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An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. The days always overlap with the Christian season of Advent. Despite the name, most commercially available Advent calendars begin on December 1, regardless of when Advent begins, which can be as early as November 27 and as late as December 3. Many take the form of a large rectangular card with "windows" of which there are usually 24: one for each day of December leading up to Christmas Day. The doors are opened starting with the first one. Consecutive doors are opened every day leading up to Christmas. The calendar windows open to reveal an image, poem, a portion of a story (such as the story of the Nativity of Jesus) or a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item. Some calendars are strictly religious, whereas others are secular in content.
The Nordic Julekalender/Julkalender
In Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland there is also a tradition of having a so-called Julekalender (Swedish: Julkalender, Finnish: Joulukalenteri, Icelandic: Jóladagatal; the local word for an advent calendar) in the form of a television and radio show, both starting on the first of December, and ending on Christmas Eve. It was first aired on Swedish TV in 1960 with the program Titteliture. The first Julekalender aired in Denmark was Historier fra hele verden in 1962. The televised jul(e)kalender has now extended into the other Nordic countries. In Finland, the show is called Joulukalenteri. Over the years, there have been several different kinds of julekalender; some directed at children, some at both children and adults, and even some directed at adults alone. A classic example of a Julekalender enjoyed by children (as well as adults, if purely for nostalgic reasons) is the show Jul i Skomakergata.
There is also a Julkalender which airs on the radio in Sweden, leading up to Christmas.