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Advent calendars date back to the mid-19th century, when German Protestants lit candles or marked doors with chalk to count the days leading up to Christmas. In fact advent itself, which derives from the Latin word for coming, has been celebrated since the 4th century. It began as a time for converts to Christianity to prepare for baptism but evolved over the following centuries to become associated with the anticipation of the anniversary of Christ’s birth.

What is the history of printed advent calendars?

The first printed advent calendar appeared in the early 1900s and they quickly evolved to include little swing doors and coloured pictures. The Second World War saw a break in production due to cardboard shortages but the popular calendars soon made a comeback, bigger and brighter than ever.

How has the advent calendar evolved?

The past 20 years has seen huge growth and change in the sector. First a daily dose of novelty chocolates appeared, followed by sweets and other treats. Today advent calendars contain a whole raft of edibles, from prosecco and fine wines to whisky and designer gin, while Pringles, pork scratchings and premium teas have all secured their own slice of the advent calendar pie.

Not to be beaten, the health and beauty sector has muscled in on the act, with a raft of goodies on offer from luxury to budget brands. Kids, meanwhile, are well taken care of with daily trinkets from leading names such as Lego, Barbie, Playdough and Paw Patrol.

Recent advent calendar highlights have included a burr elm and walnut wood carved Christmas tree structure boasting chocolates from Green and Black, worth in excess of £30,000; a luxury 12-door designer jewellery offering from Selfridges; and a building on King’s Square in Gloucester, which in 2009 was transformed into the world’s largest advent calendar, opening a different window each day to showcase the city’s businesses.

With the stakes getting ever higher, who knows what future advent calendars will bring? One thing seems certain – they are likely to be bigger and brasher than ever before!

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