I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:8 (NIV)
The origin of the Advent calendar comes from 19th Century German Lutherans who would count down the twenty-four days to Christmas by drawing chalk lines on the doors of their homes each day, beginning on the first day of December. Candles were also used with twenty-four of them being placed in an ‘Advent Clock’ with a new one lit each day. By the turn of the 20th Century cardboard calendars were being printed with little doors or windows which opened to reveal something to do with the story of Christ’s birth.
In more recent years companies have marketed their products, utilising Advent calendars. LEGO produces a calendar with LEGO pieces behind each door. Cadbury’s has chocolates behind the numbered windows (a ‘must have’ when I was a child!).
Several years ago we had a string of red numbered felt teddy bear pockets which my mother in-law filled with chocolates and candies. It hung in our kitchen, and Jonathan, who was much younger than his siblings, would open and eat the treats (despite the fact that our adult children, Christie and Matthew thought this was unfair!). We also gathered around the supper table every night to read, pray and chat about the Christmas Story.
Other Advent calendars include the Community Calendar in Rathaus, Germany, where the town hall, which fortuitously has 24 main windows, has each window painted or decorated by local artists, and a window unveiled each evening. In Scandinavian countries the Julkalender or Julekalender is a television show which starts on December 1 and ends on Christmas Eve.
Advent Calendars are also common on the Web. The BBC has a virtual calendar called A Bach Christmas with music and information about the famous composer. The Tate Gallery, not to be outdone, has an Advent calendar featuring twenty-four favourite works of art, while Electric December has an Advent calendar showcasing films made by young people from across Europe. My favourite online calendar is the Advent Calendar Blog at www.cartoonchurch.com which has cartoons drawn for the Church Times by Dave Walker.
In the USA, Election Day Advent calendars are a new twist. They reveal the changing political scene. One of these, The Obama Family White House Christmas, depicts celebrities and well known politicians behind the doors. Oprah Winfrey is the Sugar Plum Fairy, Jesse Jackson the Nutcracker, and on Christmas Day the President and Mrs Claus are revealed!
Yet when everything is said and done, the only true Advent calendars, for me, are those depicting the Nativity . . .