Advent calendars through the centuries

Basic triangular 'calendar' written on a chalkboard

Advent calendars are undoubtedly a festive staple in the UK, with children and adults alike leaping out of bed to discover what is behind the little numbered door that day. Modern advent calendars can hide anything from chocolate to gin behind their doors as we count down to Christmas. Advent of Change was designed with this concept in mind, giving it a charitable twist.

But where did advent calendars come from? We explore the history of this popular festive tradition…


The advent calendar concept


Historians believe that the period of Advent has been celebrated since the fourth century, originally signifying the time when religious converts prepared for baptism (as we know, it's now more commonly associated with the countdown to Christmas Day!). 

The origin of the advent calendar tradition came later – it can be traced back to the Nineteenth Century, when German Protestants began to mark the days leading up to Christmas by burning a candle or marking walls or doors with a line of chalk.


Printed advent calendars


Advent calendars as we know them first appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century in Germany; Gerhard Lang is widely credited as the creator of the first printed version. In 1908, Lang had an idea based on a tradition from his childhood, where his mother would help him count down to Christmas by attaching 24 little sweets to cardboard squares. He designed his own version with coloured pictures – this is thought to be the first-ever printed advent calendar. Lang later modified his calendars to include little doors – the calendar was a roaring success and undoubtedly influenced modern-day incarnations!


Modern advent calendars


Since then there have been many weird and wonderful variations of the advent calendar idea – including everything from cheese to LEGO, gin to makeup, and even one that is full of pork scratchings!


And did you know…?



  • The first chocolate advent calendar appeared in 1958, with Cadbury launching their first in 1971.
  • The world’s largest advent calendar was built in 2007 at St. Pancras station in London, measuring 232 feet by 11 inches tall and 75 feet by 5 inches wide.
  • Kevin Strahle holds the record for the fastest time to eat all the chocolates from an advent calendar, doing it in 1 minute 27.84 seconds. 
  • One of the most expensive advent calendars to ever hit the ‘shelves’ was a four-foot Christmas-tree-shaped carved wooden structure available at Harrods in 2007, costing a whopping $50,000.



Here at Advent of Change, we wanted to give this popular festive tradition a charitable twist – although we still love a good chocolate advent calendar, we think Christmas is a time of giving and for giving back to those in need. Find out more about our unique concept here.