In my faith tradition, the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas are called Advent, meaning, “to come to”. We are taught the Advent season is a time to direct our attention to the coming of Christ at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
It isn’t easy to stay focused on these spiritual matters in our culture. For most Americans, the Christmas season began the day after Halloween and is a sensory overload of marketing from TV shows, movies, store displays, and an email inbox overflowing with ‘unbeatable deals’ with ‘last chance’ sales.
Holiday traditions are important to me, and those traditions include celebrating the hopeful spirit of Advent. So I was thrilled to receive this charming wood Advent Calendar several years ago. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30 (the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle), but most Advent calendars begin the countdown on December 1.
According to the German folklorist and historian Esther Gajek, the history of the first printed Advent Calendar is traced to 1908 and Gerhard Lang. Lang, a native of Maulbronn Germany recalled the homemade calendar his mother made with little candies. He was working in the printing office Reichhold & Lang, when he produced little colored pictures that could be placed on a cardboard marking the countdown to Christmas. Later, he produced calendars with little doors to open.
The kids especially love to open the doors of our Advent calendar. So, in addition to a bit of candy, I bring them into the Spirit of the season with a bit of Scripture printed on cardboard.