Green, silver, gold and white advent calendar.
Advent calendars first appeared in Germany in the 1850s, writes Charlotte Alden. (Photograph by Elena Mozhvilo)

Topics: Ethical Living | History

Five facts you may not know about Advent calendars

How the Advent calendar travelled from Germany to North America


The thrill of counting down the days to Christmas morning by opening a door on a calendar and snagging a tiny chocolate has been a cherished — and sticky — tradition for generations of kids and adults alike. Five facts about Advent calendars.


They first appeared in Germany in the 1850s. According to the German Christmas Museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, some children would count the days of Advent by wiping away chalk marks on a door.


The oldest printed Advent calendar was actually a clock. It was printed in 1902 with a brass hand and a dial beginning at 13. Its panels were mainly filled with verses from Christmas carols, the museum says.


German lithographer Gerhard Lang is credited with inventing printed Advent cal- endars in the early 1900s. He based the idea on a present his mother made for him as a child: 24 cookies sewn into the lid of a box. He was allowed to eat one each day. The first printed calendar with choco- late appeared around 1926.

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A dark twist came during the Second World War. The Nazi Party banned most illustrated calendars and created its own version called a “Pre-Christmas Calendar.” It incorporated ideological propaganda.

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The tradition eventually hit North America. A 1954 newspaper photograph of the grandchildren of then-U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower with an Advent calendar, aimed at raising money for the National Epilepsy League, popularized the tradition.


Charlotte Alden was Broadview’s summer intern. She is currently a reporter for Cascadia Daily News in Bellingham, Wash.

This article is in Broadview’s December 2023 issue with the title “The Advent Calendar.”

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