ADVENT CALENDAR - WHERE DOES THE CUSTOM COME FROM?
The most important points in brief
- In Switzerland, the Advent calendar is simply part of the run-up to Christmas.
- But this tradition is not popular or even known everywhere, for example in southern Europe.
- The custom will celebrate its 170th birthday in 2021 - originally Christian families initiated this ritual.
- At first, people made do with very simple calendars.
Children - but also many adults, of course - like to sweeten the run-up to Christmas with an advent calendar. In Switzerland this custom is simply a part of it, but in other countries the tradition is hardly known. Chocolate, sweets, pralines and the like have always been hidden behind the little doors, but today, when almost every company produces its own calendar for the first 24 days of December, they sometimes contain completely different things.
Where the tradition of the advent calendar comes from
It is certain that the first self-made pre-Christmas calendar dates from 1851. That means: in 2021 we will also celebrate 170 years of the advent calendar! Presumably the tradition was introduced in Protestant families in Germany, but the first versions were quite simple. Often the parents drew 24 lines of chalk on a door or wall and the children were allowed to wipe away one line every day from December 1st.
After a very short time, the custom spread, and every family designed it a little differently. 24 pictures were hung, Advent candles burned or Christmas clocks made. In Catholic families it was initially customary for people to put a straw into a self-made manger every day from December 1st, so that it was filled with straw until the arrival of the Christ Child.
Advent calendar with content
At the beginning of the 20th century, advent calendars slowly came into fashion. In the beginning it contained pictures for the children to cut out, later playing cards, coloring books or children's games. At that time, all of these surprises had a religious connection to Christmas, which changed from the 1920s onwards. Now mostly games and books with worldly things were included in the calendars, for example trains or cars.
The tear-off calendars disappeared until around 1950, they have now been completely replaced by Advent calendars with 24 doors. While in the fifties mostly images from Bible stories, winter city motifs or painted winter landscapes were hidden behind them, the content has changed fundamentally since then.
Chocolate behind the door has only been around since the 60s
If you think of an advent calendar today, you automatically associate it with sweets or chocolate. But this idea only spread in the 1960s, after the first chocolate-filled calendar hit retailers in 1958 and was immediately successful. Accordingly, the chocolate advent calendar spread very quickly in the sixties, and today it is often offered in shops early in autumn. But many families are now making an Advent calendar themselves again.
This is a connection to earlier traditions - a great thing. In addition, the Scandinavian culture today has an influence on homemade Advent calendars, as these are often 24 small sacks made of jute with sewn numbers from 1 to 24, which are hung on a line and opened day after day, a nice idea. Parents can be very creative when it comes to content, so in addition to sweets, small handicrafts, books, crayons and much more are conceivable.
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