Advent calendars help children count the days between the beginning of Advent and Christmas. By furnishing a treat for each day of Advent, these one-page calendars help curb the impatience of countless children in many countries who long for the arrival of Christmas Day. The history of the Advent calendar is uncertain, although some writers believe that it was invented in GERMANY around the turn of the twentieth century.
Advent calendars may take many forms, but each offers a playful method for checking off the days between December first and twenty-fifth. In the United States one often finds the calendars printed onto double layers of paperboard (for a list of entries treating American history and customs, see UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, CHRISTMAS IN). A Christmas scene with the numbers one through twenty-five incorporated into the design decorates the surface of the calendar. Perforations around the numbers allow children to fold back or remove a number each day, revealing the tiny images printed on the bottom layer below. These images generally depict a Christmas or Advent theme.
Some calendars attach chocolates or other sweets behind the fold-back dates on the calendar. In Germany cardboard houses may serve as the basis for homemade Advent calendars. Behind doors and windows children find edible goodies. Creative German crafters may even use matchboxes or walnut shells as devices for marking off the days of Advent and delivering tiny treats to children. The less inventive may press regular wall calendars into service by gluing candy, pictures, or verses to each of the December days before Christmas. Finally, in recent years one can find a variety of interactive Advent calendars posted on the World Wide Web (see Appendix 2).