Advent Calendar Facts

by Tolovaj

Short history of Advent calendars with some fun facts and trends to be watched. Who made the first ones and how they spread across the globe to become multi-billion business.

Advent calendars are one of the signature elements of the Advent time. Who invented them? Were they always filled with chocolate? Is December the only time when we can get one? How a family custom evolved to a gift giving tradition? How many squares they should have: 24 or 25? And why not 31?

Here are the top 10 amusing facts about the Advent calendars!


1. The history of Advent calendars can be traced to the 19th century. German Lutherans started to count down to Christmas by lighting candles or making chalk marks on wooden walls or doors (24 for each day till Christmas), rubbing off one by one every evening. Typically the roles were divided - parents draw the lines on the last evening in November and kids rubbed them off starting with the first day in December.

A bit later other Christians adopted and expanded the custom. Some Catholics even today cultivate the habit of putting one feather in a crib each day of December until the 24th, so Jesus could be born in a soft bed.


2. The oldest known Advent calendar was made of wood in 1851. It was a hand-made creation with lots of decorative details. In general older calendars had many more details than newer which were mass-produced.

3. The first known printed Advent Calendar was printed and published in 1902 by Evangelische Buchhandlung Friedrich Tuempler in Hamburg. They called it Christmas Clock for children.

Yes, it was made in the shape of the clock but with 24 days instead of 12 hours. Each section had a printed verse from Bible and it cost half of the German mark.


4. A newspaper Neues Tagblatt in Stuttgart inserted a printed Advent calendar as a gift to their readers in 1904. This started a tradition of giving Advent calendars to others as a holiday gift.

By the way, the idea for this calendar was given by Gerhard Lang (1881-1974), who was inspired by his mother's habit of giving small sweet treats to her son every day from the beginning of December to Christmas. How did she do that? She baked 24 cookies and sewn them on the cardboard on 1 December. Little Gerhard was allowed to cut one out every evening and eat it.

This calendar was made of two pieces. One had a template with 24 squares, with a verse in each one of them. The other had 24 pictures matching the dimensions of the squares. Children could cut one picture each day, read a verse from one square (they were numbered), and stick pictures in corresponding places.

Advent Calendar by Richard Ernst Kepler


5. Only four years later Lang already had a part in the printing company Reichhold & Lang which started mass production of printed Advent calendars. The first was designed by Richard Ernst Kepler (1851-1927) and was titled Im Lande des Christkinds.

New variations of advent calendars were added every year:

  • shapes of Christmas trees or Advent cottages,
  • windows and doors that could be opened,
  • movable, sliding, or rotating parts,
  • etc.
Advent Calendar by Dora Baum

Officially the first window Advent calendar with 19 (!) windows starts on 6 December - on the day of St Nicklaus. This puts it in another subgroup - among so-called Nicklaus calendars. It was made by Dora Baum (1881-1949), titled Christkindleins Haus, and published by Reichhold & Lang around 1920 (could be a year or two later).

Other publishers started with their production of Advent calendars too. Due to harsh competition, Gerhard Lang was forced to stop making Advent calendars in the 1930s, just before World War II and shortages of paper began. The production of Advent calendars, which were, by the way for some time also used as Nazi propaganda, was banned.

6. It was Lang (who else?) who first added chocolates to his Advent calendars and others soon followed his example. Still, the already mentioned war and shortages present even after the war delayed the expansion of today's most popular version of Advent Calendars - ones filled with small chocolates.

7. Today numerous brands use Advent calendars to promote their names (and different products), making a few bucks on the side as well. Well, not just a few bucks, considering the most expensive Advent calendars in the market today can cost way over 10 thousand dollars!

Apart from sweets, you can buy Advent calendars with toys, drinks, beauty products, jewelry, ... Everything that can be presented in small, aesthetic, and possibly overpriced form, useful to support a seller's brand, is packed in 24 interconnected boxes. As you may expect, the adult industry offers its versions too. Even the national lotteries found a way to entertain their customers with the idea. For instance, a few years ago a scratch Advent calendar (24 fields to be scratched, different prizes depending on codes found under the cover) in Denmark was a huge success.


