From the point of view of Christianity, Advent starts 4 Sundays before Christmas. Thus Advent in the religious sense could begin as early as 28th of November or as late as the 3rd of December. It was probably the German Protestants or Lutherans who invented the idea of Advent Calendar as running from December 1 - 25.
As a child, Gerhard Lang's mother had made him a basic advent calendar so that he could count down the days until Christmas. She placed 24 sweets onto a piece of cardboard and each day the young Gerhard would take and eat a sweet. When he grew up Gerhard Lang made the first printed advent calendar in 1908.Later, in 1946, we see Richard Sellmer producing calendars in Germany. The US authorities had to grant him a license in the now post war Germany which led to his advent calendars becoming known and indeed very popular in the USA.
Sellmer's first advent calendar was called 'The Little Town'. The calendar had pictures of many buildings in the town and you would open the windows and the doors to find nice things underneath for each day of advent. Although these are not funny advent calendars, they are interesting, in particular Sellmer produced a very popular lamp shade advent calendar that would fit any lamp and would revolve under heat with 24 windows to open. These calendars can still be purchased from the Sellmer organisation today.
By the end of the 1950s, chocolate advent calendars had appeared, and by the following decade they had become widespread. People still make or buy advent calendars nowadays, with hundreds of different varieties appearing across the globe. A Carols' Calendar was created with a carol for each day of advent. In 1954 they produced the 'White House calendar' with the scenery of the White House in Washington. They then produced many varieties of pull out advent calendars.
Today, the most typical advent calendar is printed on cardboard with twenty four small doors. These calendars have many themes from religious ones with Mary and Joseph travelling to the stable, nativity scenes, church scenes, Bethlehem, winter wonderland and many more. A Santa stocking advent calendar offers a different idea. The stocking has a picture of a Christmas tree on it and you hang an ornament on the tree on each day of Advent.
Celebrating advent with an advent calendar is an ideal way to prepare for Christmas especially with children. The tradition of the advent calendars adds more meaning to Christmas for families everywhere.