A Brief History of Advent Calendars

iStock
iStock

You don't need an Advent calendar to know that Christmas is coming, but opening a little numbered door to reveal a prize is an idea that everyone—religious or not—can get behind. Here’s a brief history of Advent calendars and a few non-traditional designs of this popular tradition.

WHAT IS ADVENT?

Advent is the four-week period beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30) through the following three Sundays. Historians estimate that Advent, which derives from the Latin word for coming, has been celebrated since the 4th century. Originally, the period was a time for converts to Christianity to prepare for baptism, but it's now more commonly associated with the anticipation of the anniversary of Christ’s birth on December 25.

ADVENT CALENDAR ORIGINS

Advent calendars typically don’t follow the period of Advent described above. Instead, they begin on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas. Today, most Advent calendars include paper doors that open to reveal an image, Bible verse, or piece of chocolate. The tradition dates to the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas.

THE FIRST PRINTED ADVENT CALENDARS

Gerhard Lang is widely considered the producer of the first printed Advent calendar in the early 1900s.

Around the same time, a German newspaper included an Advent calendar insert as a gift to its readers. Lang’s calendar was inspired by one that his mother had made for him and featured 24 colored pictures that attached to a piece of cardboard. Lang modified his calendars to include the little doors that are a staple of most Advent calendars today and they became a commercial success in Germany. Production stopped due to a cardboard shortage during World War II, but resumed soon after, with Richard Sellmer emerging as the leading producer of commercial Advent calendars.

I LIKE IKE AND IKE LIKES ADVENT CALENDARS

Dwight D. Eisenhower is often credited for the proliferation of the Advent calendar tradition in the United States. During his presidency, Eisenhower was photographed opening an Advent calendar with his grandchildren and the photo ran in several national newspapers.

THE $50,000 ADVENT CALENDAR

One of the most expensive Advent calendars to ever hit the shelves was a 4-foot, Christmas-tree shaped structure carved from burr elm and walnut wood available through Harrods in 2007. Each of the $50,000 calendar’s 24 compartments housed a piece of organic chocolate from Green & Black, with proceeds going to support cocoa farmers in Belize.

THE WORLD'S LARGEST ADVENT CALENDAR

According to Guinness World Records, the world's largest advent calendar was built in 2007 at the St. Pancras train station in London. The massive calendar, which measured 232 feet and 11 inches tall, and 75 feet and 5 inches wide, celebrated the reopening of the station following a renovation.

THE ADVENT CALENDAR FOR WEB GEEKS

The self-proclaimed Advent calendar for web geeks has provided a daily dose of web design and development tips during the Advent season since 2005. Last year’s collection included an article about designing for mobile performance and another titled “Is Your Website Accidentally Sexist?”

THE LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR

For several years, LEGO has produced an Advent calendar set, featuring figures or constructible accessories behind every numbered door. This year, the company is offering a City version and a Star Wars Advent calendar.

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE

Since 2008, the Big Picture photo blog has featured an Advent calendar of daily images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The spectacular photos are chosen by Alan Taylor, The Atlantic's senior photo editor.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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10 of the Best Halloween Costumes for Your Dog

Amazon/Chewy
Amazon/Chewy

Although trick-or-treating might look a little different this year, there’s no reason why you (or your favorite pet) still can’t celebrate Halloween in style. To help you get in the spooky spirit with your four-legged housemates, we’ve rounded up some of 2020’s best—and cutest—costumes for your dogs. Whether your little monster wants to pay homage to their favorite horror movie or simply don a festive sweater, one of these costumes is guaranteed to earn them an extra treat or two.

1. Taco Dog; $19-$20

Rubie's/Amazon

Dogs and tacos are two of the internet's favorite things, so why not combine them into one? This delightful costume features a sombrero headpiece and taco bodysuit that includes all the necessary taco fixings, like lettuce, cheese, meat, tomatoes, and guac. The costume sizes range from small to XL, so no matter if your dog is best described as a mini taquito or a beefed-up burrito, they'll be able to find a perfect Halloween fit.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Wonder Woman and Superman; $15-$25

Rubie's/Amazon

All dogs are superheroes, even if their most valiant feat is greeting you at the door when you come home. Your pet can show off their inner helper in one of these officially licensed costumes from DC Comics. The Wonder Woman costume features the superheroine’s signature emblem on the back, with a sweet tiara and tutu completing the look. The Superman costume, meanwhile, is fitted with a dramatic cape that’s sure to get them an extra bone or two when going for their evening walk.

