Remember When …



Advent starts on Dec. 1 each year, marking the beginning of the Christmas season around the world.

The word “advent” means “coming” or “arriving”, so traditionally we would light a candle on each day of advent, leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, which we call Christmas (mass on Christ’s day). This is still being done in churches around the world today.

Before the 13th century, the advent season may have been longer and had different rules such as fasting or no feasting.

Since the 19th and 20th centuries, advent, as the Christmas season is also known to be both Christian and a secular holiday.

Historically the time frame for advent is Dec. 1-24 and throughout history people marked on walls and floors to count down the coming of Christmas.

The first known advent calendar was made by a mother for her son in Germany about 1853. By 1903 Gerhard Lang worked with a Munich company and created the calendar after his mother’s idea.

An example of a 1903 advent calendar. Photo provided

An example of a 1903 advent calendar. Photo provided

All was well until World War II production had to stop until after the war because of a cardboard shortage.

Post war advent calendars were cheerier and by the 1950s, a commercial advent calendar came out with chocolate and other candies in it. With candy introduced, this would keep children involved in the process of the advent season.

During the last three decades there has been a different approach to the calendar, just like many things that started out one way and were changed to make more money.

Now there are so called advent calendars for everything. You can get a cloth or paper with 24 pockets on it and put candy in each day, or you can go all out and spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy one with things such as jewelry, make-up, personal items and toys.

I bought advent calendars for my kids this year made of wood and put a Bible verse and candy in each drawer. I thought it was a great way to do this, since they all live so far away in different states.

A lot of our historical ideas about Christmas have come from Europe, especially Germany, around the 1800s.

Pancras Station, in London, had the biggest advent calendar in 2007. It looked like a building, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Have you ever hid a pickle in your tree? That is a German tradition and according to the rules the one who finds it receives an extra gift.

My father’s side is of German and English descent and I was curious to find out more of the family traditions. I hope you enjoy the advent season and start a new or continue and old family tradition and share them with your friends.

Remember When is a weekly column in the Burton View featuring historical stories about the community from the Burton Area Historical Society. If you have some Burton history to share, email