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History of Advent Calendars

Advent Calendars can be found everywhere Christmas is celebrated and have been made with many different themes. The origin of the calendar, like so many of our Christmas traditions, started in Germany back in the 19th century. Different methods of counting down the days to the celebration of Christmas were used then from drawing a chalk line to mark off the days to later lighting a candle every night or putting up small religous pictures marking each day until Christmas. The first printed calendar was produced by Gerhard Lang in Germany. His first calendar consisted of miniature colored pictures that would be attached to a piece of cardboard each day in December. Later Advent calendars were made with little doors to open on each day. The child might find a small piece of candy, a Christmas picture, a religious picture or a bible verse.

The calendars were very popular until World War II when production was stopped due to the war shortages. After the war the production of calendars resumed in 1946 by Richard Selmer and their popularity continues to grow every year. Selmer credits President Eisenhower with helping grow the tradition in the United States during his term of office. A newspaper article at the time showed the Eisenhower grandchildren with The Little Town Advent calendar.

The first Advent calendars were based on 24 days with Christmas Eve as the last night to either put up a picture or take a candy. Today, the traditional German calendars still show 24 days, but in the United States, it's not uncommon to also find ones with 25 days -- the last opening to occur on Christmas Day.