The Tradition of Advent Calendars


An advent calendar that Suzanne Ferguson gave to her grandchildren this year that features small photos and pieces of advice under each door.

Since 1908, people around the world have been using advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas. Advent calendars are calendars that have a small door to open every day in December until Christmas Eve. Usually, they have either pictures, chocolates, presents, or Bible verses behind the doors, but there is a wide range of types that are sold.

Although the first printed advent calendar is considered to have been published by a German newspaper company in 1908, the idea of counting down December is nothing new. Advent is the four week period beginning on the Sunday nearest to the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, Nov. 30, through the following three Sundays. The period began as a time for converts to Christianity to prepare for Baptism. Historians estimate that Advent has been celebrated since the fourth century.

The first way recorded of counting the days in December is thought to have come from Protestants. Religious families made a chalk line for each day. Today, there are many more fun ways to do this. There are advent calendars for legos, makeup, candy, gifts, and so much more. For many families, including the family of freshman Zane Jones, they have become a strong holiday tradition.

Jones’ family has been buying chocolate advent calendars ever since he can remember. For Jones, some years the temptation was too great. “When I was a kid, one year I ate all of the chocolates on the first day,” said Jones. “My parents got really mad at me.” Now that he is a bit older, he is able to wait and appreciates the routine of opening one every day.

“I love how each day you’re supposed to eat a little chocolate and on the last day you do the same thing, but with chocolate you have gotten for Christmas,” said Jones.

Advent calendars are the most commonly used method of counting down to Christmas, but they are not the only method. Also used are advent clocks and advent candles. There are online versions as well as homemade. Over the years, much of the tradition has changed. For most people, the idea shifted from preparing for Baptism, to making the wait for Christmas day more fun and festive.

Although this holiday tradition seems simple, to some, it has a lot of meaning to others. Suzanne Ferguson, a neighbor of Jones, has saved her calendars since she was young. Ferguson loves finding beautiful calendars with pictures behind each door, but does not care much for the chocolate ones. For years, Ferguson has been buying advent calendars for her grandchildren, passing on the tradition.