One of the great traditions of the festive season is the ‘advent calendar’. Traditionally it is a piece of card with either a Nativity scene or a winter theme. Dotted on the card, are 24 windows numbered 1 to 24. The first window is opened on the 1st December. Once opened, the window will reveal an image. These images will vary but generally all have a common theme based around the Nativity or festive season. As a child my memories are that of bells, holly, angels, stars and the 24th window which is opened on Christmas Eve was always that of the Nativity.
Now that I have a child of my own, I was interested to see if this was still the case. So I gathered 11 advent calendars over the last 6 years (by different publishers) that my family had kept, to see what the most popular images behind those windows are. My criteria, was to note the main image and give that a score. If though the image was say, that of a robin holding a sprig of holly in its beak, this would be marked as one score for robin and one for holly.
So would the Nativity still dominate the 24th window and would stars and bells be as prominent as I remembered. These were my findings in reverse order of the top 5 images.
Fifth place was shared by:
Mistletoe – a symbol of love at Christmas, the kiss under the mistletoe, even though it has its origin in Pagan festivities.
Stockings – the tradition of hanging up the stocking by the fireplace to be filled with presents for children and adults alike can be traced back to either Pagan times or St Nicholas of Myra.
Reindeer or Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer – is the trusty power behind Father Christmas. They or he are entrusted to pull Father Christmas on his trip around the globe on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Bauble or decoration – what home would not be complete without Christmas decorations? And in particular the bauble upon the Christmas tree. This can be traced back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
Fourth place was shared by:
Christmas Pudding – the traditional dish served at the end of the main Christmas Day meal. Its origins can be traced back to the medieval times.
Holly – a traditional winter decoration because it is evergreen can be traced back to Pagan times, symbolising the green of summer.
Robin – seems to have no Christian or Pagan symbolism but more of a popular image of winter, with its red chest. It became a fashionable picture a Christmas during the Victorian era.
Third place shared by two images associated with the birth of Christ.
The Star – the symbol of the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ is the first image that has it origins in Christianity and no other faith.
Angels – like that of the Star has it origins in the birth of Christ, when the shepherds were visited by Angels.
Second place was shared by:
Snowman – an iconic symbol of winter with no religious or Pagan meaning. This winter character is loved by children and adults alike.
Father Christmas – arguably now the most recognised symbol of modern Christmas. Father Christmas’s or Santa’s, origins can be traced back to either Pagan times particularly from the Norse and later St Nicholas as religious figure.
Strangely the Nativity didn’t make the list, so the number one image behind an advert window is Presents. Considering advent calendars are traditionally given to children this is no surprise.
So where does this leave the Nativity. Additional research showed that, the Nativity was the second most popular image behind the 24th window behind that of Father Christmas. As a child growing up in the 70’s you were almost guaranteed that the Nativity would have been the image on the 24th. The image of Christmas appears to have changed since then. In terms of what is behind the windows of an advent calendar.