What’s The Story Behind The Popularisation of Advent Calendars?

Today, the advent calendar is a staple of the build up to Christmas. Usually, an advent calendar features 24 small treats for the 24 days leading up to 25 December. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin phrase “coming toward.” For Christians, the period of Advent marks “coming toward” the most important date in their year, the birth of Christ. But how did this tradition emerge? And how have advent calendars changed throughout the years? Read on as we explore how advent calendars became such a popular holiday tradition.


The beginnings of the advent calendar stem from Germany in the 19th century. There are two competing stories for how the calendar emerged though. According to the Landesmuseum in Austria, the first one was produced in Hamburg in 1902 by a protestant bookshop owner. Alternatively, some claim that the first hand-made calendar was crafted in Germany in the late 19th century for a child named Gerhard Lang. Lang was said to be inspired by his Mother who’d place 24 sweets within a square of cardboard during advent. Lang took this idea and by 1908 began producing the first printed calendars.

1920s adding small doors to the calendars

Lang continued to innovate with his calendars though. By the 1920s, Lang decided to add small doors to the calendar, providing another delightful surprise to the tradition. Each picture on the door marked a specific day from 1 December to 24 December, offering plenty of possibilities for decoration.

War makes calendars come to a halt

Even with Lang’s business reaching its conclusion, other businesses began manufacturing the calendars. But with WWII arriving – alongside the onset of rationing – manufacturing was halted. By the end of the war though, a printer named Richard Sellmer reintroduced the Advent Calendars, and slowly but surely, they were adopted by families across the western world as a Christmas tradition.

Eisenhower credited as the guy who popularised them

Advent calendars filled with chocolate began to be popular around the world in the 1950s. Some credit this expansion to President Eisenhower. The president was photographed opening these advent calendars with his grandchildren and American popularisation shortly followed this. Today they’re now popular all around the world, but they still continue the spirit that began in 19th century Germany.

Advent calendars are a longstanding Christmas tradition that have been adopted by much of the world. Beyond the excitement of a sweet treat inside, the calendars can showcase some seasonal art as well as the symbolism of Christmas. From religious content to secular fun, you can get the ideal calendar for your household and continue this wonderful tradition.

Article by Born Realist