The History of Advent Calendars

Christmas is coming, are you ready?

Traditionally we mark the coming of Christmas with advent calendars; a special calendar used to countdown the remaining days. Advent translates as ‘coming’ in Latin. As children we are often given small calendars with 25 windows to open, each revealing a wonderful picture or tasty treat to celebrate the coming of the holiday! The tradition of sending advent calendars to loved ones frequently persists past childhood as a way to mark the holiday season with those who are absent.

erster Advent Gesteck

Where did advent calendars start?

It’s thought to stem from a tradition of fasting beginning in 567 AD when Monks were ordered to fast in December in the lead up to Christmas; this fasting spread to other religious followers. Religious believers felt that it was not enough to mark just one day, but instead, the period of December should be a time of preparation in which they celebrated the tremendous significance of the event. In medieval times, what we would now think of as ‘nativity scenes’ were referred to as advent images; depictions of the Christian tale showing the birth of Christ.


In Germany, it was tradition to mark 24 lines on your door in chalk and rub a line out every day in the run-up to Christmas. In the late 19th Century a German child named Gerhard Lang was given an Advent Calendar by his mother, comprised of 24 small sweets stuck to a sheet of cardboard. She presented her son with his ‘advent calendar’ every year to mark the run-up. As an adult, Gerhard wanted to share the sense of wonder and joy he felt at receiving this gift and began printing small advent calendars with a picture for each day of the month. This practice spread as it became popular, with printing companies across Europe taking up the idea.

Sharing of the season!

The custom waned during the First World War when cardboard was strictly rationed, however, the idea was so popular that when rationing was eased after the Second World War, they were swiftly reintroduced. Nowadays, calendars for children often have small chocolates behind their windows and the idea has become so popular that it has also spread to ‘grown-up calendars’, allowing everyone to count down to the holidays together!


If you like the idea of sharing an advent calendar with the family in the run-up to Christmas we have a specially designed ‘Sharing Advent Calendar’. We also have a range of special alcoholic calendars, perfect for a grown-up celebration, or for sending to any loved ones who can’t be with you this holiday season!

Advent calendar on wooden background


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