues in World War II.
During the war, calendars with images printed on them were banned and Advent calendars almost disappeared forever. However, Richard Sellmar obtained a permit from U.S. officials to start processing them again.
He began an Advent calendar company, Sellmar-Vulag, and it has been one of the most impactful calendar companies to date.
In 1950, people began to place chocolate in the doors of the calendars. This custom has become a staple over the years, hence the Trader Joe’s cardboard-chocolate.
To give a brief disclaimer, however, Trader Joe’s SLAPS. They have many awesome chocolate treats and REALLY, REALLY GOOD dips. If anything, my criticism is a testament to my high standards of the store- step it UP, my guys.
Advent Calendar Meaning
Although most children only enjoy Advent calendars because of the candies, they have deeper meanings. This is where my English teacher is beginning to foam at the mouth, but that’s okay because I love analysis, too. Grasping at straws is my specialty. It’s a power I have learned to use with caution. It’s like… Katara’s bloodbending shtick in Avatar- though, to be fair, aggressive analysis isn’t on the same scale as pulling a Harry Potter Imperio and putting someone under mind control.
So, maybe that was a faulty analogy. I apologize for the logical fallacy, but most likely will keep it there for posterity’s sake.
Every day on the calendar stands for an important moral. Advent calendars are oftentimes religious in nature, pointing towards biblical themes to teach a lesson or showcase different facets of morality.
The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “arrival” or “coming”. Advent’s the time of year where people of the Christian faith place a lot of emphasis on the birth, or “arrival” of Jesus, so it’s fitting, I suppose.
The advent is part of the liturgical year, or a church calendar, which is used in Christian religion.
Advent is started on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ends on the celebration of Christmas on December 25. Hopefully we’ll actually have a semi-normal celebration this year, but we’ll see.
Is an Advent Calendar Religious?
Are Advent calendars just fun for children, or do they have a religious meaning? I’m here to assuage your doubts: it doesn’t matter. If you’re religious, then, cool- Advent calendars have their roots in that and you could definitely consider these countdown decor pieces as a religious symbol. If not, that’s cool, too- presents are presents, people.
As I mentioned earlier, Advent calendars come from Protestant Christian religion centuries ago. Advent is a time of waiting for people of certain faiths for the Messiah to come around.
If people do use their advent’s religiously, candles are lit every Sunday of advent, 1 on the first day, 2 on the second, and so on. Also, some people celebrate advent by fasting, whether it’s giving up food or a habit.
Churches might change color of their walls or cloth to purple, the color of advent. Some churches donate more food or money to community food banks and charities over advent.
Although Advent comes from Christian origin, many people take part in the celebration.
What Does an Advent Calendar Look Like?
Advent calendars are usually made out of cardboard or paper for the base. Then, either images are printed on them or people create their own images to put on them.
Pictures might include Christmas figures including Santa, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, and many others. Also, small compartments are placed into the cardboard for each day.
On top of the doors there is a number representing what day the compartment is for. The doors are opened one by one, day by day.
Inside of the compartments usually lies a small candy or chocolate representing the advent that day represents.
How Many Days Are on an Advent Calendar?
Advent calendars begin on December 1 and end on December 25. Sometimes, they may end on December 24. Basically, it’s just a countdown from the 1st of December to either the day before or the day of Christmas.
Although an Advent calendar spans for 24 days, the actual season of Advent is different. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Day. Advent 2019 lasted from November 29 – December 30.
How Do Advent Calendars Work?
Although I may have already gone over some details of how Advent Calendars work, there might be some more that you need to know.
First, Advent Calendars can be either bought from a store or made from home. No matter what you do, extra designs may be added to the calendar to brighten it up.
Designs can be drawn or printed on the cardboard to create images. Also, some people even make their own calendars.
Next, small compartments are cut into the board for the chocolate to be placed in. Most of the time, Twenty-Five small squares are cut inside of the board. Then, plastic is put in the middle of the board to store the chocolates inside.
Once it’s made, the families are free to use them however they like. Once a day from December 1 – December 25, children peel open the compartments to find a yummy piece of candy inside.
After all is done, the calendars are thrown out, and the cycle of the Advent calendar continues for however long you want it to. Do what you want- I don’t care (I mean that in the best way possible).
My Advent Tradition
Every year, my family has a tradition of using Advent calendars. My parents buy my two siblings and I one calendar each. (The editor would like to note that the author is referring to the horrid Trader Joe’s chocolate. I know I’m getting more opinionated on my opinion of the chocolate every time I mention it- I’m sorry, I swear. All I know how to do it escalate, eat hot chip, and lie, and if you don’t get that reference, I’m very sorry for that, too.)
Usually, we get them a few days before December so my siblings and I are impatiently waiting for them. Then, on December 1, we finally begin opening them.
We continue opening them every day until Christmas, which, at that point, we throw them away. The tradition has gone every year I have remembered and although it’s simple, it’s special.
Okay, while that’s a cute note to end off on, I’d like to make something painfully clear: our little brother has and will continue to “sneak” our chocolates from us and pretend he didn’t mean to. And even though- EVEN THOUGH- I hate the chocolate (see, here goes the escalation thing again), the fact that the little gremlin child thinks he can pull one over me like I have a party-hat-clad chihuahua for a brain that yaps and trembles like a fierce, festive volcano chills the very marrow in my bones.
He may be eight, but karma is my friend and I will punt the kid into oblivion to restore the natural order. Figuratively, of course. 🙂