Christmas 2021: What is advent, why do we have advent calendars and why do we count down to Christmas?

It's now time to open the first window on your advent calendar, but what is their meaning and the history behind them?

By Sarah McCann, Search and Trends Writer
Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 11:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 11:48 am

December is officially here and that means only one thing, it's time to open your Advent calendar.

This cardboard box is a staple for many who celebrate the Christmas season and it's not just for kids.

There are now many choices and varieties on offer from make up, candles to cheese and plants!

December 1 is here and it's time to open the first window in your advent calendar.

But why do we have advent calendars and why do we count down to Christmas?

What is advent?

Advent takes place in the run up to Christmas, it is used as a countdown to help you get ready for Christmas Day.

It means, 'coming' in Medieval Latin and refers to the four Sundays coming up to Christmas.

When does advent start?

Advent officially starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, not December 1, although this is when many of us open our advent calendars.

This year advent fell on Sunday November 28, but it no matter when advent starts it will always last until Christmas Eve, or December 24, as this is when the countdown to Christmas has ended.

Why do we have advent calendars?

There are a few different theories, with some putting the history of this tradition dating back to the 1850s.

Advent calendars traditionally did not contain sweets or gifts, instead depicting images of the story of Christmas, with a picture of the manager scene as a finale.

They originated in Germany and were made of wood up until the 1900s, when the first printed calendars were made.

Chocolate calendars weren't made until 1958 and Cadbury' s only released their first chocolate calendar in 1971.

Nowadays Advent calendars come in a variety of options for kids and adults alike.

There is plenty of choice from from traditional image based ones to chocolate, make up, alcohol, candles, gin, cheese and more.

What is an advent candle?

Some people celebrate Advent by burning a candle in their home.

This candle will have 24 notches, allowing you to burn a section for each day as you count down to Christmas.

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