Open the doors to advent calendars

The tree is erected and pruned, the menorah is out and studded with its blue and white candles and the advent calendar is going well… I’ll get to that in a minute.

Traditionally, at least since the 4th century, Advent is the four-week period beginning on the Sunday closest to the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. This year it started on November 28 and spans the next three Sundays ending on December 24. Historians believe that Advent, which comes from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “to come”, was originally the time for converts to Christianity to prepare. for baptism, but is now more commonly associated with the anticipation of the anniversary of Christ’s birth on December 25.

So it’s Advent, but Advent calendars are a whole different story. The predecessor of calendars was the tradition of marking your door or sidewalk with chalk or lighting a candle to mark the countdown to Christmas.

Advent calendars as we know them – cardboard items with small doors that have treats behind them, usually chocolate – begin on December 1 and are used strictly to count the days until Christmas, thereby bypassing the tradition of the feast of St. Andrew. And, Gerhard Lang was credited with their invention in the early 1900s.

But it was actually Lang’s mother who created the very first Advent calendar and its tradition when her son was a little boy. Mrs. Lang made Gerhard a calendar with 24 little candies or cookies, the story is vague about this, attached to the cardboard box, one for each day before Christmas.

Lang grew up to operate the Reichhold & Lang printing house in Munich, Germany, where he printed the first cardboard Advent calendar with 24 small images. A few years later, the company prints the first calendar with the little doors opening. But it wasn’t until 1926 that Lang published the first Advent calendar with doors that open to show small pieces of chocolate.

During World War II production of Advent calendars was halted due to the shortage of cardboard, but soon after the war ended – the exact year has not been determined by historians – Advent calendars have made a comeback.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower is credited with the popularity of the Advent calendar tradition in the United States after a photo was taken of the late president opening an Advent calendar with his grandchildren in 1946.

Now, of course, there are all kinds of Advent calendars made out of everything from traditional cardboard and fabric to wood and metal, but they all have some delicious surprises in store behind the little doors.

OK, so maybe not as delicious as the prices ranging from all new kitchen appliances to fabulous trips to Paris like the doors that Carol Merrill would stand next to ‘Let’s make a deal’, but, hey, there’s always chocolate and who can argue with chocolate? Certainly not me or any sane, tasteful person I know.

So my tree is upright and pruned, the menorah is burning brightly after sunset and the advent calendar is fine, it goes perfectly with one of the best meditation mantras I know: when a door closes, a another door opens; when one door closes another door opens; when one door closes another door opens… and so on until I am totally, if not enlightened, at least full and calm and luminous as I have eaten the whole calendar with 20 days before Christmas . I guess I’ll have to buy another one. Oh damn.

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