2016 Anne Boleyn Files Advent Calendar

December 1: History of the Advent Calendar

As today is the first day of our Anne Boleyn Files Calendar I thought I'd share with you the history of advent calendars.

As you know, Advent is the four week period leading up to Christmas. It starts on Advent Sunday, which is the Sunday nearest to the feast day of St Andrew the Apostle, which is celebrated on 30th November. This means that this year, Advent started on Sunday 27th November. Due to the fact that this is a moveable feast, commercial advent calendars start on 1st December and usually end on 24th December, Christmas Eve.

According to traditional Advent calendar maker Richard Sellmer Verlag, advent calendars date back to the 19th century, when Protestant families in Germany would count down to Christmas Eve by making a chalk line for each day in December. The Richard Sellmer Verlag website explains:

The first known Advent Calendar which was made by handwork is from the year 1851. Other early styles were the Adventclock or the Adventcandle - a candle for each of the 24 days until Christmas, like todays Advent wreath. So in religious families little pictures were hung up on the wall - one for each day in December. An other tradition was to paint chalk strokes on the door, one per day until Christmas Eve.

You can see how hanging up little pictures on the wall each day turned into a calendar with pictures behind numbered doors.

Of course, we now have chocolate advent calendars, advent calendars with little gifts or toys behind doors, Nativity advent calendars where you build a Nativity scene each day, all sorts…

Many churches count down to the Nativity with an Advent wreath of candles which consists of a wreath of evergreen foliage with four or five candles. A candle is lit on each Sunday of Advent, with these candles also representing hope, peace, joy and love, and if there is an extra candle then this is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and symbolises Christ.

Some families count down to Christmas with one advent candle which has markings on it for each day and is lit each night to burn away that day's marker.

An advent clock can also be used to countdown to the Nativity. This looks like a wall clock but has the numbers 1-24 on its face. The hand is moved each day.

Why not have fun with the children in your life (or just have fun yourself) and make an advent calendar. I used to make this simple one with my class when I was teaching English locally. You build Santa's beard each day with cotton wool. It's great fun and if you're artistic then you could always change it to Henry VIII!


Or, if you like the idea of an Advent Clock then here you go…