Who does not know the children’s question: “How long until Christmas”? “How many nights until Santa Claus is coming”?
Initially, the “Adventskalender” helped count down the days. The origins can be traced back into the 19th century, the first home-made Advent Calendar was probably made in 1851. The first, more popular forms of the Advent Calendar, came out of the protestant environment, in which families gradually hung up 24 pictures. Or straws were put into the Holy Crib, one for each day, until Christmas Eve.
The first printed Advent Calendar was sold in 1904. It was a large sheet of paper with 24 pictures that were cut out, with another sheet of paper onto which the pictures were pasted. Each day the children were allowed to cut out and paste one little picture. The “Adventskalender” with 24 doors that could be opened, became really popular in the 1950s, when it was mass-produced and consequently affordable. Designs were mainly scenes from romantic little towns with a Christian influence. From 1958 on, the first calendars, filled with chocolate, came out. Behind the chocolate there were Christmas pictures which referenced the Advent time. The biggest Advent Calendar today can be found in Leipzig. The doors are 2×3 meter big and one of them is opened every day.
Today, in addition to the chocolate filled calendars, we often make calendars ourselves, with 24 little presents, which can be packaged in different ways.
The live or “Lebendiger Adventskalender” aims to bring people together. Everybody is invited to get together as they prepare for Christmas and God’s coming to the world by sharing carols, pictures, lights and thoughts.
In a community, village, or neighborhood, people meet at somebody’s window or door every evening between the 1st and the 23rd of December. Neither church membership, nor other social standings are important. The meeting point is in front of the window or door of the respective host or hostess. That window, or calendar “door”, is composed of the real window, displaying the date, lights, pictures and other elements. The hosts can then lead a short ceremony with carols, stories, reflections or prayers. Of course, serving Christmas cookies and Gluehwein or hot chocolate is also customary at these private ceremonies. On the 24th of December, the Holy Night, all the churches open their doors for prayers and reflection.
The need for closeness in times of wars and crises have possibly contributed to the continuation of people preparing for Christmas. Since the 1990‘s these traditions have been re-discovered and revived in many parts of Germany.
Whichever form of Advent Calendar a family chooses, it is a choice everyone makes for themselves. In some of my friends’ families, Christmas would not be Christmas without the 24 socks filled with little Christmas treats, hanging on a clothes line in the living room. It is a lot of fun to wrap 24 tiny presents, complete with ribbons and all, just in time for the first day of December. It is a blessing to see how the children wake up every single morning, anxious to find out what’s in their calendar today, and help them count off the days until Christmas Eve.
I wish everyone a wonderful “Adventszeit” and a calm Christmas season with lots of time for prayers and giving thanks.