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 (Dec. 3, 2017). 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 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 Calendar 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
AT THE GERMAN WAY
- Christmas from A to Z – German Christmas traditions and terms
- Advent – The Latin word means “arrival.” This custom begins on the first Advent Sunday around December 1.
- Photo Gallery: Christmas in Germany – Berlin – A visual tour of Christmas markets and other December sights in Berlin
- Christmas in the USA and Germany– A comparison chart
- German Christmas Carols – Popular carols with lyrics in German and English
- Barbarazweig – The legend and the Christmas custom
- Epiphany and the Sternsinger – January 6 in the Germanic Christmas tradition
- Erntedank (“harvest thanksgiving”) or Erntedankfest in Germany and Austria is different from the American Thanksgiving tradition.
- St. Nicholas – The many German St. Nicks
- Thomas Nast created the modern Santa image.
- The Christmas Pickle Ornament – Fact or fiction?
- Silent Night (Stille Nacht) – Our “Silent Night” page has the true story and related links.
- Holidays and Celebrations in Austria, Germany and Switzerland
- Glass Ornaments – a history
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