As early as the beginning of the 19th century, Germans would count down the 24 days leading up to Christmas, usually just with tick marks on the ground or on the wall. A man named Gerhard Lang is credited with printing the first color Advent calendar with 24 little pictures in Munich in 1908. Several years later he created the calendar with 24 little doors, or flaps. Behind each door was a Christmas scene or motif. Chocolate Advent calendars came much, much later, of course, as Christmas became more commercialized, but generally the calendars are one way to get children involved in the spirit of Advent.
Two of the world's largest Advent calendars can be found in Germany, both in the façades of their cute little towns' city hall buildings. The first is in Gengenbach, on the edge of the Black Forest, where the rectangular Rathaus (city hall) happens to have exactly 24 windows (two rows of 11 plus 2 in the roof). A Christmas scene is painted in each window and unveiled one by one as Advent progresses.
|Rathaus, or city hall, in Gengenbach.|
A second beautiful, larger-than-life Advent calendar is in the town of Hünfeld near Fulda, just about smack dab in the center of Germany. The charming, turreted little Rathaus also has just enough front windows to accommodate 24 unique Christmas scenes that are revealed one by one at night throughout the season of Advent.
|Rathaus in Hünfeld.|