The origin of the Advent Calendar

As per tradition, every year my mom buys me an advent calendar.  They’re always different, yet contain equally ridiculous themes: “Christmas Around the World,”  “Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Santa’s Workshop,”  etc.  When I was younger I only cared for advent calendars because it meant a guaranteed chocolate each day.  As I got older I more or less dismissed the calendar, and it came to be just another silly way mom showed her love.

But this year, as I prepare for yet another random calendar, I find myself pondering over the origin of the calendar.  Where and when was the advent calendar invented, and why do we need a paper calendar with perforated lines around each day; why can’t we just remember the date in our heads?

Well, according to an article on that mycatholicblog found here, the tradition of the Advent calendar is explained as such:

The term Advent comes from the Latin “adventur”, meaning arrival.The tradition of marking the Advent dates back to the early 19th century, when when religious Protestant families made a chalk line on their front door for every day in December until Christmas Eve. According to Sellmer-Verlag, the Dutch on-line museum of Advent Calendar history, the first Advent Calendar was handmade in 1851. Early Advent styles also included the Advent Candle, in which a ring or wreath of 24 candles would be used to illuminate each day until Christmas.

Sellmer-Verlag, the Dutch on-line museum of Advent Calendar history, cites the German-born Gerhard Lang as the inventor of the first mass-produced Advent Calendar. Lang was inspired by the calendars he remembered his mother making for him as a child. She would attach a candy to a hand-drawn cardboard calendar. Instead of candies, Lang’s printed version featured tiny pictures that could be affixed to each day of the Advent. Lang later produced several different versions of the calendar, including ones with little doors to open, revealing a picture for each day.

The German printing company Sankt Johannis capitalized on Lang’s idea, producing calendars with Bible verses instead of pictures behind each window. The Advent Calendar became increasingly popular in Germany and throughout Central Europe until World War II, when manufacturers were forced to shut down production due to the war rationing on cardboard.

By the 1940s, the tradition of the Advent Calendar had jumped the Atlantic Ocean and taken root in American culture. Here, the first chocolate-filled calendars were sold in the late 1950s.

Still, I’ve come to realize that despite the theme of the particular advent calendar, the most important factor is that all advent calendars put just a bit more emphasis the upcoming day of December 25th.  Ultimately, it’s up to all of us to remember the true meaning of the holiday, and why Christmas is celebrated.  But hey, if we can do that and eat some chocolate, why not!


  1. I receive an advent calendar every year too! it’s nice to know where the tradition started. thanks for this.