Exploring the History and Evolution of Advent Calendars : NPR
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Happy Advent calendar season to all who are watching.
For decades, many Americans have celebrated the 24 days until Christmas with the classic countdown calendars, opening little doors or drawers to reveal a small treat – traditionally a Bible verse, toy or piece of chocolate. .
But companies are getting more and more creative, which means there’s a wider variety of Advent treats to choose from these days.
Wine, makeup, jam, beef jerky, jewelry, pet treats, socks, skin care, hot sauce, candles, tea bags, and Pokémon coins are just a few of the possibilities this year. There are also virtual calendars that feature new puzzles, games, and songs every day.
“They’re just everywhere. Everything is an Advent calendar now,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, director of analytics, food and beverage and market research firm Mintel. morning edition.
Here’s how we got here.
Calendars have their religious roots in Germany
First of all, the season of Advent dates back to the fourth century and is celebrated by most Christian churches in the Western tradition. The four-week period begins on the Sunday closest to the feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle (November 30) and lasts for the following three Sundays.
Scholars believe the period was originally a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians on the January feast of Epiphany. Advent – which comes from the Latin word for “arrival” – gradually became associated with the coming of Christ and, in the Middle Ages, was explicitly linked to Christmas.
Today, most Advent calendars don’t technically span the Advent season, but rather begin on December 1 and run either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The reason is practical, as Vox explains: the length of the Advent season changes from year to year, so it is easier to choose a fixed number of days for calendars that can be reproduced or reused every season.
Advent calendars have their roots in the 19th century, when German Protestants began to take creative steps to mark the days leading up to Christmas, such as ticking chalk marks on walls or doors, lighting candles and placing straws in a nativity scene.
Some families hung a devotional picture each day, leading to the creation of the first known handmade wooden Advent calendar in 1851 and other “Christmas clocks” and “Christmas candles” in the years following.
They went to the United States after World War II
German publisher Gerhard Lang is credited as the inventor of the printed Advent calendar, which was inspired by the childhood memory of his mother sewing 24 cookies into the lid of a box and allowing him to eat them one each day of Advent.
Lang produced the first printed and commercial Advent calendar in the early 1900s – in partnership with illustrator Ernst Kepler – and continued to innovate over the years, including creating the first door calendars in the 1920s .
Other publishers followed suit, and by the 1930s Advent calendars were in great demand in Germany.
However, things took a dark turn during World War II, when paper was rationed and the Nazi Party banned the printing of picture calendars. As part of its effort to rename Christmas, the Third Reich then created its own Advent calendar — incorporating swastikas and other symbols, Vox reports — to distribute to mothers and children.
When the war ended, longing for normality, companies that could afford it went back to printing traditional Christmas Advent calendars – and returning servicemen brought them back to Europe and the United States.
President Dwight Eisenhower gave them a huge boost in popularity at home when national newspapers ran a photo of him opening one with his grandchildren in 1953. Still, the Advent calendar needed a few more years and more iterations to reach its final form (or at least the version we know today).
The first chocolate-filled Advent calendars are said to have appeared on the scene in the 1950s, and Cadbury began producing them commercially in 1971. It took another two decades before they were popular enough for the company to put them into continuous production – and the rest is history.
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They are increasingly popular with retailers and buyers
Retailers of all kinds, from supermarkets to department stores, have produced and sold more Advent calendars in recent years.
Reuters reports that UK chain Selfridges & Co. has 128 Advent calendars on sale this season, more than double last year’s offerings; In the United States, Saks Fifth Avenue is selling 18 types of calendars this year (with prices ranging from $65 to $3,500), six more than last year.
And while advent calendars these days come in different styles and sizes, Mogelonsky says morning edition that they are still doing some of the same things they intended to do centuries ago.
“We all need time. And it’s a way of slowing us down,” she says. “So it kind of extends the experience, like the original concept of the Advent calendar was when it was developed in the late 19th century to mark the days until Christmas.”
Plus, as NPR reported, modern Advent calendars can be displayed all month, enjoyed with family, and shared on social media.
And they’re a great way for companies to provide samples to customers, especially those who might buy more of their products later.
Mogelonsky notes that’s especially important — and challenging — these days, with high inflation and looming recession fears.
“It’s especially difficult to sell new products when the economy isn’t the best in the world, because you’re reluctant to spend a large amount of money on something you might not like,” she explains. .
By bundling products, retailers subtly encourage shoppers to spend more than they otherwise would. And brands are hoping people will go out and buy more — or full-size versions — of what they loved, even after the holidays are over.
Advent calendars don’t just have to be for Christmas, Mogelonsky says, so consider stocking up now for countdowns to future birthdays, graduations or other special occasions.
“Instead of a big giveaway, shoot it,” she adds. “Slow down time a bit by counting the days until that happens.”