Buy it: Wonder Woman and Superman on Amazon

3. Hogwarts Outfit; $15-$16

Impoosy/Amazon

“Yer a wizard, Sparky!” Impoosy’s Hogwarts-inspired costume takes the magic of Halloween to the next level. The set has an adjustable Velcro cape, striped tie, and a pair of glasses so your pet can embrace their inner boy-who-lived (lightning bolt scar not included). As a fun bonus, the costume comes in four different colors, so your pet can sport their house colors in style … after trying on the Sorting Hat, of course.

Buy it: Amazon

4. U.S. Mail Carrier; $18-$19

California Costume Company/Amazon

If you’d rather dress your dog up as a real-life hero, try a U.S. Postal worker. Postal workers deliver the mail in spite of snow, rain, and sleet, and this clever costume will allow your pet to honor the workers who are as faithful as man’s best friend. California Costume’s Mail Carrier ensemble has a combined shirt and front legs piece with attached “arms,” which hold your dog’s special delivery via Velcro. Show your appreciation for your dog's service with a spoonful of peanut butter (your real mailperson might actually like that, too).

Buy it: Amazon

5. Any Star Wars Costume; $6-$28

Rubie's/Amazon

The Force will be with your four-legged friend this Halloween. The Star Wars collection from Rubie's has looks for all of your favorite characters, including R2-D2, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Yoda, and more. If your pet doesn’t exactly love dressing up for the holidays, the collection also includes smaller items like this Yoda ears headpiece, so they can still get in the spirit even without a full getup.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Where’s Waldo?; $25-$29

Rubie's/Chewy

Your pet will stand out in the crowd in this adorable Where’s Waldo? costume. Featuring Waldo’s iconic red and white striped sweater, beanie, and glasses, this officially licensed set is perfect on its own or for matching with a two-legged human. The hat and felt glasses include an elastic chin strap and adjustable ear loops, so your pup will stay stylish and comfortable all night long. They might not be wandering around a crowd of 500 people like their bookish counterpart, but at least they'll look great while social distancing.

Buy it: Chewy

7. Fair Isle Halloween Sweater; $14-$16

Frisco/Chewy

Whether your pet wants to keep it more casual this year or have an excuse to celebrate for the entire month of October, Frisco’s Fair Isle sweater will put the “howl” in their Halloween look. The orange and black sweater is embellished with traditional Halloween images—ghosts, Jack-O’-Lanterns, skulls, cats, bats, and gravestones—that are much more endearing than they are spooky. The sweater also contains a leash hole, so your furry pal can show off his look both inside and outside the house.

Buy it: Chewy

8. Pennywise; $18-$22

Rubie's/Chewy

There’s nothing more fun than playing with your pet, but this terrifying Pennywise costume might just make you think twice. With its sickeningly cheerful tassels and buttons, orange wig, and plush “balloon,” this costume might even scare you if your pet wears it for too long. If It isn’t your thing, check out these Freddy Kreuger and Chucky-inspired costumes to add some extra fright to your night.

Buy it: Chewy

9. Jack Skellington; $20-$22

Rubie's/Chewy

This look is the opposite of a nightmare before Christmas. Disney’s officially licensed Jack Skellington costume from Rubie’s Costume Company highlights The Pumpkin King’s classic outfit, which includes a pinstriped jacket, bat bowtie, and headpiece with a printed image of Jack’s smiling face. Despite Jack’s Christmas obsession, this look embraces his trademark style. This is Halloween, after all.

Buy it: Chewy

10. Headless Rider; $18

Frisco/Chewy

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of America’s most infamous ghost stories. Celebrate Washington Irving’s beloved folktale by turning your pet into the headless horseman’s ghoulish accomplice. This is a great option for pets who might not like getting dressed up, but who feel comfortable wearing simple thunder jackets or shirts. Simply fasten the cape around them via hook-and-loop fasteners, and presto! They’re automatically the companion of a plush, headless terror (terror being relative, in this case).

Buy it: Chewy

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