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A brief history of the advent calendar

December is most people’s favourite time of the year – for obvious reasons of course and we don't really need an Advent calendar reminding us that Christmas is coming, but yay! Opening a little numbered door to reveal a surprize is an treat that everyone— child or adult—can get behind. We have put together a brief history of the Advent calendars and a few non-traditional ideas of this popular tradition.

What Is Advent?

The naming of the “advent calendar” is derived from the Latin word "adventus" meaning "coming" giving this time of the year (December) the name Advent.

Advent is the four-week period beginning on the first Sunday nearest to the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30) and goes on to the following three Sundays.

Besides just the season of gifts it is originally, the period was a time for Christians to prepare for baptism, but it's now more commonly linked to the birth of Christ’s on December the 25th.

What Is an Advent Calendar?

Valrhona collection christmas advent calendar

Advent calendars don’t follow the advent timing of Advent described above. Instead it begin on December 1 till December 24.

These days, most Advent calendars are made from paper doors that open to gift a sweet treats (usually chocolates) and may include a image or a Bible verse. The tradition dates to the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas.

The History of Advent Calendars

Gerhard Lang is widely believed to have been the first to create a printed Advent calendar in the early 1900s. which coincidently was around the same time, a German newspaper included an Advent calendar insert as a gift to its readers. Lang’s calendar was said to have been inspired by one that his mother had made for him that featured 24 colored pictures that were attached to a piece of cardboard.

Lang modified and upgraded his calendars to include the 24 openable little doors that are a obvious addition of most Advent calendars today.

Unfortunately the production of these calendars stopped due to a cardboard shortage during World War II, after the war supply was available and production was resumed soon after, to which Richard Sellmer emerging as the leading producer of commercial Advent calendars.

What should you Put in an Advent Calendar?

Options are limitless and this all depends on your theme and preferences, you may want to go the traditional way and make each day's “treat” a piece of chocolate, quote, or an image.

You could put a modern twist on your Advent calendar and follow a specific theme such as cartoons, jewelry perfume or flowers.

Many companies create their own branded and extravagant versions of their own “advent calendars”. There have been a lot of over the top Advent calendars over the years. One of the most expensive recorded Advent calendars to date that managed to hit the shelves was a 4-foot, Christmas-tree shaped structure carved from burr elm and walnut wood available through Harrods in 2007.

“Each of the $50,000 calendar’s 24 compartments housed a piece of organic chocolate from Green & Black, with proceeds going to support cocoa farmers in Belize.”

According to Guinness World Records, the world's largest advent calendar was built in 2007 at the St. Pancras train station in London. The enormous calendar, which measured 232 feet and 11 inches tall, and 75 feet and 5 inches wide, was used to celebrated the reopening of the station following a renovation.

Get your Valrhona Advent calendar in time for Christmas