The traditional calendar consists of two pieces of cardboard on top of each other. Twenty four doors are cut out in the top layer, with one door being opened every day, from December 1 to December 24 (Christmas Eve). Each compartment can either show a part of the Nativity story and the birth of Jesus, or can simply display a piece of paraphernalia to do with Christmas (e.g. Bells, holly). Advent Calendars can also consist of cloth sheets with small pockets to be filled with candy or other small items. Many calendars have been adapted by merchandisers and manufacturers to include a piece of chocolate or a sweet behind each compartment, aimed at children. These have often been criticised for not relating to the Nativity and simply cashing in on Christmas sales. These are aimed at small children who are counting down to Christmas, because that is when Santa Claus comes.
The number of doors can also increase to twenty five or twenty six to cover Christmas Day, Hanukkah and Boxing Day, and further to thirty one or thirty two to include New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This latter act was particularly evident over December 1999, counting down to January 1, 2000 and what was largely perceived as the start of the third millennium (although the same thing did not happen a year later in the lead up to what was technically the real third millennium on January 1, 2001).
The Advent calendar is normally of standard dimensions, but can be found in other shapes, such as a model of a house. There are alternative forms of Advent calendar, such as those made from felt or other material, or a chain of candles that can be lit day by day. The German city of Dresden has a giant calendar built into a fairytale castle on its Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt. The world’s biggest Advent Calendar is in Gengenbach (Germany) at the front of the city hall. Nowadays there are also digital Advent calendars.
In Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland there is also a tradition of having a so-called ‘Julekalender’ in the form of a television show starting on the first of December, and ending on the 24th – Christmas Eve. Over the years, there have been several different kinds of ‘Julekalender’; some directed at children, some at both children and adults, and even some directed at adults alone. A classic example of a ‘Julekalender’ enjoyed by children (as well as adults, if purely for nostalgic reasons) is the show ‘Jul i Skomakergata’. A more modern version of the ‘Julekalender’ is the show ‘The 24th’, which is obviously something of a parody on the popular series ’24’ starring Kiefer Sutherland. The julekalender often leads to controversy, there always being someone regarding it as too dirty, too boring for older children, too little connection with Christmas, etc. The only stories which don’t get these complaints are adventure stories that are not too exciting and who regularly mention Christmas, like Mysteriet på Greveholm.
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