Children love the countdown to Christmas

by Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

There is something fun about opening a little door on a calendar and finding a treat or a little holiday photo inside. German children love this tradition during the Advent season.

Beginning Dec. 1, children around the country will open a little door on a calendar each day until Christmas Eve, when they traditionally receive their gifts. The Advent calendar is more than 100 years old and was invented by a mother in Munich.

 After the first candle was lit on her Advent wreath, her little son Gerhard kept asking when Santa Claus would come and bring the gifts. Gerhard Lang’s mother had to think of something to make him understand when the waiting would be over. She designed a cardboard box and drew 24 squares on it. She explained to little Gerhard that each square meant getting up once and going to bed again. She even sewed a cookie onto each square to sweeten up the waiting time. From then on, Gerhard’s mother designed a calendar every year for her boy.

At the turn of the century, Gerhard Lang founded, together with a partner, a lithographic art publishing company. Business had slowed, and Gerhard  remembered his mother’s idea and created the “Munich Christmas calendar” in 1904. Its subtitle was “The 24 Waiting Days” and it was sold for 30 pfennigs (about 15 euro cents) in stationery shops.

Today, different kinds of Advent calendars are available – cardboard calendars, felt calendars with filled pockets, 24 bags hung up on a string or 24 little houses set up like a town.

Soon, children, the countdown will begin.