We are on the cusp of entering December, meaning the festivities have basically begun, from the many Christmas light switch-on events to the start of Christmas markets up and down the country.

Another sign Christmas is on its way is the excitement of choosing your favourite Advent calendar of the year, from LEGO scenery, to luxury beauty and chocolate.

But before you find out your first surprise behind door number one on December 1, what is the true meaning of Advent and why have Advent calendars become a tradition?

What does Advent mean?

Oxford Mail: What Advent calendar did you choose this year?What Advent calendar did you choose this year? (Image: Getty)

The word ‘Advent’ is the Latin word for ‘coming’ which is used in the Christian church calendar to describe the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas, according to Britannica.

It is also “preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.”

Britannica adds: “In Western churches, Advent begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30 (St. Andrew’s Day) and is the beginning of the liturgical year.

“In many Eastern churches, the Nativity Fast is a similar period of penance and preparation that occurs during the 40 days before Christmas. The date when the season was first observed is uncertain.”

“It is thought that Advent was first celebrated back in AD567 when monks would fast in the month leading up to Christmas," writes Hotel Chocolate.

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“Although this seems like the antithesis of the holiday mood – we always see December as a time to pig out – fasting during the lead-up to Christmas is more common than you might think."

Nativity Fast starts on November 15 and foods such as dairy and meat are among those off-limits during Advent.

Why do we have Advent calendars?

Hotel Chocolate explains: “Originally, an Advent calendar took the form of a Nativity scene, presented in ‘advent images’ or a ‘vessel cup’. A box with a glass lid on top and adorned with ribbons and flowers would contain two dolls representing Mary and baby Jesus.

“This box was carried door to door, and it was said to be bad luck if you hadn’t seen one before Christmas Eve.

“However, the idea of counting down the days till Christmas started in Germany, During the 19th century, families began to count down the days to Christmas by tallying chalk marks on a door or wall.

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“Varieties of this practice also took the form of hanging up a religious picture for each day leading to Christmas Eve or lighting a candle, and by the early 1900s newspapers and publishing companies started to produce simple paper calendars.”

It was after WW2 when paper was rationed that Advent calendars took a decline but people decided to find other ways of making them because they were so loved.

“By the 1950s, many calendars began including small gifts, such as chocolates or toys, behind the door," reports Hotel Chocolate.

“Over time, advent calendars became less religious, with more people seeing them as a fun way to countdown the days until Christmas.”

These days, Advent calendars have moved away from religious boxes and are mostly in the form of chocolate.