Advent Calendars: Traditions and Modern Trends

Updated: 22/11/2023

Advent calendars have become a cherished Christmas tradition, guiding us through the festive countdown from December 1st to the 25th. From their beginnings as boxes with tiny doors concealing pictures or biblical verses, they've evolved remarkably. Today's advent calendars offer an array of surprises, from alcohol and makeup to gourmet cheese, perfect for treating yourself or gifting.

In this article, we take a look back at the origins of this tradition and its evolution into a diverse range of offerings, encompassing beauty products, collectibles, toys, books, and even tools. At forward2me, each year we help our customers access the trendiest, most sought-after, and best-value advent calendars from the UK, USA, Germany, and Japan. Whether seeking a traditional hand-painted German calendar filled with delectable treats, a gourmet selection for foodies from the UK, or the latest viral beauty calendar from the USA, simply use your forwarding address to procure your desired advent calendars this holiday season.

The first printed calendar in Germany 

Traditional German advent calendars

The origins of advent calendars trace back to Germany in the 19th century. Initially, these calendars didn't have the same form we recognize today. Instead, they were a way to count down the days in anticipation of Christmas. Families marked 24 chalk lines on doors or lit candles to count down the days.

The first printed advent calendar is credited to Gerhard Lang, who was inspired by his mother's homemade version. In the late 1800s, he created a calendar with 24 small sweets attached to cardboard. These early calendars had little doors or windows that opened to reveal a treat for each day of December leading up to Christmas Eve.

The concept evolved, becoming more popular in the early 20th century, and by the 1920s, the advent calendar took on the familiar form we know today, with windows to open and reveal pictures, small toys, chocolates, or other treats behind each door.

Over time, advent calendars expanded beyond Germany and became a cherished tradition worldwide, with various themes ranging from religious symbols to pop culture icons, offering a daily surprise throughout December until Christmas Day.

Online retailer Alpen Schatz is one place where you can find traditional German advent calendars made in the tradition of German craftsmanship. Nowadays, the prevalent trend for German advent calendars is chocolate as this is what both men and women would like to find in the calendars' compartments. Women also prefer cosmetics and small individually wrapped gifts while men would like to have their advent calendars filled with products such as beverages, toys, and even tools. 

Germans preferences for advent calendars

Advent Calendars Come to the UK 

Advent calendars UK

Advent calendars gained popularity in the UK during the mid-20th century. While the concept of counting down the days to Christmas had been around for centuries, the advent calendar as we know it today, with its doors to open and reveal treats or images, began to be widely produced and marketed in the UK around the 1950s. Initially, these calendars often contained religious images or Bible verses, aligning with the Christian tradition of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. Over time, the calendars diversified, offering various treats, toys, or surprises behind each door, appealing to both children and adults, and becoming a cherished part of the holiday season in the UK.

In the 1950s and 60s, chocolate advent calendars emerged in the UK, but they didn't gain widespread popularity. Throughout the 1980s, the prevalent British advent calendar remained a cardboard sheet adorned with festive illustrations, often culminating in a nativity scene on the 24th, the final day. Cadbury's venture into manufacturing chocolate calendars began in 1971, yet continuous production didn't commence until 1993. The evolution of chocolate calendars into a customary practice by the 1990s underscores how swiftly new traditions can take hold and how relatively recent some of our Christmas customs truly are.

Nowadays, chocolate, tea, and cosmetics advent calendars reign supreme among the most coveted items in UK online stores. However, there's an array of diverse themes available, spanning LEGO, Marvel, and even James Bond.  If you want to get the best alternative UK calendars for yourself or as a gift, you can shop at UK online stores and use forward2me to have them delivered to your doorstep. 

Advent Calendars in the USA

Advent calendars gained popularity in the United States starting in the mid-19th century, primarily among German immigrants who brought this tradition with them. However, they weren't widely recognized or adopted by the broader American population until much later.

It wasn't until the mid-20th century, particularly after World War II, that advent calendars became more mainstream in the U.S. and started to appear in stores and households across the country. Commercially produced advent calendars, often featuring chocolates or small gifts behind numbered doors, gained traction during this period and gradually became part of American holiday traditions.

It wasn't until the mid-20th century, particularly after World War II, that advent calendars became more mainstream in the U.S. and started to appear in stores and households across the country. Commercially produced advent calendars, often featuring chocolates or small gifts behind numbered doors, gained traction during this period and gradually became part of American holiday traditions.

In the USA, the most popular advent calendars span various themes and interests, appealing to different demographics. Some prevalent types include:

  • Chocolate advent calendars: Traditional calendars with chocolates behind each door, enjoyed by both children and adults.
  • Toy advent calendars: Particularly for kids, these feature small toys, collectibles, or figures, often themed around popular franchises like LEGO, Disney, or superheroes.
  • Beauty and skincare advent calendars: Filled with sample-sized or deluxe beauty products, these are popular among those interested in makeup, skincare, and self-care routines.
  • Alcohol advent calendars: Featuring a selection of wines, craft beers, or spirits, these calendars are enjoyed by adults for a festive daily drink.
  • Book or story advent calendars: Offering a piece of literature or a snippet of a story each day, appealing to readers and families who enjoy storytelling.
  • DIY and handmade advent calendars: Some prefer creating their advent calendars using DIY kits, crafting supplies, or handcrafted designs.

Japanese Advent Calendars

Japanese advent calendars

Advent calendars aren't as prevalent in Japan as they are in Western countries. While Christmas is celebrated, the tradition of advent calendars hasn't gained the same widespread popularity there. However, there's been a growing interest in certain regions, especially among those familiar with Western Christmas traditions or with a fondness for collectibles and themed calendars. Some specialty stores might offer advent calendars, often with unique themes or items, catering to niche markets within Japan.

Japanese advent calendars often showcase unique themes that cater to varied interests. Some unique Japanese advent calendars include snack advent calendars that contain a selection of traditional Japanese snacks or unique flavors that offer a daily surprise leading up to Christmas, anime or manga-themed advent calendars featuring small figures or merchandise related to popular anime or manga series, and cosmetics and skincare advent calendars that curate miniature versions of Japanese brands' popular products.

You can also shop for craft or DIY advent calendars that offer a daily crafting project, introducing different traditional Japanese crafts or DIY kits for creative individuals or traditional art and calligraphy calendars that introduce users to traditional Japanese art forms or offer daily calligraphy practice or art supplies.

Make the Holiday Season Special with your Favorite Advent Calendars

The diverse and ever-evolving traditions of advent calendars offers a unique way to celebrate the holiday season. From their humble origins to today's multifaceted interpretations, these calendars have expanded far beyond their initial purpose. Whether seeking the decadence of German chocolate, the intricate craftsmanship of Japanese calendars, or the indulgence of luxurious skincare and beauty editions from the USA and UK, there's an advent calendar to suit every taste and interest. Use a forwarding address to unlock limitless options to partake in this festive countdown, connecting traditions across borders during this joyous time of the year.

Share on: