Archive for November 21st, 2011

Growing up, my mom or my nanny would buy me an advent calendar – what child doesn’t love one? It’s a candy a day!! Of course now, many parents fill advent calendars with little toys or socks or tasty treats – the sky is the limit!

I wondered this weekend what the history of an advent calendar really is and where did it come from?

Here is a mini brief:

An Advent calendar is a special calendar that is used to count or celebrate the days of Advent. [Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming”) is a season observed in many Western Christian Churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas in anticipation of Christmas.] Some calendars are strictly religious, whereas others are secular in content. Despite the name, most commercially available Advent calendars begin on December 1, regardless of when Advent begins, which can be as early as November 27 and as late as December 3.

Today, most Advent calendars are made for children. Many take the form of a large rectangular card with “windows” of which there are often 24; one for each day of December leading up to Christmas Day. One is opened every day during Advent.

The origins of the Advent calendar come from German Lutherans who, at least as early as the beginning of the 19th century would count down the first 24 days of December physically. Often this meant simply drawing a chalk line on the door each day, beginning on December 1. Some families had more elaborate means of marking the days, such as lighting a new candle (perhaps the genesis of today’s Advent Wreath) or hanging a little religious picture on the wall each day.

The first known Advent calendar was handmade in 1851. According to the Lower Austrian Landesmuseum, the first printed Advent calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1902 or 1903. Other authorities state that a Swabian parishioner, Gerhard Lang, was responsible for the first printed calendar, in 1908.

Lang was certainly the progenitor of today’s calendar. He was a printer in the firm Reichhold & Lang of Munich who, in 1908, made 24 little colored pictures that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard. Several years later, he introduced a calendar with 24 little doors. He created and marketed at least 30 designs before his firm went out of business in the 1930s. In this same time period, Sankt Johannis Printing Company started producing religious Advent calendars, with Bible verses instead of pictures behind the doors.

So today – why not make your own Advent calendar and count down to Christmas with a handmade calendar you and the kids can create. Using ornaments, baby socks, and photos, these charming, treat-a-day ideas make the holiday season even more merry. Slide pictures into postcard holders and hide them with numbered cards. Family members can transfer the pictures to a photo album or hang up this display. Enjoy and look at the picture and use the tools below to create a fun activity with your kids today!

Note: You can use swatches of decorative paper or even holiday wrapping paper instead of the numbered cards.


  • Heavyweight printer paper or decorative paper, 80 lb., 8 1/2 by 11 inches, in Natural White
  • 24 4-by-6-inch photos
  • Hanging postcard or photo holder (you can buy at www.exposuresonline.com)

Print out on 8.5×11 heavyweight paper, numbers 1 through 25 and then cut them out to the size of a postcard and slide the photos into the holder and cover with the papers.


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