Holiday traditions: the Advent calendar

As a child, the excitement associated with the lead up to Christmas was marked with familiar traditions that my family engaged in year after year and that heightened expectations for THE-BIG-DAY. The preparations started at the beginning of December with caroling parties, Christmas baking (and decorating), and putting up the tree. They continued right up to hanging stockings, leaving beer and cookies by the fireplace for Santa, and reading “T’was the Night Before Christmas” on December 24th.

Another tradition that I appreciated immensely and that marked the countdown to THE-BIG-DAY was the Advent calendar. Behind each of the little windows, numbered from 1 to 24, was a little treat – normally some cheap chocolate – but a treat nonetheless.

Despite all the marketing to children, as an adult I continue to love the tradition.

advent calendar ferm livingFerm Living’s ‘house’ Advent calendar (Source: Galerie CO)

So at CO we’ve started our own Advent celebration where we handout a little present from our over-sized by nord Advent calendar to the first person to spend $100, every day from December 1 to December 24. It’s a fun way to give back in the form of offering a token of appreciation to our clients and to revel in the smiles and good will that surround the holiday period.

wally 1-24 by nord’s “Wally” cotton Advent calendar (Source: Galerie CO)

The origin of the word “advent” is rooted in Christian traditions surrounding the Nativity. It comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means “coming.” To mark the significance of this event each year, early Christians believed it necessary to prepare for, and extend, the celebrations during the Advent, the period leading up to the 25th of December.

The idea behind the modern Advent calendar, of creating a calendar to mark the days in the lead up to Christmas, originated in Germany. It’s thought that the first Advent calendar was made in the late 19th Century and comprised 24 tiny sweets stuck onto a cardboard frame. The child recipient of this, Gerhard Lang, never forgot the excitement he felt when he was given his calendar every year at the beginning of December.

As an adult, Lang ran a publishing house, Reichhold & Lang, and in 1908 he released the first printed Advent calendar based on his childhood experience. He also invented, in 1920, the perforated doors used on modern Advent calendars, to make little shuttered windows containing stories from the Nativity, for children to open every day before Christmas. Demand swiftly increased several companies began to produce the calendars. They didn’t take hold in North America until 1953, when Newsweek published a photo of President Eisenhower’s grandchildren grasping for an Advent calendar.

Ever since the 1950s Advent calendars have been mass-produced and many are no longer strictly religious but have become part of a more secular traditions around the holidays and typically involve colourful packaging and cheap chocolate.

We’ve been looking for some interesting and original interpretations that don’t involve plastic packaging and cheap chocolate and that do involve working together and fun times with friends and family over the holidays. Here are a few that we found:

Why not incorporate your holiday baking into your Advent with a cookie calendar made from delicious sugar cookies. You can find a great recipe here.

advent calendar cookies butterheartssugar blogspotCinnamon and brown sugar cookies (Source: Butterheartsugar)

Simple, rustic and brilliant. On the back of each luggage tag making up this Advent calendar is a Christmas activity or game to do with your family and friends, such as watch a Christmas film or make a Christmas cake.

advent-calendar-via-dandee-designs-via-advent-calendar-ideas-on-oaxacabornLuggage tags / activities Advent calendar (Source: Dandee Designs)

For those more into the idea of consuming words and knowledge than chocolate and treats, you might opt for wrapping up 24 books, and discovering one each day in the countdown to Christmas. A wonderful way to stay entertained over the holidays.

Wrapped books advent calendar (Source: Six Sisters Stuff)

For little presents, this Advent calendar made using Chinese take-away boxes does the trick nicely. Hang the boxes on a string using everyday clothes pegs. They can be placed on the tree, along the mantlepiece or across a display board as seen below.

Advent calenar pinsandribbons co uk Chinese take-away boxes Advent calendar (Source: Pins and Ribbons)

Any knitters out there? This rustic and very homemade Advent calendar involves a certain amount of skill and work to put together, but evokes memories of family trips to the toboggan hill or ice rink.

knitted advent calendar

(Source: CampKitschyKnits)

Finally, each “day” in the calendar below was created using the pigments from a different food source. On the back of each of each colour swatch is a recipe for a yummy holiday dish that corresponds to the pigment on the front of the swatch. Brilliant and creative.
advent calendar - food inspired - recipes on back -

(Source and link to recipes: )

Which is your favourite? What are your holiday traditions? How do you count down the days in the Advent?

Let us know in the comments below. Or leave us a message on Facebook or on Twitter @GalerieCO