Most people will think of advent calendars as something you give to children on the 1st December each year. Children open a window each day that is marked with the date, and often they have a small chocolate beneath the flap when it is opened. But this is a very European tradition, originating in Germany and England. To start with there was no sign of any chocolate. The very first advent calendars had a religious picture in each window and were often distributed to children by the churches. Things have changed though and now there are advent calendars galore, something to suit everyone’s tastes and interests.
Anyone wondering how does an advent calendar work first needs to understand what advent is, and how the calendar originated. Advent is a four-week period that starts on the Sunday closest to the day of St Andrew The Apostle, which is 30th November. It goes back as far as the 4th century and was originally a time for converted Christians to prepare for baptism. The calendars themselves go back to the mid-1800s when German Protestants marked their doors with chalk or lit a candle to count the days up to Christmas. Most advent calendars do not follow the exact advent dates. Usually, they start on the 1st December and finish on the 24th or 25th. The idea is that a window is opened each day for the days leading up to Christmas, but some will finish on Christmas Eve and others on Christmas Day. Often the last gift is the best.
There are a huge variety of advent calendars on the market, many different types have appeared in the last few years. You can buy them with beauty products behind each door, with alcohol miniatures, different sorts of food, toys and there are even calendars for your pets with a doggie style treat for each day. Cats are not forgotten; there are advent calendars for them as well. If money is no problem, you can also buy an advent calendar that has a piece of gold jewelry for every day of December!
Of course, some of them have to be made larger than we are used to so that they can accommodate the bigger gifts. It is not just the size that is affected either. All general stores sell the small ones with chocolates in very cheaply, but some of the others can cost quite a few dollars.
As far as celebrating Christmas is concerned, it was the tradition that advent calendars were given to children, but that is not the case anymore. People of all ages and interests love advent calendars and now they are a gift for anyone to enjoy. The other thing to remember is that it is said to be bad luck to buy one for yourself. An advent calendar is meant to be a gift for someone else, even though you might help him or her to eat or drink the contents.