Christmas Article: History of the Advent

The advent is a fairly recent Christmas tradition of German origin. Advent is Latin for "coming towards" (The Latin, "ad", means "towards" whereas "ven/vent" is core of the Latin verb "veno", meaning "come".). Advent refers to the days approaching the coming of Christ to earth. More specifically, in the German tradition, it refers to the 24 days immediately preceding Christmas day, from December 1-24..

One of the most widely celebrated advent traditions is the advent calendar. The Advent Calendar finds its origins in the 19th Century from the protestant area of Germany. Protestant Christian families made a chalk line for every day in December until Christmas Eve. Before long, commercial entrepreneurs started replacing the ephemeral chalk lines with printed calendars,. The first known Advent Calendar is for the advent of 1851.

Soon, other devices helped Germans and German immigrants to America celebrate the advent. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Adventclock or the Adventcandle - a candle for 24 days until Christmas - were found in many homes. The first printed speciem was made by Gerhard Lang (1881 - 1974) who was a Swabian parishioner from Maulbronn in Germany. When he was a child his mother made him an Advent Calendar with 24 "Wibbele" (little candies). Later Lang was a participator of the printing office Reichhold & Lang where he published miniature colored pictures which could be affixed on a cardboard at every day in December. This was the first printed Advent Calendar, although without windows to open, published in 1908.

The celebration of advent and the associated advent calendar caught on like wildfire in the early decades of this century. However, despite the great success of Lang's Advent Calendar, he had to close his company in the 1930s due to World War II. This same war ended this German practice in many homes and certainly stopped the increase of this tradition.

The first printed speciem after the war were printed by Richard Sellmer in 1946. Advent calendars continue to be printed to this day.

In some homes, 24 candles are kept, one for each night from December 1 through Christmas eve. One candle is lit for a while on December 1, then a new candle is added each day for the 24 day period. However, for those homes using the candles, it was far more common to have four candles for the four weeks before Christmas. On candle was lit the first week, two the second week and so on. The candles were often place on a wreath upon the dining room table.

The practice of advent is celebrated primarily in the German-speaking areas of Europe and especially in the protestant German areas of the United States.

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