An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Since the date of the First Sunday of Advent varies, falling between November 27 and December 3 inclusive, many Advent calendars, especially those that are reusable, often begin on December 1, although those that are produced for a specific year often include the last few days of November that are part of the liturgical season. The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries but is now ubiquitous among adherents of many Christian denominations.
Design and use
Traditional Advent calendars feature the manger scene, Saint Nicholas and winter weather, while others range in theme, from sports to technology. They come in a multitude of forms, from a simple paper calendar with flaps covering each of the days to fabric pockets on a background scene to painted wooden boxes with cubby holes for small items.
Many Advent calendars take the form of a large rectangular card with "windows", one for each day of December leading up to and including Christmas Eve (December 24). Consecutive doors are opened every day leading up to Christmas, beginning on the start of the Advent season for that year, or in the case of reusable Advent calendars, December 1. Often the doors are distributed across the calendar in no particular order. The calendar windows open to reveal an image, a poem, a portion of a story (such as the story of the Nativity of Jesus), or a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item. Often, each window has a Bible verse and Christian prayer printed on it, which Christians incorporate as part of their daily Advent devotions. Advent calendars may also have puzzles and games printed on their reverse side.
The long-established British magazine Country Life incorporates an Advent calendar—which it describes as "our famous Advent calendar"—in its cover for the final issue of November.
There are many variations of Advent calendar, including social media Advent calendars, and string up reusable Advent calendars. Many towns have created living advent calendars. Some Advent calendars even eschew traditional Christmas motifs and themes, focusing only on Jesus as the central character of the Christmas story.
The Nordic Julekalender/Julkalender
In Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden there is also a tradition of having a so-called Julekalender (Swedish: Julkalender, Finnish: Joulukalenteri, Icelandic: Jóladagatal; the local word for a Yule—or Christmas—calendar, even though it actually is an Advent calendar) in the form of a television or radio show, starting on December 1 and ending on Christmas Eve (December 24).
Such a show first aired on radio in 1957 in the form of the Swedish radio series Barnens adventskalender; the first televised show of the genre aired in 1960 in the form of the Swedish program Titteliture. The first julekalender aired in Denmark was Historier fra hele verden in 1962. The televised julkalender or julekalendar has now extended into the other Nordic countries; in Finland, for example, the show is called Joulukalenteri.
Over the years, there have been several kinds of julekalender; some are directed at children, some at both children and adults, and some directed at adults alone. There is a Julkalender radio show in Sweden, which airs in the days leading up to Christmas. A classic example of a julekalender enjoyed by children (as well as adults, if purely for nostalgic reasons) is the 1979 Norwegian television show Jul i Skomakergata; another is the 1990 Icelandic television show Á baðkari til Betlehem.
A collection of Advent calendars
Taylor, Alan (November 30, 2012). "2012 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar". The Atlantic.