HERALDING CHRISTMAS – THE ADVENT CALENDER

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Teacher’s Diary

Many students know that on the international scene the most popular music artists so far include: Post Marl one, Drake, Ed Sheeran and Macklemore. They are everywhere – on T-shirts, on windows, on jotters, on sweet packets and on milk chocolate Advent calendars! Here is a list of the season’s common memorabilia behind the shutters of the current advent calendar:

The moon; a wise man; a sheep; a sleigh loaded with presents; the star above Jesus’s manger; the stars that shone ‘while shepherds watched their flocks at night’; Christmas wreath; a holly; a squirrel; a mushroom; a horse shoe; a Christmas stocking; a Santa’s sleigh; a candle; a mistletoe; a Christmas hat.

‘Advent’ is a term from the Latin word, ‘Adventus’ and it means ‘arrival’. It is used by the Christian church for the time leading up to Christmas Day. Advent is actually observed from the Sunday nearest to the 30th of November and ends at midnight on Christmas Eve. Clergymen usually wear royal purple or royal blue vestments during this period. You’d also notice that many churches are decorated with Advent wreaths (also called Advent rings) at this period. This is to also signify the final mission and purpose of Jesus Christ (His death).

To children and young adults, the advent season may not be so magical without them going through an Advent calendar. It’s like Christmas without a visit to see Father Christmas! An Advent Calendar is a way to count the days to Christmas. It usually has 24 windows starting from the 1st of December. Each day’s window, like mine above, opens up to show something linked with this time of the year.

Advent calendars today have tiny chocolates moulds in the shapes of the season’s depictions such as: presents, snowman, Father Christmas, roast turkey etc. There’s no reason why teachers and parents cannot make Advent Calendar that have images depicting Christmas in Africa if we wanted to. Set this as a class task, if you are a teacher, and see what brilliant ideas your children would produce!

The first ever Advent calendar is said to have started in Germany in the late 1800s by a mother. This mum made her son named Gerhard an Advent calendar comprising 24 tiny sweets that were stuck on a cardboard. And so, from the 1st of December, Gerhard got a sweetie and a graphic reminder that Christmas Day was fast approaching.

As a young man, he went into partnership with his friend Reichold and opened a printing press. In 1908, they produced what is believed to be the first printed Advent Calendar. It had a small coloured picture for each day during the Advent season. Not long after this, they re-designed the calendars to have the little lightly fastened shutters that children and adults alike now open each day leading up to Christmas Day.

Each window is an opportunity for your child or pupil to learn about Christmas, to learn a new thing or another tradition and way of life.

Omoru writes from the UK

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