Christmas time for us children growing up in Germany was an exciting time. From the 1st December to the 24th, we were allowed to eat Chocolates in the morning, which normally would be a tabu during the year.
We woke up early every day in Advent to look forward to open a little door at the Christmas calendar hanging on the wall, and there we discovered a sweet little treasure, surprise inside
The Advent or Christmas calendar, which today is indispensable in the Advent season, was only created at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the actual origins can be traced back to the 19th century. The first forms of the advent calendar come from the Protestant environment. In December 24 pictures were gradually hung on the wall in religious families. Another variant was simple, but no less effective: 24 chalk lines painted on the wall or door, one of which the children were allowed to wipe the chalk away every day.
Probably the earliest form of a Advent calendar was painted and put together by Elise Averdick, the Christmas Calendar of 1851
The first printed copy owes its existence to the childhood experiences of the Swabian pastor’s son from Maulbronn. His mother drew 24 boxes on a cardboard box – each with a “wibele” sewn.
In 1902, the Evangelische printing house in Hamburg published what was probably the first printed Advent calendar. It was a Christmas clock for children
Gerhard Lang, German Christmas Calendars 1904 – 1908
A lithographic company Reichhold & Lang, Gerhard Lang did without the chocolate, and instead used brightly colored drawings that could be cut out and pasted onto a cardboard box. The calendar Lang of 1908 was the first Advent calendar, albeit still windowless, as left the printing press. At that time people still spoke of the “Christmas calendar” or “Munich Christmas calendar”.
The Munich Advent calendar 1904 – the first of their kind are characterized by the fact that they are designed by well-known artists, appeal to the child’s mind and really spread the magic of the upcoming Christmas. They are colorfully executed, dignified and remain unmatched in their wealth of ideas and their variety
In 1904 the Christmas calendar “In the Land of the Christ Child” appeared as a supplement to a Stuttgart newspaper – based on the idea of Gerhard Lang (1881-1974).
The Calendar “In the Land of the Christ Child” did not have a door to open, but consisted of two printed parts. A sheet with 24 pictures to cut out as well as a cardboard box with verses written by Lang himself on 24 fields
In 1908 the first, albeit windowless Advent calendar left the printing press. The first calendars with doors you could open, as we know them today, have appeared on the market around 1920.
These nostalgic Christmas or Advent calendars are still popular today
In the early 1920s, the Sankt Johannis printing house in Baden also produced religious calendars with open windows showing Bible verses instead of pictures. At the end of the 1930s, Gerhard Lang had to give up his business, by which time he had published around 30 different motifs
The Second World War put an abrupt end to the soaring Christmas calendar. The reason for this was the scarcity of paper and the ban on producing picture calendars. The advent calendar was only able to build on its success again in the post-war period. In 1945 Richard Sellmer founded a publishing house and brought out the first Advent calendar after the Second World War.
It was the advent calendar “Die kleine Stadt”, which you can still buy today. Since then, customers of Sellmer Verlag can buy the advent calendars. Advent calendars for adults are just as popular as childish motifs for “small” customers.
Today you also see these so called “Living Advent Calendar” and they are very popular. With this form of the Advent calendar, people meet in front of a different window that are decorated every day of Advent. At the respective station, songs are sung, Christmas stories are told and culinary delights are offered. This form is particularly popular with church communities.
Many homes in the community has a decorated window like these below:
Another modern form of the advent calendar is the “Virtual Advent Calendar”. This can only be used interactively on the Internet. On each December day, the user activates the corresponding number and you might receive online videos, short pieces of music, raffles or vouchers.
An example of an online Advents Calendar:
As I am getting older I become more emotional around Christmas. I hope my grandchildren will continue this Advent tradition that I hold dear.