As Christmas draws near, I am
reminded of my childhood.
Every day before Christmas
in December my three younger siblings
and I decorated our Advent/Christmas calendar. My parents
bought us a calendar with 24 pockets
for each day of December, all of
which were filled with a decorated
felt piece to adorn the tree on top.
My mom had mapped out a routine
so that each child took turns
putting the pieces on the tree. That
way, we each picked six felt pieces.
My sister and I always argued over
who got to put on the doll, and we
all saved the star for the last day, Christmas
Eve, to top off the tree. My two
brothers fought over who got to go
first, but since I was the oldest, I always
beat them to it.
As a child, when it was my day to
decorate the tree, I ran downstairs and
explored my options for a few minutes
before selecting the perfect felt piece.
My brothers and sister did the same
until Christmas Eve rolled around.
By that time, every pocket had been
emptied and the tree was jam-packed
with the felt ornaments. The four of
us could barely contain our excitement
because that meant Christmas was almost
The tradition of Advent/Christmas calendars
is more popular now than ever
before, although it dates back at best to
1851. Some families made a chalk line
for every day in December until Christmas
Eve. I picture those chalk lines on
the mantel for all to see how close
Christmas was getting.
Another early style was the Advent
candle set, which included a candle for
each of the days until Christmas, similar
to today’s Advent wreath. Christmas
Eve was the last day to make a
chalk line or light a candle, although
many of today’s Advent calendars include
Despite their enormous popularity,
and after the production of 30 different
calendars took a brief hiatus from
the 1930s until 1946 because World
War II shortages stopped their production.
Cardboard was rationed, it
was forbidden to produce calendars
with pictures and, of course, nothing
from Germany could be imported
to the United States. In 1946,
they regained their acceptance and
became as popular as ever.
There are now many varieties:
permanent ones with little drawers
that are opened every day, religious
icons behind the different doors, characters
familiar to children and felt
pieces to decorate a tree (my personal
favorite!). The traditional ones are still
made of cardboard and paper with a
small treasure behind each door.
Advent/Christmas calendars are an
enjoyable way for everyone, adults
and children alike, to prepare for the
feast of Christmas. In counting down
the days of Advent until Jesus comes,
we are reminded to reflect spiritually on
Even as the Christmas season becomes
increasingly secular, Advent still
brings happiness through the observance
of ancient customs. Advent/
Christmas calendars are one traditional
way to keep in mind the true spirit of
This is the final column in the series.