8. 24 days Can Also Be 25 And Can Go Up To 31! Or 22?

The advent season always starts on the first Sunday after November 26, which means it can start between 27 November and 3 December. It always ends o Christmas Eve (24 December), effectively leading to the length of Advent between 22 or 28 days.

Calendar producers didn't want to complicate their lives, so they adopted the 24 days format, always starting on 1 December, making printing easier, which further simplifies the selling season.

But there is always somebody who wants to improve the perfection - some added the 25th window representing Christmas, which means we can sometimes find Advent calendars with 25 days as well. Improvements in printing machines supported this idea.

And then the holidays evolved, people of different religions mixed, celebrations changed, and businesses adapted. Because some prefer to celebrate New Year and not Christmas, Advent calendars with 31 squares (one for each day in December) came to market.

9. Why being limited to December only?

Advent calendars proved profitable and merchants started looking for similar products that could bring some additional income too.

Today we can find Birthday Advent Calendars, Halloween Advent Calendars, Ramadan Advent Calendars, Valentine Advent Calendars, ...



Don't forget the essence!

10. While Advent calendars became a mass-production multi-billion worth business with more and more harmful impact on nature (think about the plastics, transport, etc.) it's probably time to make a step back.

Or two.

Advent time is the time when we all should find some peace in this hectic world. Let's stop a bit and share our most precious possession (time!) with people we really care about. Maybe we could make a calendar tailored to our very specific tastes and values? Possibly with one good deed for each day till Christmas?

Tell our kids one fairy each evening of the Advent season, for example, starting with Cinderella, or The Sleeping Beauty, and finish strong with Christmas Carol?

Or print an Advent calendar template where we can add our personal content? Or print a black and white version of the Advent calendar and color it together with our children?

Or ...?

Enjoy the Advent season and Merry Christmas!

Updated: 12/20/2022, Tolovaj
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Tolovaj on 12/05/2022

Thank you, DerdriuMarriner, for sharing your memories. I am sure the quality of chocolate you got is way better than the quality of majority commercial products, while the anticipation and expectation can be enjoyed in numerous other ways.

Tolovaj on 12/05/2022

It's all about the continuity, frankbeswick.

Tolovaj on 12/05/2022

Yes, blackspanielgallery, money makes the world go round ...

DerdriuMarriner on 12/05/2022

Thank you for the Amazon information!

Growing up in a state known for its German settlements I nevertheless do not remember chocolate-accompanied Advent calendars...because my parents kept the Advent calendars and the Christmas chocolates separate!

My parents gave us homemade chocolates from very old family recipes and special chocolates expensive year-round but incredibly, kindly marked down at a store run by an English family and their descendants for Advent through Epiphany.

So I always kept the family tradition.

Thank you for adding to my learning curve, about Advent calendars, chocolate pre-Christmas enjoyment and German traditions!

frankbeswick on 12/05/2022

Evergreen plants with some length them bring to mind the branches of evergreen trees, such as spruce.

blackspanielgallery on 12/04/2022

well, I passed something I found curious in a store, and looked more closely. I found an Advent calendar for dogs, with treats for a family pet behind each door. I guess commercialism knows no limits.

Tolovaj on 12/04/2022

I don't think so, DerdruMarriner. If you search for Advent calendars in Amazon, you'll definitely find dozens of Advent calendars with chocolates. But yes, the initial idea came from Germany.

Tolovaj on 12/04/2022

Thanks, blackspanielgallery, for stopping by. Well, a wreath is much older symbol, coming way before Christianity. If we want a connection, we could start with evergreen plants, which have some length (like time before Chrismas), but being intertwined become endless.
Of course, we can play with symbols in numerous ways.

Tolovaj on 12/04/2022

Thanks, Veronica:)

DerdriuMarriner on 12/03/2022

The tradition of Advent calendars with chocolates is one that I don't know. Might it possibly be one that is more European than Unitedstatesian?

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