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Perhaps you’ve been playing ‘Jingle Bells’ on repeat ever since Halloween or maybe you’ve already purchased a Christmas tree. You’ve also likely eaten a little piece of chocolate this morning. A tiny morsel straight from behind the door of your advent calendar. After all, it is the start of advent. Well, did you ever wonder where it had come from? Here’s a quick history of advent calendars.

What is Advent?

In traditional Christianity, Advent is the lead up to Christmas and has been celebrated since as early as 300 CE. In the beginning, it was used by Christians as a period of preparation to get baptised. The word ‘advent’ comes from the latin meaning ‘to come’. In the Church, Advent starts a little earlier than your advent calendar: it starts on the Sunday that is closest to November 30th (feast day of St Andrew the Apostle).

As we all know, modern day Advent Calendars start on the 1st of December, meaning that it’s very likely that your advent calendar won’t match up with the Christian Advent!This means that advent can be anywhere between the 27th November and 3rd December! Christian advent is marked in the Chruch using Advent candles.

History of Advent Calendars: the very beginning…

Although people still celebrate Advent through using candles, many more use calendars; whether they be filled with chocolates, makeup or just pictures!

The history of advent calendars began sometime in the 1800s, German Lutherans began to mark out the days leading up to Christmas. This tradition morphed over time and the earliest advent calendars as we know them today first appeared at the beginning of the 20th Century in Germany.

Below: a German advent calendar from 1903- one of the first ever Advent Calendars. 

a quick history of advent calendars

Image Source/ Wikicommons

The town that turns its town hall into a giant advent calendar!

As advent calendars probably originated in Germany, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that traditions have gone far beyond a few pictures in the region. In fact, there’s one town that has turned its entire town hall into a giant advent calendar! The town hall of Gengenbach in South-West Germany conveniently has 24 windows and is at the very heart of a world-famous Christmas market.

Each day of advent, at precisely 6PM, a new window is revealed to curious onlookers and frantic shoppers.

gengenbach rathaus

Image Source/ Wikicommons

Where can I find advent calendars online?

Admittedly, the best advent calendars are online because you can’t cheat and peek behind the window or eat your chocolate early!

There’s also great if you don’t want to fork out a relatively hefty sum for a small amount of chocolate! Each of the organisations, companies and groups below provide a small snippet information, game, video etc each day on their sites in the run up to Christmas.

Liverpool Museum

Admittedly my favourite advent calendar this year comes from Liverpool Museum. The interactive calendar has a little door that you can click on each day. You’ll get a small article about the object that you’ve discovered behind the door. If you try to rush ahead with the opening of the doors, a little message pops up saying: “Don’t rush ahead, it won’t make Christmas come any quicker!” Cute.

Santa Games

Santa Games is full of Christmas related games. Each day reveals a new game that you can play! So far, there’s been a ‘spot the difference’ in the Elf’s costume game. Just a word of warning: turn the volume down unless you want to hear heavily synthesised versions of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer on repeat…

Why Christmas

Each day, a little bit more of the history of different Christmas traditions and why we celebrate them is revealed. Definitely one for history lovers!

What advent Calendar should I buy?

If the online advent calendars still aren’t enough and you’ve still not bought one, then here are a couple of my favourites!

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!


  • M Dowell
    4th January 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Great post Sophie!!!
    Thank you for sharing. Merry chrismas and Happy new year!!!

  • Stella Asteria
    2nd December 2016 at 5:43 pm

    What a greta post my dear! I really wanted to read some information about the Advent. Thank you for sharing and have a great start to the weekend!

  • Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    2nd December 2016 at 10:12 am

    I love chocolate Advent calendars:) you can read about mine if you want:)


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