German word of the day: Der Adventskalender
The Christmas season in Germany kicks off every year with this special tradition.
What does it mean?
Der Adventskalender refers to the “Advent calendar.” This is a special calendar used to count down the days during the Advent season leading up to Christmas.
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas every year, and traditionally refers to awaiting the advent, or “arrival” of Christ. Modern Advent calendars use December 1st as their start date, regardless of the official beginning of the season.
What are its origins?
The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th centuries. Traditional Advent calendars consisted of a series of flaps or doors, one for each day of the season, which revealed an image, poem, or part of a story when opened. On the 24th and final day, which is Christmas Eve, the image would often be of the nativity scene.
A young girl looks on excitedly at her Advent calendar and the chocolate inside. Photo: DPA/ Patrick Pleul.
How is it used?
Some advent calendars have fabric pockets, which can be filled with treats, slips of paper with Christmas messages, or small items.
The most popular Advent calendars today contain chocolate for each day leading up to Christmas. These can be found across Germany from speciality chocolatiers as well as in most grocery stores. They are a favourite part of the Christmas season among children and adults alike.
Generally speaking, Advent calendars are much more popular in Germany and the UK than in the US. They are a widespread and important holiday tradition.
Sometimes, Germans will even have homemade Advent calendars for their loved ones, filled with personalized treats for each day of the countdown. There are a wide variety of non-chocolate Advent calendars available as well, filled with goodies for adults, such as tea, wine, jewellery, skin care products, and a whole host of other treats.
"Mama, kaufst du mir bitte einen Adventskalender? Ich möchte Schokolade essen."
"Mama, would you please buy me an advent calendar? I want to eat chocolate."
"Jeden Dezember haben wir einen Adventskalender zu Hause."
"Every December we have an advent calendar at home."
"Welche Art von Adventskalender magst du am liebsten?"
Which type of Advent calendar do you like the most?