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An advent calendar is a special calendar that marks the days during Advent, the holy season celebrated by the Christian Church during December leading up to Christmas. It has taken on many forms over the years and has branched into secular society as a countdown to Christmas calendar aimed towards children.
Although the season of Advent begins on the Sunday closest to the 30th of November, most commercial advent calendars begin on the first of December. Traditionally, the calendar has two tiers, with the days from 1 December through 24 December represented. Each day is signified with a door to be opened. However, adaptations of the advent calendar include either doors or pockets, with various ways to mark the day. Frequently, it has room for a small treat to be hidden behind the door or in the pocket.
Commercial manufacturers have marketed the advent calendar in some form or another for many years. Some are decorated with images of the Nativity, while others are embellished with secular Christmas symbols, such as candy canes, snowmen, Santa Claus, and ornaments. Some such calendars are designed to mark the days of other celebrations, such as Hanukkah, Boxing Day, and the New Year.
There are so many variations of the advent calendar today that many people buy them for different purposes. As a countdown to Christmas aimed at children, a calendar might have a different activity printed on a card each day for children to enjoy. In addition, a piece of candy or other treat might appear when the door is opened. Though the traditional shape of an advent calendar is square tiers, many are shaped like houses, Christmas trees, and other Holiday symbols. Some represent the days with pouches, allowing users to move a candy cane from day to day during the Advent season.
Because there are so many variations on the advent calendar, there is one to suit nearly every family. Children enjoy using them as a way to count down to the big day, but many oppose this use of the calendar because it perpetuates commercialism. However, each household has its own traditions and beliefs centered around the holidays, and an advent calendar can be introduced as a tradition for celebrating, as a way to count down, or simply as a way to relish each day of the season.