The Advent calendar is the latest in a line of must-haves without which Christmas wouldn’t really be Christmas. It appeared as we know it today in the fifties but the Advent ritual has existed for centuries. First of all it is necessary to know that the word Advent comes from the Latin Adventus which means birth and in the religious traditions Advent is the period where we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord and was originally a period of fasting, a second Lent.

It was Pope Gregory I (540-604) who instigated the twenty-four days of waiting beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ending on the eve of Jesus’ birth. This was the beginning of the countdown and each day the children added a new element to the crib, often a piece of straw to make a cozy bed for the divine child.

In the nineteenth century, practiced especially in Germany in Protestant homes, the custom was to offer each morning to children a pious picture accompanied by a sentence of the Gospels to make them wait until Christmas and it is only at the beginning of the twentieth century that this tradition spread throughout Europe. Gerhard Lang, a Bavarian publisher of illustrated books marketed in 1908 the first Advent calendar which was composed of small colored drawings bound to a cardboard. In 1920 the first calendar with windows was put on sale and in 1958 chocolates made their appearance in the calendars. The advent calendar will be known by the Americans only during the second world war when the American soldiers fighting in Europe send some to their families.

The Advent calendar is not the only tradition that Germany has passed on to us. The Christmas wreath also comes from across the Rhine. Created in the middle of the 19th century by a pastor who was in charge of an institution for poor children, this wreath was originally made of wood and decorated with twenty small red candles representing the days of the week and four large white candles for the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The pastor would light a candle each day to keep the children waiting until Christmas. The tradition has spread but for reasons of economy, only the white candles have been kept.

Originating from a religious tradition, the Advent calendar has now entered the commercial domain and has become a marketing tool for major brands. For a few years now, they have also been targeting adult customers by offering them beauty calendars (cream, nail polish), gourmet calendars (tea, chocolate, coffee), life-style calendars (candles, deco) and even naughty calendars (you name it), all of which are original and attractive.

Waiting for Christmas, we all love it. And waiting for this end of the year celebration by discovering a little gift in your advent calendar, every day, is even better. If you want to please your friends and family or your Loulous, start making a homemade advent calendar. The main advantage? You can personalize it by choosing yourself the little surprise (candy, sweet word, toy…). Moreover, it will cost you almost nothing and will please the whole family. The Internet is full of ideas and tutorials, so it’s up to you!

There are several types of advent calendars. First of all, the classic one, in the shape of a numbered house front. It’s simple to make and only requires a few pieces of wood, nails and a felt tip! You can also make an advent calendar with matchboxes: the gifts will be hidden in the drawers! You can decorate it with beads or stickers. Finally, for the non-do-it-yourselfers, there is the trick of the big socks! Buy 24 (yes, 24!) red socks that you number, and place them over your fireplace or hang them on the Christmas tree. Fill them with little gifts, chocolates, candies, notes…

Have you finished creating your advent calendar? Now it’s time to fill it! But what to put inside? Depending on your budget and the size of your boxes, you can choose to fill your calendar with sweets and treats that are a sure bet and will please the little ones… as well as the adults! You can also fill your advent calendar with quotes, poems, photos, or even your child’s favorite objects (figurines, carts…). For the beauty and lifestyle enthusiasts, fill your boxes with tea bags or beauty products! In a word, be creative and let your imagination run wild!

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