Lucerne Advent Calendar – Paula Funnell (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
You see them in gift shops and book stores. Some are in cardboard frames with pieces of chocolate behind each colorful door. Others are flannel or quilted, with little pockets holding puffy decorations. They might take up the whole side of a building. Whether rectangular, shaped like a Christmas tree, or die-cut as a gingerbread house, the Advent Calendar provides a tangible way for a child to anticipate Christmas.
But where does the idea come from? Not surprisingly, Germany, the home of so many Christmas traditions.
The earliest reference to a handmade Advent calendar seems to be 1851. But earlier traditions included lighting a new candle for each day, hanging up a picture daily, or making a new chalk mark on a door.
The first commercially printed Advent calendar dates probably back to a printer in Hamburg in 1902. Sources then reference a Schwabian printer named Gerhard Lang who, in 1908, fashioned little pictures to adhere to each date of a calendar. Lang’s involvement continued, and in the 1920s his firm Reichhold & Lang (Munich) printed calendars with little doors that opened. The Sankt Johannis Printing Company is credited with adding Bible verses in the 1930s.
But with the horrors of WWII, such lovely items disappeared, if for no other reason, the paper shortage.
Immediately after the war, the Stuttgart firm of Sellmer-Verlag (Sellmer Publishers) began printing Advent Calendars once again. Richard Sellmer needed a license from the U.S. Government to obtain the paper. Imagine how the reappearance of these beautiful items cheered a war-torn population.
Sellmer-Verlag proudly continues to produce Advent Calendars. Their selection is dazzling, plus they have an on-line history of Advent calendars, including the first one published by Sellmer in the United States, in 1947. You can also watch videos of their production process.
Most Advent Calendars have slots for 24 “days.” But the Advent Season is often longer. It begins on the 4th Sundaybefore Christmas and ends onDecember 24th. This year, that means November 30. Hey, that’s tomorrow!
Let’s do it together – a daily Advent Calendar right here online beginningtomorrow. We’ll look at the arts, history, and traditions that take us to Christmas. Please join me. Add your email below and we will deliver it daily to your inbox.