German words expats should know: Adventskalender
Known in English as an “Advent calendar," an Adventskalender is a special type of calendar used to count the days of Advent in the lead-up to Christmas.
Traditionally, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas - which can be anytime from November 27 to December 3 - but most modern Advent calendars begin on December 1.
The history of the Adventskalender in Germany
As you may already know, the Adventskalender is a German invention that has its roots in the Lutheran faith. The first Advent calendars were used by German Lutherans in the 19th century as they awaited Advent or the “arrival” of Christ. Traditionally, families would mark off every day until Christmas Eve - December 24 - with a chalk line.
The first printed Advent calendar is considered to have been made by Gerhard Lang. These early calendars typically consisted of a series of flaps or “doors” to be opened every day in the lead-up to Christmas, each time revealing an image, poem, or part of a story.
Lang was forced to shut down his business after cardboard became rationed at the outbreak of World War II, but after the war, a number of entrepreneurs took up the mantle and began commercially producing calendars en masse.
They were gradually exported all over the world and slowly began to develop in many different forms: from cardboard Advent calendars with pieces of chocolate behind each window, to strings of fabric pockets containing presents, and even wooden boxes with drawers for each day. Some Advent calendars nowadays even contain more luxurious mini gifts, like bottles of beer or gin or even cosmetics and accessories!
Get yourself an Advent calendar and start ticking off the days!
One thing is certain: a Christmas tradition as beloved as this is not going anywhere anytime soon! So don’t be afraid to say to your German friends, loved ones or spouses, “Kaufst du mir bitte einen Adventskalender?”