Welcome to my new site, Advent Calendar for Kids!
If you’re already familiar with the idea of advent calendars but are looking for suggestions for ways to use them this year – hold on tight. Those posts are coming shortly. In the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to get us all up to speed on what advent calendars are.
So, what’s advent anyway?
Advent is the latin word for “coming“. It is the period of time beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas and lasting until Christmas Eve. The exact history of how advent started is unknown.
Throughout time and through different churches, how advent was acknowledged varies. It could include biblical readings, fasting, sharing images, and more. One popular advent tradition is the advent wreath. Every Sunday during advent a candle is lit on a wreath. With each candle representing a different reading.
Advent Calendar’s dates
Take a look at any calendar and you’ll notice that the advent start date, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, is rarely in December, let alone on December 1st. So, why do advent calendars start on December 1? Great question. My guess is that it’s for practical purposes. While the advent season can change, the period between December 1 to 24 is consistent. Of course, for those that want to stick to the advent season, they can adjust calendars to include the official start dates. For the purposes of this site, however, we’ll mostly focus on December 1 – 24 activities.
Historical transformations of the Advent Calendar
Back in the 19th century, Protestants would mark the days leading up to Christmas with chalk lines. Gerhard Lang printed one of the first known calendars in the early 1900s. He created 24 illustrations, just like his mother used to do, and added a door to each one. Around this time a printing company also started printing advent calendars, except instead of images, they printed bible verses. Advent calendars became very popular in Germany, but production paused during World War II.
After the war the most notable Advent Calendar producer was Richard Sellmer. He added a piece to chocolate behind the doors. His calendars are considered among the most traditional advent calendars. You can still purchase them today, 100% made in Germany, via Sellmer-Vertrag.
How did Advent Calendars become popular in the United States?
During Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency, he was photographed opening an advent calendar with his grandchildren. The photo ran in the newspapers and a new tradition was introduced.
Variations in today’s Advent Calendars
While the traditional chocolate calendars are still widely used, there are now as many options as your imagination permits. You can purchase premade calendars from your favorite toy vendors (like Lego and Playmobil Advent Calendars), they can feature your favorite characters (like Luke Skywalker and Mickey Mouse), or maybe your favorite craft (like knitting or painting). You can make one with daily activities, bible passages, funny jokes, or the nativity story. You can use the same containers every year and fill each day with something the opener loves for that year.
Whichever calendar (or combination of calendars because why not?) you decide, you can guarantee it will put a smile on the receiver’s face daily.
Want to learn even more about the history of Advent Calendars?
Here’s two posts for you:
- The History of Advent Calendars by Sellmer-Vertag.
- A Brief History of the Advent Calendar from Mental Floss.