Before the first of December, we all rush out to the shops to find the ideal advent calendar for everyone on our list. These days, however, we have got so much more choice. From the incredibly luxurious beauty advent calendars for all the beauty junkies out there, to the magical calendars for kids filled with toys, crafts and chocolate, you’re guaranteed to find a design that suits each one of your loved ones. 

For the philanthropic festive fans, there is also the reverse advent calendar: instead of – or as well as – eating a piece of chocolate to countdown to Christmas, the idea is to put an item aside to donate to charity, or a food bank. We all know and love advent calendars, but when did we actually start the tradition of excitedly peeling back a window every morning to reveal what sits behind it?

The history of ‘Advent’

The word advent comes from the Latin prefix ‘ad-’ meaning ‘to’ and the root ‘venire’ meaning ‘come’. Derived from the Latin ‘adventus’, meaning ‘arrival’, the English word dates back to the 10th or 11th century. However, it wasn’t really used in English until the early 1940s.

For Christians, the most important day of the year is the birth of Christ, and they mark advent as the period of ‘coming toward’ this date. In late 19th century Germany, Lutherans made chalk marks on doors from December 1st until the 24th. This is where the idea of physically marking Advent has its roots. 

So, just where did the idea of combining this religious tradition with cardboard calendars come from?

There are two theories:

1. According to the Landesmuseum in Austria, the first calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1902 by a protestant book owner.

2. Many individuals claim that the first hand made one was created in Germany in the late 19th century for a small child, Gerhard Lang. It was claimed that Lang’s mother stuck small sweets to pieces of cardboard for him to eat in the run up to Christmas. When he grew up, he went into a partnership with his friend and they produced what is thought to be the first-ever printed calendar. 

After his own business came to an end, the idea had become so loved by other printing companies that they began to produce their own advent calendars. 

Around the Second World War, there was a paper shortage, and advent calendars could no longer be produced in the mass quantities. However, as things eased up, printed Richard Sellmer brought back the idea, and introduced them to kids in the western world. Since then, they have become a tradition we have all got to know and love.

Whether you’ll be tucking into a chocolate advent calendar this year or hoping for some glamorous beauty bits behind every door, enjoy your countdown to Christmas!