December is here, decorations glitter across high streets and homes alike, now that there is not long to go until Christmas. For children – and big kids – one of the best things about December is counting down the days to Christmas with an advent calendar.
These can be chocolate, cheese, beer, gin or even beauty calendars, but with each, the premise is the same.
You open a door or box a day in the calendar and gain a small treat for that day.
There are now hundreds of different types of advent calendars, featuring toys, jewellery, dog treats and everything in-between.
The lead up to Christmas is one of the most festive times of the year, with carols playing, Christmas food in shops and houses decorated.
In churches and homes of practising Christians, there is often an advent wreath, which typically features four or five candles.
The wreath crown is traditionally made of fir tree branches knotted with a red ribbon and decorated with pine cones, holly, laurel, and sometimes mistletoe.
There are usually three violet or purple candles and one pink, the pink candle lit on the Third Sunday of Advent.
If there is a fifth, it is usually white and is lit either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
In churches, each mass on a Sunday during advent begins with lighting the corresponding candle.
Where do advent calendars come from?
Advent calendars were first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries, and typically featured a manger scene, Saint Nicholas and winter weather.
These were originally simple paper or cardboard calendars, with doors to open each day on the lead up to Christmas, beginning December 1.
Sometimes families have reusable advent calendars which they can fill themselves.
In modern times advent calendars have evolved to include presents like chocolate, toys, beauty or alcohol, and often do not feature any reference to Christianity.