What is an Advent Calendar?

By Christopher Hunt

December 11, 2015

Of all Advent traditions, the Advent calendar is probably the best recognized.

The concept of the Advent calendar may have originated in Germany during the 1800s. Christian families would use chalk lines on doorframes, lined-up small wooden blocks, or lit candles to number the days from December 1st to Christmas Eve. The first Advent calendar as we know it today was likely printed in 1908 by Gerhard Lang who worked at a printing office in Munich.

Early on, printers made the calendars of cardboard with twenty-four cut out doors that hid Bible verses and biblical images. Some also held treats, like small chocolates, presumably to keep the children’s attention. Over the years, this tradition spread throughout Europe and North America. It came to a brief halt during World War II, when paper, cardboard, and candy became scarce due to strict rationing. But once the war ended, printers and families picked up the tradition again and shared it around the world.

Today, there are all kinds of Advent calendars from the traditional, to pop-culture themed countdowns—like Lego®, Star Wars, and even certain celebrities to name a few—to purely decorative ones. Some calendars are web-based, while many continue in print with the twenty-four little doors or pockets hiding an ornament or a piece of candy. Many of these variations, however, lack the calendar’s original purpose of orienting people to the beauty and significance of Christ’s coming.

When used toward this end, Advent calendars can be a meaningful way to help you reflect on Christ’s birth and watched-for return throughout the season. By inviting participation, an Advent calendar can be especially useful in teaching little ones what Christmas is really about and its place in the biblical narrative. Some calendars use a daily verse or devotional. Others focus on Old Testament stories that foreshadow Jesus’ arrival. However you choose to savor the season, we hope your Advent calendar helps you see that the best is yet to come.

Be sure to check out this fun Advent Calendar & Devotion from our sister program, Kids Corner.

For more on Advent, visit our Advent Resource Page.

About the author — Christopher Hunt

Chris loves to see God transform lives through the gospel. Prior to joining ReFrame, he served with the global ministry of Awana. Chris also served for 16 years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve. He studied history at Alma College and has earned a Master's degree at Northern Illinois University. He blogs frequently for Today and all of our ReFrame Ministries sister programs. He and his wife have five children and serve as leaders in their church.

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