Antiques Magazine - December 2023, What’s in an Advent calendar? And why the past really does make a GREAT present - ANTIQUES.CO.UK

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    What’s in an Advent calendar? And why the past really does make a GREAT present

    Posted by Chris on 01/12/2023

    What’s in an Advent calendar? And why the past really does make a GREAT present

    In this blog, we’re discovering how Advent calendars came about: the fascinating history behind advent calendars, and how they became so popular.

    We’re also discussing some excellent Christmas gift ideas – and why the past really does make a great present for the people you love.

    We're open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - start browsing our Christmas gift categories!


    Image: Deutsches Märchen- und Wesersagenmuseum


    Our popular Christmas gift categories:


    History of advent calendars

    If you grew up in a Christian society, chances are that Advent calendars will have been a big part of your childhood. Perhaps you’re young enough that you’ve only ever had ones with chocolate behind each door (lucky you!) – or, for people of a more elegant vintage, you’ll remember more vividly the calendars with ornate illustrations of religious figures.

    The history of the Advent calendar is really rather interesting – and perhaps slightly more recent than you might have imagined.

    The idea of physically marking Advent has its roots in late 19th century Germany, when the Lutherans made chalk marks on doors from 1st December until the 24th.


    But who exactly came up the calendar idea?

    Austria’s Landesmuseum believes that the first ever advent calendar was made in Hamburg by a protestant bookshop owner, in 1902. However, many claim that this isn’t the case, and that it was the mother of a German child called Gerhard Lang.

    She apparently attached 24 small sweets to a piece of cardboard for little Gerhard to enjoy over Advent – an idea so tasty and nostalgic, that grown-up Gerhard later started a printing office with a friend, and in 1908 started making them commercially.

    Whichever is the true story, it seems that Germany is laying claim to their origins.

    This first calendar – with small pictures – was the forerunner for those we see today, with one picture for every day between 1st and 24th December. Later, Gerhard decided to hide the pictures behind little doors – introducing the heady element of surprise.

    Whilst Lang went out of business in the 1930s, the advent calendar had started to become popular. Other firms began producing them, sometimes with a more religious aspect, like Biblical verses instead of pictures.

    After WWII ended, and rationing began to ease, a printer named Richard Sellmer reintroduced the Advent Calendars into the lives of children all over the Western World, and soon they became as much of a Christmas tradition as trees, cards and gifts.


    Christmas gift ideas: why does the past make a great Christmas present?

    Christmas gift ideas: why does the past make a great Christmas present?


    Why all this talk of Advent calendars? Well, firstly, we love history and provenance at

    Secondly, at the time of publication – it’s now Advent! And for those shopping for presents to give this Christmas, it means that the clock is ticking. Those four weeks very quickly become three, two and then one – so it’s time to get your vintage skates on and buy your loved ones some good gifts.

    We're here to tell you why antiques make such a special gift for your loved ones this Christmas.


    Become part of history

    These items have been around for tens, if not hundreds, of years. They bring with them an almost secret history – who did this used to belong to? Imagine the joy it has already brought to many people over the years – and now it’s your turn to belong to that story.


    They’re sustainable

    Antique and vintage gifts are also entirely green and sustainable. The carbon footprint has already been paid off many times over, and by buying them, there are no further raw materials needed – aside from shipping.

    You may not be concerned about how ‘green’ your presents are, but some people will be. You can do your bit for the environment really easily – by buying antique gifts!


    They’re memorable

    For us – lovers of the antique and vintage – gifts which have their own history and backstory have so much more meaning than brand new items.

    Think back to last year, and the number of gifts you can actually remember. Many of them probably languish in a drawer somewhere, or were resigned to the charity shop. They’re forgotten about almost instantly.

    But antiques are different – they bring meaning and will be totally unique.


    They’re available 24/7

    There are a limited number of shopping days left until Christmas, and physical shops are only open for some of that time. But you can shop online any time you like – and at, we’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

    We are literally continually open, meaning that you can browse our huge selection of items any time you want.

    This is why buying antiques at Christmas is such a brilliant concept.

    It’s worth browsing our most popular gift categories:


    Antique silver

    Three Piece Silver Coffee Service, d.1900 (pictured)


    Expert’s choice:

    > Vintage Dutch Silver Snuff box [£ Please enquire]

    > Antique Silver Topped Crystal Flask With Armorial London 1917 [£ Please enquire]

    > Sterling silver vesta case

    > Three Piece Silver Coffee Service, d.1900 (pictured), £155/$195


    Antique jewellery

    Vintage Two Stone Jade Verdant Ring (pictured)


    Expert’s choice:

    > Vintage Two Stone Jade Verdant Ring (pictured), £795/$1,005

    > Vintage 1965 Diamond Starburst Signet Ring, £499/$630

    > Royal Copenhagen / A. Michelsen Porcelain / Sterling Silver Necklace, £612/$775


    Antique toys

    A Metal, Wood And Painted Sleigh


    Expert’s choice:

    > 1920s Painted Wooden Sleigh (pictured), £400/$505

    > Steiff Bear Early Twentieth Century, £750/$945

    > 1970s Vintage Action Man Command Jeep, £145/$185



    Antique collectables

    Pair Of Antique Victorian Staffordshire Greyhound Inkwells


    Expert’s choice:

    > Russian Spy Camera, £75/$95

    > Victorian Mother Of Pearl & Silver Plate Opera Glasses, Circa 19th Century, £190/$240

    > Pair of Antique Victorian Staffordshire Greyhound Inkwells (pictured), £345/$435


    Antique musical items

    Inlaid Rosewood Banjo


    Expert’s choice:

    > Inlaid Rosewood Banjo, c.1900 (pictured), £500/$630

    > Rare Nicole Freres Musical Key Wound Music Box, £2,600/$3,285

    > Penny In A Slot Musical Disks Playing, £9,950/£12,575


    Antique wine and alcohol

    Antique Hip Flask, English, Leather, Glass, Silver Plate, Celebration Gift, 1920


    Expert’s choice:

    > 1920s Antique Hip Flask (pictured), £595/$750

    > Unusual Antique Sterling Silver Overlaid Hip / Liquor Flask C.1900, (£ Please enquire)

    > 19th century Amber Wine Decanter, £195/$245


    > Read next: Rare Christmas Antique and Vintage Gift Ideas



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