For many, Advent is the most exciting time of the year. Even though I find that a lot of my American friends are not aware that the four weeks before Christmas are called that, and that “advent” is Latin for “He [as in our Savior] comes”. But a lot of them have discovered advent calendars – for their children or grandchildren, maybe even for themselves – to count down the 24 days till Christmas in December.
Originally, the advent calendar was a German Lutheran item. The first ones were created around 1851. Lutheran families hung 24 pictures on a wall, starting with a single one. Or they used a blackboard with chalk lines which would be erased one by one by a child. Catholic families placed a straw a day into the crib of their nativity scene. German author Thomas Mann writes about a home-made calendar with tear-off pages in his 1869 novel “Buddenbrooks”. In the early 1900s, printed advent calendars became a big thing; rectangular paper ones with pictures behind the doors. Only WW II with its paper shortage and more and more political or secular themes stopped the printing activities of Christian publishers in 1940. But already in 1945, publishing house Richard Sellmer Verlag in my hometown, Stuttgart, acquired permission from the US occupiers to print 50,000 advent calendars, receiving paper supplies from the French occupiers just south of the town border. Soldiers returning to the US brought the idea back home, and when “Newsweek” magazine published the picture of one of Eisenhower’s grandkids with an advent calendar in December 1953, the demand for those in the US became massive. To this day, you can find Richard Sellmer advent calendars and such of other German publishers that (re)started their advent calendar business in 1946 in holiday stores all across our nation.
Meanwhile, advent calendars have developed into different directions. I grew up with ones that held chocolates molded into different shapes and with a record with 24 Christmas carols, hymns, poems, and stories. Or we had a story calendar with a poster; each evening you read one story, cut out a picture, and glued it to a poster. Such fun! Later, my mother hung one tiny bag from my ceiling lamp that held home-made cookies, chocolates, or candy. My brother and I created a clothesline one for a friend of his with 24 little packages dangling from it, holding fun stuff. When I started living on my own, my then suburb created an advent window calendar; the homes offered cookies, music, stories, and similar from their decked windows at a certain time, one window a day. I read that North Tacoma will do something similar this year. Meanwhile, you have probably seen the sophisticated chocolate calendars by chocolatiers, calendars filled with gourmet cheeses, even some with a wine tasting! Talking advent calendars for grown-ups …
I still love story advent calendars best – they don’t add calories, after all. A German friend of mine, author Sandra Windges, inspired me with hers (www.amazon.com/Books-Sandra-Windges/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3ASandra+Windges) to try my hand at one of my own. As this year, there have been no book events out there, I shamelessly dare re-announce that my Wycliff novel series now holds a Christmas story in 24 chapters. It is called “Suddenly Snow”, and it tells the story of a Victorian small-town on South Puget Sound, that gets isolated in a snow storm just a few days before Christmas. People are stranded, and some of them end up in a cozy, little B & B whose owner had totally different plans, as she just needs to win back her ex-boyfriend. Or does she? As everybody carries a bundle of their own – is Christmas even going to happen?
Maybe you want to check it out (www.amazon.com/gp/product/B087FF866P). Maybe you rather prefer a Victorian paper calendar. Or a chocolate one. Or one with a savorier tidbit. In a way they all tender to your anticipation of Christmas. So, despite the restrictions we all experience these days, make sure to get yourself or your loved ones some Advent joy!