The History of the Holiday Advent Calendar: From Cookies to Coffee

Regardless of beliefs, the Christmas season has become so built into US winter culture that it’s hard to find someone who wouldn’t know what you’re talking about if you mention the term “advent calendar.” They’re so common, you don’t even have to know what Advent is to know exactly what’s in an Advent calendar. But… you kind of should.

Advent season is a Christian tradition that counts down to the symbolic birth date of Jesus. In Western Christian culture, Advent season starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas, so it can last more or less than 25 days. Common practice in modern culture, though, is to start Advent calendars on December 1st so it’s a simple, consistent date and it always lasts 25 days.

The Passive Aggressive Origins of the Advent Calendar

Technically, Advent calendars were invented when German families began tallying the days to Christmas on their walls in the mid-19th century. Why were Advent calendars with little treats inside invented? Turns out it was so a frustrated mother wouldn’t lose her mind. 

In the late 19th or early 20th century (no one can quite agree), a German woman developed an Advent calendar with a cookie on each day so her son would stop incessantly asking her how many days until Christmas. Other moms used other treats like chocolates in their Advent calendars to distract their kids. Genius mom move.

Soon after, an Austrian man began selling Advent calendars as well, but instead of cookies, they had little doors on each day that opened onto a picture of religious icons and imagery. By the 1930’s, newspapers, publishers and vendors circulated simple versions of Advent calendars. Some revealed pictures, some contained relevant verses from the Bible, and some contained chocolate. Advent season was becoming part of German society at-large and not strictly for practicing Christians.

The Advent Calendar Tradition Crosses Oceans & Cultures

Advent calendars took a bit of a left turn during WWII. The Nazis felt that Jesus was too Jewish, so they renamed Advent calendars “Pre-Christmas calendars,” and banned what went on behind each of those 25 tiny doors. Bible verses and religious imagery were banned and replaced with extremist iconography and pictures of military equipment.

People love Advent season, so when WWII was over, Advent calendars made an almost immediate comeback, and this time they came to the US. In 1946, a German man named Richard Sellmer began exporting Advent calendars that opened into tiny wintery landscape scenes. With this one decision to export Advent calendars to other countries, Sellmer’s design largely guided the winter imagery that’s common today. 

Fun fact: Sellmer’s company still sells over 1 million Advent calendars yearly.

Okay, but where did the chocolate come from? We all know that’s a go-to for Advent Calendars. The answer is unclear. Some people think it began unofficially in the 50’s, and gained popularity after Eisenhower released a picture of his kids sat around an Advent calendar in 1953. But the first actual chocolatier to distribute chocolate-filled Advent calendars was Cadbury in 1971. 

For adults who love the holiday season (and who doesn’t?), there are fun, secular Advent calendars with things like makeup, skincare, cheese, wine, tea, and, of course, coffee. But much of Advent calendar culture is geared towards a family vibe, helping kids count down the days to Christmas themselves so their parents don’t go insane hearing the same question 25 days in a row. Even Lego makes an Advent calendar. So, basically, Advent calendars have come full circle from their origins. 

Silver Bridge’s Coffee Sampler Advent Calendars

Part of what makes our Advent calendars unique is that you get enough to make a full pot of coffee each day. Most companies offer enough for just one cup. Silver Bridge Coffee started with a 12 day advent Calendar a few years back and offered a flavored and an unflavored option. Due to customer requests we began offering a full 25 day coffee Advent calendar that combined flavored and unflavored coffees in 2020. 

In response to customer requests in 2022 we also offer a full 25 day unflavored advent calendar with blends and single origins. This calendar will include one day of 100% Kona coffee just in case you always wanted to try some but didn’t want to borrow money to buy a full bag of it. These premium single origins and blends will be available in ground or whole bean. 

You will also have the option for 25 days of all flavored coffee including one flavor that has not been released yet. If you can’t decide which one to get or one spouse likes flavored and one likes unflavored we will offer one with both unflavored and flavored and this Ultimate advent will include the 100% Kona and the never released flavor. If the full 25 days seem like too much for a gift we will offer several 12 day advent calendars as well. We’ve also curated a single-serve K Cup® coffee Advent calendar, in case you don’t want a full pot every day, as well as a 12-Days-of-Decaf coffee Advent calendar if you can live without the caffeine. And don’t forget about our 12-Days-of-Christmas flavored coffee calendar.

Whether it’s for you or as a gift, Silver Bridge’s coffee Advent calendars are a fun way to try a bunch of new coffees and stay warm and cozy as you count down the days to Christmas.