Christmas Traditions: Advent Calendars (1800s)

This is the advent calendar-type graphic we made to advertise Tangled Lights and Silent Nights.

This is eleventh in a series of 12 posts on historical Christmas traditions. I didn’t note my sources, but please trust I did verify the information.

Believe it or not, Advent didn’t always exist in the Christian church.

It slowly evolved as the Church took shape and Christianity became legal. The earliest echoes are from fourth century Francem when the Church began to use the period before Epiphany as a time of preparation for Baptism. It was called “St. Martin’s Lent” for the 40 days that started on November 11, feast of St. Martin of Tours. Advent as we know it today began about 300 years later in Rome. Pope Gregory I composed many of the prayers, antiphons, and psalm responses.

Advent calendars began as a simple way to countdown to Christmas. In the 1800s, German Protestant families would count down the days until Christmas by making a mark with chalk each day in December on their front doors. In some locations, candles were used instead to mark the passage of time.

The first the use of chocolate as a gift each day of Advent seems to date to at least the 1880s when it was pinned on a board. The first printed calendar with doors that open dates to 1903 in Austria, but commercially available ones that combined chocolate and doors only date to the 1950s.

Do you have an advent calendar?

I haven’t for years. I tried to get the Aldi wine advent calendar this year, but they sold out in 10 minutes!