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Collecting Advent Calendars

Advent calendar as a freestanding house.

Advent calendar as a freestanding house.

Lori Verderame on Google+

Dr. Lori, Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, Dr. Lori hosts antiques appraisal events worldwide. Dr. Lori is the star appraiser on Discovery channel.   Visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori, Lori Verderame on Google+or call (888) 431-1010.

By Lori Verderame

‘Tis The Season For The Countdown To Christmas

From the Latin term adventus, Advent means “the arrival.” For centuries, Advent has been a time of spiritual reflection for Christians in anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ.

It is believed that the period of Advent has been observed since about the fourth century A.D. In the early days of observing Advent, the timeframe lasted from the feast day of Saint Martin on Nov. 11 until Christmas Day on Dec. 25. Similar to the springtime season of Lent, Advent once included a six-week-long fast for believers; however, that has since been discontinued. By the sixth century, Advent no longer had a fasting ritual, and the season was reduced to only four weeks. Today, the season of Advent is a time of devotional prayer and anticipation of Christmas.

Like many holiday collectibles, objects relating to Advent, such as wreaths and candles mark the days leading up to Christmas. Advent wreaths, a circle of evergreens symbolizing eternal life, are widely used. The four red candles represent the four Sundays of the Advent period, and a fifth white candle in the wreath’s center is called the Christ candle. The Christ candle is the last one to be lit on Christmas Day.

Quite possibly the most recognized tradition is the popular Advent calendar. For many collectors, the chronological countdown to Christmas Day comes in the form of an Advent calendar of antique or vintage paper, lithography, felt, painting on canvas, or mixed media. The calendar is popular with children, many of whom spend the greater part of December patiently awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus and counting down the days by opening doors of an Advent calendar.

According to legend, the first known Advent calendar was handmade in 1851. By the 1880s, the Germanic tradition of the Advent calendar began to spread across Europe to North America. Typically made of printed images on paper or cardboard, Advent calendars boast 24 small numbered doors to be opened daily in anticipation of Christmas. Snow covered houses, holiday scenes and winter wonderlands were common imagery used as the backdrop for the miniature doors. Each door is opened to reveal a holiday image, a Bible passage, a piece of candy, or a small gift starting on Dec. 1 and continuing until Christmas Eve.

The “father” of the modern Advent calendar was a German printer named Gerhard Lang, who produced small colorful, religious images on paper and cardboard from his Munich printing office. Each image corresponded to 24 days in December up to Christmas Eve. Circa 1908, Lang produced the first Advent calendar with cardboard doors that opened to reveal an image. Throughout much of the early 20th century, Advent calendars were exchanged as gifts around Thanksgiving in anticipation of Christmas.

When it comes to value of Advent calendars, the characteristics you should look for are its condition (good, with no rips, tears or stains), design (intricate patterns or images of a winter scene or holiday events in bright colors), and the printmakers (famous ones are Lang, Sankt Johannis and others).

Advent calendars have evolved from lithograph printed images on cardboard to free-standing dollhouse-style collectible calendars with hinged doors to hide small gifts, money or candy. Some of these contemporary holiday collectibles are made of pressed board, masonite and even wood. Expect to pay $50 to $500 for some of the traditional paper Advent calendars and several thousand dollars for handcrafted ones.

Happy holidays!

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