[Building Faith] Over time, Advent calendars became more sophisticated with little doors that contained candy or a Bible verse. During World War II, the production of Advent calendars was halted in Germany. After the war, the custom spread to the United States. Many families make their own calendars using pictures, candies or trinkets.
The origin of the custom is attributed to St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), who carried statues of Joseph and Mary through the Carmelite Convent in Spain seeking a place to stay. Missionary priests brought the custom to Mexico using real people instead of statues.
Today’s families can adapt the tradition using the figures from their Nativity Scene to re-enact Mary and Joseph’s journey to the stable in Bethlehem. Start with an empty stable. Place the figures of Mary and Joseph on the other side of the room and move them closer to the créche each day. On Christmas Eve add Baby Jesus, the angels and the shepherds. Then let the Wise Men begin their journey to the créche so they arrive on the feast of the Epiphany.
With the rise of social media, iPads, and other technological advances, online Advent Calendars are becoming a very popular practice. Every Advent more and more individuals, churches and organizations offer experiential calendars to help count down the days to Christmas.
O Day of Spring, splendor of eternal light, Sun of Righteousness; come and enlighten the darkness of our minds. O Key of David, come and open wide the secret places of our hearts that we may receive you who came among us at Bethlehem, and who comes among us daily in the unfolding of our lives, and will come again in glory in the age to come. Amen. (from Praying our Days: A Guide and Companion by Frank T. Griswold, 2009: Morehouse Publishing).
Select a calendar that fits your mood and piety:
- The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio offers a Teaching Mom’s Advent Calendar
- The Institute for Christian Formation (Cincinnati, OH) has devised a calendar for 2013: Year of Grace (December 2, 2012 – January 13, 2013) that includes activities and resources for each day.
- Trinity Wall Street‘s offers a new calendar every year – What are you waiting for?
- A variety of calendars in English and Spanish from Living Simply.
- An Advent Devotional Calendar for downloading from Thomas Mousin of Massachusetts.
- Paperless Christmas from the UK in 2011 is still lots of fun!
- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will be posting a calendar here.
- Busted Halo has a more off-tradition calendar.
- Loyola Press offers an online calendar or downloadable version for children and families.
- Praying in Color offers templates in which to create your own Advent calendar.
- The Society of St. John the Evangelist (Cambridge, MA) has offered a daily mediation via Pinterest.
Still looking for the “old” fashioned print kind? My favorite is Fling Wide the Doors from Liturgy Training Publications. 3-dimensional with a booklet of readings to correspond to each window – from November 30 thru January 6.
For a full year calendar, check these out: