Tis’ the end of advent

Did you know that Advent Calendars are almost as old as the earliest cars?

There’s no firm date of when they began. Some say the first was made in Hamburg dating back to 1902 while others point to Gerhard Lang’s mother in late 19th century Germany. Sticking 24 tiny sweets into small holes on a piece of cardboard for her son to count the days down to Weihnachten (Christmas Eve).

Then the adult Gerhard Lang produced what is thought to be the first printed advent calendar in 1908, with 24 pictures marking each day from the 1st to Christmas Eve on the 24th of December.Later he even created doors for each day with a picture inside.

The concept then spread like wildfire.

In Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway they took the idea further in TV and radio programme form for children. Barnens Adventskalender for Swedish Radio in the late 50s and NRK’s Jul i Skomakergata made in 1979 are famous examples.

Here in the UK, the advent calendar switch was only flicked on in the late 1950s. However the chocolate fuse was lit by Cadbury’s in 1971 with the first chocolate advent calendar. The rest is sweet history, much like my tortured metaphors.

Nowadays it’s a staple for many before the perilous task of getting Christmas presents that won’t become household waste by Boxing Day. In recent years the door to a lucrative market segment of luxury advent calendars was opened.

You can get a wooden calendar with sweets from Fortnum and Masons (priced at £125); a calendar with 25 miniature Edinburgh Gins for £100; a £120 advent calendar by Wera containing screwdriver tools.

If that’s not luxurious enough then there’s a £10,000 advent calendar with rare whiskies (and that would get my vote) as well as Porsche’s advent calendar worth $1 MILLION including a yacht, kitchen and watch.

Some will claim today’s advent calendars as excessive, insane or even vulgar. Some will call it an example of “excessive commercialisation” like what Easter and Halloween have become. I would agree with them to an extent – much of the commercialisation surrounding Christmas distracts us from what Christmas is really about.

However many in the crowd that complain also seem to find it difficult to lighten up and have a bit of fun. Boy do we need it in today’s world.

For me, advent calendars are a fun way to count down the days to when you can become an excitable kid again. Whether it’s the Thorntons Snowman or Milky Way advent calendars I got as a child to the marvelous Lindt advent calendar I was given for this year.

It gets us to think about Christmas, feeds our chocolate addictions and it helps keep the chocolate and retail industries alive. Win-win for pretty much everyone.

Although, I’ve yet to open my advent calendar. Shameful waste of chocolate or a good way to overdose on chocolate in one day? You tell me.

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