An Advent calendar both similar and different to a regular calendar. It is similar in that it has numbers on it but only from 1 to 24 but it is different because it doesn't have any months, days, or years.
First a bit of background information on Advent itself. Advent is a four week period beginning on the first Sunday after the feast day of St. Andrew the apostle on November 30th. It is believed that Advent has been celebrated since the 4th century. In the early days, Advent allowed those who had decided to convert to Christianity to prepare for baptism but now it is a way of preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Most Advent calendars to not follow the same time period as Advent proper. Instead, it begins counting on December first through the 24th. Each number is on a small door that when opened offers a bible verse, small toy, or piece of chocolate. The tradition of marking the 24 days leading to Christmas began in the mid 1800's by German Protestants but it wasn't until the early 1900's that Gerhard Lang created the first Advent calendar as we know it today.
The first advent calendars were nothing more than 24 colored pictures attached to some cardboard but he based it on the one his mother made for him. He also made small changes so the pictures became small doors that could be opened. This small change caused them to become quite popular in Germany. In fact, Advent calendars were made almost continuously since then except for World War II when there was a cardboard shortage.
President Eisenhower is credited with making them popular in the United States. Media photographed him with his grandchildren opening doors on Advent Calendars and of course everyone wanted one after those photos appeared. Since then, Advent calendars have become quite popular and a few have even set records.
In 2007, Harrods sold a 4 foot tall, Christmas tree shaped calendar made out of Burr Elm and Walnut wood. It ran $50,000 and each compartment held a piece of organic chocolate made by Green and Black chocolatiers. The money raised was designated to help farmers in Belize. In the same year, people decided to build the world's largest Advent Calendar at the St. Pancras station in London. The completed calendar was almost 233 feet tall by just over 75 feet wide and it was done to celebrate the reopening of the station.
It's nice to know a bit more about these calendars, their history, and their popularity. I now know more than I used to. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. have a great day.