I wish work wasn't so busy at the moment so that I could spend more time thinking about Christmas (instead of about work) *long, sad sigh*. But in my spare moments, along with present and music preparations etc., I've been thinking about Advent Calendars.
When we were kids, mum and dad would do a hanging presents advent calendar. It was like a waterfall of presents and curled Christmas ribbon that hung from a hook in the corner, and ever day we would open one of the presents and share it out. Such a wonderful tradition!
This year, my friend Adele (adelefrancis.blogspot.com.au) has been making and selling these advent calendars online (they're pretty fabulous) -
And a couple of weeks ago my very talent sister Bethany gave us all Advent Calendars she'd made out of craft paper and matchboxes that are completely awesome (I'd tell you about them and show you pictures now, but Bethany's going to guest post next Tuesday, so she'll tell you all about them then).
It turns out there are about 5 billion different ways to make an advent calendar! I mean, if you look under google images, you'll come up a countless number of pages that each look something like this:
So what's with advent calendars? I mean, they're cute, and so much fun, and I love (love) counting down to something I'm really excited about. But where do they come from? What's the history?
I turned to my good friend Mr Wikipedia (and hey, you English teaching school teachers out there need to stop knocking my friend - he once helped me get an A+ on a university exam), and here's some of what he had to say:
The origins of the Advent calendar come from German Lutherans who, at least as early as the beginning of the 19th century, would count down the first 24 days of December physically. Often this meant simply drawing a chalk line on the door each day, beginning on December 1. Some families had more elaborate means of marking the days, such as lighting a new candle or hanging a little religious picture on the wall each day.
The 24 candles might also be placed on a structure, which was known as an "Advent clock". In December 1839, the first verifiable public Advent wreath was hung in the prayer hall of the Rauhes Haus (relief house) in Hamburg, although it had been a family practice in parts of German-speaking Europe since the 17th century.
The first known Advent calendar was handmade in 1851. According to the Lower Austrian Landesmuseum, the first printed Advent calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1902 or 1903. Other authorities state that a Swabian parishioner, Gerhard Lang, was responsible for the first printed calendar, in 1908. Lang was certainly the progenitor of today's calendar. He was a printer in the firm Reichhold & Lang of Munich who, in 1908, made 24 little colored pictures that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard. Several years later, he introduced a calendar with 24 little doors. He created and marketed at least 30 designs before his firm went out of business in the 1930s. In this same time period, Sankt Johannis Printing Company started producing religious Advent calendars, with Bible verses instead of pictures behind the doors.
The practice disappeared during World War II, apparently to save paper. After the war, Richard Sellmer of Stuttgart resurrected the commercial Advent calendar and is responsible for its widespread popularity. His company, Richard Sellmer Verlag, today maintains a stock of over 1,000,000 calendars worldwide. Other companies such as Cadbury's who specialise in the making of calendars have similar stocks, if not higher.
So it turns out that yet again we have the Germans to thank for our favourite Christmas traditions :)
But I think my favourite (recently learnt) thing about Advent Calendars, would have to be the fact that the word 'Advent' is actually an anglicized version of the Latin word 'Adventus' which means 'Coming'.
How glorious! The idea that what we're really doing is counting down the days until our Saviour's Coming: Wonderful. Counsellor. The Mighty God. The Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace.
Only 13 more days to go....