The advent calendar – a German Christmas tradition

advent calendar

advent calendar suppliesThe advent calendar is something I really anticipate in the winter here in Germany.

In my “About” I promised to let you take part in German and seasonal traditions, so voilà.

I hope you’re ready to enter winter wonderland with me.

In case you haven’t heard of this lovely tradition, read on and ask yourself whether you wanna try it out this December.
And otherwise I’m hoping to help you out with a little inspiration for the filling of it here.

Historical facts

The popular rite already started in the 19th century here in Germany. Thomas Mann actually refers to an advent calendar in Buddenbrooks from 1869.
The first ones quite were simple.

advent calendar parcelsPeople would draw 24 lines on their wall or door with chalk and remove one each day.
There was also a technique of putting up 24 pictures in order to keep track of the remaining days until the holy night.
Burning down a candle in 24 steps was not only a way to do it here, but also in Scandinavia.

In the early 1900s the publisher Gerhard Lang came up with something new. He remembered the 24 cookies that his mom had put in a cardboard box for him when he was a child.
So he gave out a calendar as a gift with his newspaper. It had pictures to cut out and glue on a little field with a matching proverb.

It was not until the 50s that the calendars were being filled and revealed a little piece of chocolate.

How it works today

So it’s a calendar with 24 doors, little parcels or socks. Each day from the 1st to the 24th of December you can open one of them.
It’s a countdown to the holy night on which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
You can connect them by knotting them to a cord.

I personally like to put it up on the wall then, as it also serves as a pretty Christmas decoration this way.

homemade advent calendarWhat to find inside an advent calendar

There are so many options on what to put inside. Kids love the ones with chocolates and candy of all kinds as well as the ones filled with toys like Lego.
But these days the stores also sell them equipped with cosmetics, tea, proverbs or pralines. You’ll even find virtual calendars with audio books.

And it’s becoming more and more of a trend to give them out to another adult, like your significant other. Of course you can go to the story and get one for yourself but I personally like the idea of making them for each other.

The advent calendar itself

I am a fan of reusable calendars.
You can buy them and fill them yourself. In Germany they offer all shapes and sizes.

Another way is to pack little parcels and write down a number on each to put them in an order. I’ll post you a picture of an idea I had many years ago. I actually won a contest with the calendar made of coffee cups I had crafted for my roommates.

advent calendar fillingBy putting different banderoles around the cups I marked the days for each one’s turn.

When my brother and I made calendars for each other his idea rocked.
I would receive a slip of paper each morning with a hint which corner in our house to check. Hide and Seek 2.0

If you want to craft one yourself and yet safe a little time you can purchase only the stickers with the numbers. This way you’ll get an even appearance.

More ideas for the filling

I already gave you an insight on what you typically find in the parcels.
While the ready ones are usually straight cosmetic or tea ones, I like to mix things up a little.

Depending on whom you are giving the advent calendar to and how much you want to spend on it, think of the following ideas.

homemade cookiesSnacks:
pralines, the homemade cookies you just baked, potato chips, Reese’s, lebkuchen, nuts or almonds, gummi bears, a tangerine, Christmassy stuff like marzipan

lip balm, bath bombs, shower gel, nail polish, face mask, bath salt, peeling, beauty products in travel sizes, lip gloss, hand creme (think of a small tube for the purse)

a cookie cutter as a voucher to bake together, a gluhwein voucher for the Christmas market, a winter movie, breakfast in bed, making snow angels, going to the theater and the other one gets to pick the movie

Daily life:
tea, shots, a nice vinegar or honey, scented candles, spices, post-its, a nice key chain, a tea infuser, silicone molds, massage oil, sparklers, ice scraper, air freshener for the car, hair clips

Save the nicest goodie for the 24th as it’s the highlight of the countdown.

making advent calendarsUpgrade your advent calendar

You can also add personal elements. Think of love notes, photos or personalized items.

Many stores offer to have their products personalized. I’ve seen it with M&Ms, Nutella, Kinder Schokolade or shower gels from the drug store dm.
Another idea is to of the small giveaways that they tend to put on the wedding tables.

Furthermore you could add post-its to the items.
One year I bought candy from all over the world on my travels. Then I put a sticker on each item that would show its origin.
advent calendar clipsIf you wanna do this you have to start early, but you can also alternate items from different regions of your country.

If you know what the person is up to on some of the days refer to that.
Whether it’s a “Good luck” wish for the exam on the 14th or the “Have fun” note for the trip to his home town, it’s a nice gesture.

YOUR advent calendar

So how about you, are you gonna make one?
I would love you to leave me a comment below.

Do you have advent calendars in your country? And if not would you like to try it out?
And those of you, who know the tradition, let me know what you like to put or find in your calendar.

Maybe you have more warm ideas on how to surprise your beloved ones in the cold season.







  1. 2017-11-19 / 5:11 PM

    Jas, what a wonderful post. Thanks for enlightening me on advent calendars. I recently started hearing this word and I thought it was something with beauty gift boxes for a month or so. lol 🙂 I liked that idea of coffee cups stacked up. After reading this post, I can say that I create my own advent calendar for exams because I will tear off a sheet from a wall calendar and start my 30 days cross off routine going backward to exam day. and make my schedule to study lol that’s funny.

    • JS
      2017-11-26 / 3:45 PM

      Thank you so much, Manisha!
      When I wrote this I was kind of hoping to reach people that haven’t heard of advent calendars. Glad I could inspire you with the coffee cup one.
      I love your idea of the exam one. Maybe you could even craft one and have somebody fill it up for you.
      This way you’ll have a motivation along the way 🙂

  2. Lara
    2017-11-26 / 8:27 AM

    Love your blog post! Shame on me, I didn’t know anything about the historical facts;)
    The idea with the coffee cups is great! Have to copy it next year 🙂
    This year I created 3 different calendars.. a simple one with chocolate but with a printed picture of my daughter on it. One for my daughter without any sweets, I prefered 24 little toys for her small kitchen. And a ‘calender box’ for my fiancé who is not German so kind of exciting for him;) In this big box are 24 small paper boxes filled with german cookies, small drugstore products and as you have mentioned above personalized goodies (picture magnets, key chain, base cap, coffee mug). He won’t be here for xmas time so I’m not sure if he can stand the pressure to open only ONE box a day haha 😉

    • JS
      2017-11-26 / 3:48 PM

      Thank you Lara for your feedback and input.
      And most of all congrats on making three(!!!) calendars. Is the first one you mentioned for your parents?
      I love how you make them individually depending on who they’re for.
      I’m sure they are all gonna love it. Especially your fiancé as he will have a little memory of you every day.

      • Lara
        2017-11-26 / 5:23 PM

        Yes.. Actually I made the 1st one for my parents but I ordered some more for the whole family the offer is big, many shops personalize the calendars, you can also choose the chocolate filling like kinder, Rocher or Lindt..

        • JS
          2017-11-26 / 6:05 PM

          I love that! Thanks so much for sharing, Lara!

    • JS
      2017-12-09 / 3:43 PM

      Thank you, dear Courtney,
      when I wrote this I was hoping that someone was gonna say that. So stoked 🙂
      Did you end up making one?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *