Where Do Advent Calendars Come From?

3rd December 2014 by Grace Bullingham

Where Do Advent Calendars Come From?

It’s the 3rd of December and I have joyfully eaten 3 chocolates from my advent calendar. You are never too old for one I say!

On my commute to work I was wondering where the advent calendar tradition came from and why it is celebrated worldwide? I know Christmas is highly anticipated each year, but is this the only reason?

The word 'Advent' has a Latin origin meaning 'the coming,' or more accurately, 'coming toward.' Religious families used the advent as a count down to the annual celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday. For each day in December they would hang up a festive picture on the wall, another tradition was to paint chalk strokes on the door, one per day until Christmas Eve.

The first picture advent calendar was thought to have been made in 1903. This was simple, behind each door was a festive picture: a decorated tree, some robins, a full stocking. As time went by a picture wasn’t enough to satisfy youngsters in December, so small pieces of chocolate were seen to be the answer. But it doesn’t stop there!

Upon my research I discovered the more luxurious adult advent calendar. As we are forever the consumerist, adult versions featuring gin or make-up are now available. Liberty of London has one filled with tiny treats including candles and beauty gifts from designer brands – but with a price tag of £149 surely these ‘mini gifts’ aren’t worth that much of an investment, perhaps just gifting yourself with a few full sized products would be worthwhile?

The most expensive advent calendar I’ve seen - suggested to be a family heirloom, is Wedgwood’s hand crafted advent house at £12,000, with a porcelain ornament behind each door. Obscene.

£12,000 porcelian house?


I love Christmas. It’s my favourite time of year but I really don’t see the need to be so over-the-top. Advent calendars are supposed to be the countdown to Christmas Day where you have a lovely day spent with family or friends, perhaps going to church, exchanging gifts and eating food. I feel it’s quite sad but inevitable that the once traditional picture advent calendar has become so extravagant and materialistic.


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