Christmas Fact 1


GERMAN ADVENT CALENDAR: FACT OF THE DAY

1. Dezember – Der Adventskalender

Advent is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. The Advent season begins on the first Sunday after November 26 (Nov. 27, 2016). The 24-day Advent calendar countdown to Christmas begins on the first day of December.

The German Advent calendar tradition goes back to the 19th century when children would draw Christmas pictures on 24 pieces of paper and hang them in the house. In the 1880s the wife of a German Lutheran pastor crafted small Christmas boxes (Schachteln) for her impatient son to open on each day leading up to Christmas. Each box was filled with a delicious cookie and Gerhard was allowed to open one each day and eat the cookie inside. In his 1901 novel Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann mentions a homemade tear-off Advent calendar.

By 1903 or 1904, Gerhard Lang, as a partner in Reichhold & Lang in Munich, was manufacturing the first commercial illustrated Advent calendars (without cookies). The first calendars with fold-out windows appeared in 1920. Since the 1940s, Stuttgart’s Sellmer Verlag has specialized in diorama calendars that display Christmas village scenes. The first chocolate-filled Advent calendars were being marketed as early as 1958.

Since the 1960s in Scandinavia, first in Sweden, there have been televised Julekalender (Swedish) to count down the days until Christmas.

December 1 (or the first Advent Sunday) is also the traditional starting day for many German and Austrian Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte). See the December 2 Advent entry for more about Christmas markets.

A popular thing to do during Advent is to sing German Christmas Carols around the Advent wreath on each Advent Sunday.

MORE > Advent Customs in Germany

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