The Advent Calendar, a German Christmas Culture

The Advent Calendar has become a standard part of Christmas season in Germany nowadays.  Every year at the beginning of November when the winter holiday season approaches, many shops in Germany start to sell such calendars. Traditionally, most German kids will get one. It is also a tradition that many German families make their own calendars for their kids rather than buying ready-made ones. Adults also give calendars to each other as gifts.

As it is a seasonal product, when you travel to Germany before Christmas time, it is also a good gift for you, your friend and your family.  You can also order it via

A brief history of the Advent Calendar

The Advent calendar has its German origin, which can be traced back to the 19th century when protestant families would traditionally make chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. It was much as a way of counting down the days.

The first actual calendar was handmade and was created in Germany in 1851. But the first printed version was published by Gerhard Lang at the beginning of the 19th century. This calendar did not have 24 doors to open but printed pictures on the doors.  A few years later, Lang produced the first calendar with little doors that everyone loves to open. Each of these doors opened to a certain Christian motif or scene.

However, with the outbreak of World War II, it was forbidden by Nazis to produce illustrated calendars because it was considered “unimportant to the war effort”. After the war, Richard Sellmer from Stuttgart created a calendar based on a more traditional winter town scene. By 1946, Sellmer had taken up commercial production of the advent calendars.  As a result of the mass production, the Advent Calendar became affordable as well. By the year 1958, calendars filled with Chocolates began to appear in the markets.

Nowadays, the Advent Calendar is popular in many countries, such as the UK, Nordic countries and USA.

How to use an Advent Calendar?

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”. The Advent season of Christianity is determined by the feast day of Saint Andrew (November 30) with the closest Sunday becoming the first Sunday of Advent. Three more Sundays follow. In Germany, these Sundays are called “Adventssonntags”.

However, today’s advent calendars don’t really follow the timeline of the religious Advent period. Instead, they begin on 1st December and end on 24th December. Open one “door” per day, you can get a small treat from the box behind. It is the unique present of the Christmas season and the excitement leading up to Christmas. Practically, it serves as a tool to help us to count down the days from the 1st to the 24th December.

Types of calendars

Since the invention of the Advent Calendars, they have had pictures and bible verses hidden behind the little doors. Now, they include all kind of gifts such as toys, alcohol, make-up etc.  The shape, type and appearance of the calendars have changed over time.

Traditional Calendars

An example of a traditional one is Christmas Cuckoo Clock Advent Calendar with Spinner

Christmas Cuckoo Clock Advent Calendar with Spinner

You open a window and move the spinner each day during Advent. Find a special picture and a verse behind each window. The front is accentuated with glitter. This calendar measures 11″x14″ and is easy to hang or display anywhere! 

Food-related Advent Calendar

Many traditional calendars have chocolates or candies as treats placed behind the small doors.  But some are filled with other food. For example, the Duerr’s Jam & Marmalade Advent Calendar.  It includes 24 x Individual (20g) Portion Pots and 1 x Whiskey & Marmalade Mini Jar, which is perfect for breakfast over the festive period.

Official Duerr's Jam & Marmalade Individual Portions Festive Merry Christmas Advent Calendar

Calendar produced by toy companies

Toy companies also add calendar to their seasonal production lines. For example, LEGO Star Wars 2018 Advent Calendar 7521 from Lego.

LEGO Star Wars 2018 Advent Calendar 75213

Open the doors of this galactic LEGO star wars kids toy advent calendar each day in December to discover themed LEGO mini-figures, starships, vehicles and other collectibles. When you’ve opened all the doors, there’s even a foldout playmat with desert and ice-planet scenes for playing out epic Star Wars adventures. This great gift is the perfect way for fans of all ages to get ready for Christmas!

Calendar with beauty products

Advent Calendars also turn to be an alternative gift for women, for example, L’Occitane Holiday 2018 Luxury Advent Calendar.

Loccitane Luxury Beauty Advent Calendar 2018

This captivating luxury calendar features 24 exclusive gifts for a luxurious way to beautify the countdown to the Holidays. The two towers rotate a full 360 degrees, revealing bold and whimsical designs on all four sides, where you discover the day’s numbered drawer.

Calendar with alcohol treats

Even alcohol products can be concealed behind the doors, for example, Christmas Wine and Prosecco Advent Calendar.  It is a perfect gift for wine lovers to celebrate the countdown to Christmas in style. This product includes a selection of 24 small bottles, red, white, rosé, mulled wine and Prosecco.

 Christmas Wine and Prosecco Advent Calendar

If you are a beer drinker, the Craft Beer Advent Calendar 2018  is a perfect gift for you. It include 24 Bottles of the best Craft Beer.

24 Bottle Craft Beer Advent Calendar 2018

Calendar made in wood

Various of material are applied to the Advent Calendars.  Some are made in metal, fabric, plastic, paper etc. while others made in wood. I personally like the wooden calendar.  For example, the Clever Creations Traditional Wooden Advent Calendar. 

Clever Creations Traditional Wooden Advent Calendar

This decorative wooden calendar matches any Christmas themes. The Christmas Village will complement any Christmas decor theme. It is made out of high-quality wooden materials and makes a perfect addition to any home’s decor. You can hide treats in those draws based on what you like.  And, you can use it for the next year as well.

DIY Advent Calendar

There are many materials on the market which enable you to create your own calendar,  for example,  the Advent calendar mini set with 24 number stickers and paper bags.  This DIY set comes with everything you need to make and fill your very own advent calendars for children and adults. You can fill it with little sweets or gifts.

Advent calendar mini set with 24 number stickers and paper bags - DIY Set - for making and filling - stickers No 24

The mission of the Advent calendar

Choose an advent calendar you love. You can post them on the wall, on the refrigerators, or use themed ones to decorate your home.  If you can make your own calendar, it would bring you a personalized touch to the celebrations. Whatever your choice is, the advent calendar will add excitement to your Christmas celebrations.

The Advent Calendar still represents the number of days that are remaining until Christmas. While the shape, the type, the content of calendars change over the year, the mission of the Advent Calendar has remained the same. It gives a special meaning to Christmas and brings joy to the people.


  1. I’ve been gifted advent calendars, usually chocolate haha, every year. I never knew that these originated in Germany! Did you know candy canes also originated in Germany?

  2. I live in the Middle East and seeing all the fun activities in this post has intrigued me to spend Christmas in the west next year! Everything looks soo much fun

  3. My favorite holiday of all is Christmas and I absolutely LOVE advent calendars as a result of this. Planning on having a family soon and I feel like that wooden advent calendar would be a real investment. Thanks for sharing all the different types of advent calendars on the market and the history behind the product.

  4. I grew up in France and advent calendar were a big deal when I was younger. I recall having one in my class: you get to open it if you have the highest grade on the day! It was such a fun competition! Ahh good times.

  5. Love a good advent calendar. Coming from the UK I grew up with chocolate versions, but these days they do get a bit extravagant with more than just chocolates haha. Great post!

  6. I live in Austria and am a great fan of the Germanic advent calendars. I prefer a Lindt chocolate calendar while my son loves the Lego calendars which are not very “German” or classical. But I know of many families who make their own calendars and fill it with diverse things.

  7. I never knew there were so many different Advent Calendars! My mom teaches bible school and she’d love to take a look at these – I’ll have to share with her!! Very cool post (and original) 😎🥂

  8. I was not aware of these kinds of calendars. My personal favourite is the beer Advent Calendar. Looks amazing. I want one.

  9. I never knew of Advent calendars but it is great to know about them. These calendars are really very beautiful and if they are with beauty products then it is a perfect gift for women.

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