Published on December 9th, 2019 | by Sam Rose
History of the Advent Calendar
With just over two weeks to go, we’re covering all things Christmas in the lead up to the big day with today’s article featuring the history of the Advent Calendar!
By now, you should be 9 days into your advent calendar (meaning 9 chocolates or other treats out of 24 eaten too!) as get ever closer to the joyful occasion that is Christmas Day!
But have you ever looked at an advent calendar each year December rolls around and wondered to yourself “How did the Advent calendar becomes such a big part of Christmas?”
Well wonder no more, as we’ve done some research in order to discover the history of the Advent calendar – take a look below whilst we explain all!
The History of the Advent Calendar
Before we start to delve into how the advent calendar was invented and how we got to the chocolate filled advent calendars of the present, it’s important to first understand what Advent means.
Once misconception made about Advent is when exactly it takes place in the calendar year.
It’s often been believed by many that Advent runs from the very first day in December all the way up to Christmas Day.
However, this isn’t the case!
The traditional days of Advent actually took place from the Sunday which is nearest to the Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30th) all the way through to the following three Sundays.
But in order to provide a true countdown to Christmas for all, the days of Advent were moved much closer to Christmas, which is why Advent calendars in the present day start on the first of the month and usually end on the 24th – Christmas Eve!
The Invention of the First Advent Calendar
Now that we’ve helped to explain what Advent means and how it relates to the history of the Advent calendar, it’s time to shift our attention to the actual invention of it.
What you may not realise is that the first ever advent calendars didn’t appear for another 1,400 years after Advent had been established and looked nothing like the types of calendars we use today!
In fact, in the very first instance, Advent calendars were not actually objects at all!
It is said that the tradition of marking the countdown to Christmas using the idea of an advent calendar originated in the country of Germany.
But rather than using an item and peeling back each day as it arrived, people would celebrate the run up to Christmas by marking each day of the month in December on their house doors!
As each day passed, the day displayed on their door would be removed and replaced, which is where the idea of peeling back doors on modern Advent calendars came from.
Once the popularity of this activity began to grow, entrepreneurs and businesses caught on to the potential of creating a physical Advent calendar and the very first commercial Advent calendar hit shelves in 1908.
From there, more and more countries embraced the idea of using an advent calendar to countdown to Christmas and the advent calendar went on sale internationally!
The Creation of Chocolate Advent Calendars
You may have noticed that last paragraph didn’t contain any mentions of chocolate or gifts being hidden behind each door.
Well that’s because it took another 50 years or so before sweets and other treats were put behind the doors of most Advent calendars, meaning that there was nothing behind the doors originally – only illustrations!
The idea of using chocolate to celebrate each day in the countdown to Christmas came just before the Second World War, but it was put on hold as chocolate became short on supply and heavily rationed.
It was only in 1950 that we would see the closest version of the Advent calendar as we often see today.
Realising that concealing chocolate behind each door of an Advent calendar would create a huge boost for their sales each year, major confectioners and chocolate producers immediately jumped on to the trend and began to produce chocolate Advent calendars for the public to purchase.
And the very first company to create a chocolate Advent calendar in the UK?
Well it would be Cadbury of course!
Chocolate advent calendars would be sold intermittently from 1972 to 1986, but in 1993, they became a mainstay to buy from shops and for us to keep checking each day in the lead up to Christmas.
Interestingly, the individual and the company responsible for creating the first illustrated Advent calendar, Richard Sellmer Verlag, is still active and the original Advent calendar design is still available for purchase to this very day!