On December 3 2020, a Facebook post proposed a novel use for obsolete Advent calendars — namely, repurposing them for a new countdown to President-Elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day:
That post was a screenshot of a December 1 2020 tweet by @DjangoWexler:
Atop a picture of an Advent calendar (“24 Chocolate Days ’til Christmas”), Wexler wrote:
Pro tip: if you buy a discounted advent calendar the day after Christmas, it will count down to inauguration day!
According to the Shrine of St. Jude, Advent is a portion of the liturgical year leading up to a celebration of the birth of Jesus, observed on December 25:
The New Year in the Church begins with the season of Advent — a time to help us prepare for Christmas, when we celebrate the fulfillment of our longing for the Savior with the birth of Jesus. So, what is Advent? It’s the season that lasts about four weeks, beginning four Sundays before Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve. The Church’s Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days. So, Advent is a season of anticipation that leads up to Christmas. During this time, we observe a season of prayer, and reflection — followed by anticipation, hope and joy. Each Sunday during Advent we light a candle on the Advent wreath.
The Shrine of St. Jude mentions Advent calendars as a popular tradition, noting that Advent is a “movable feast” of variable length:
One of the primary traditions of Advent is the lighting of the Advent wreath … Another popular tradition of Advent is the Advent Calendar. Although these calendars frequently follow the entire month of December instead of strictly adhering to the Advent season. Advent calendars open up to mark each day and can contain anything from prayers to candy depending on the calendar.
What’s an Advent Calendar?
Advent calendars are slightly more complicated than calendars in general, defined as:
… [often] a large rectangular card with “windows”, one for each day of December leading up to and including Christmas Eve (December 24) or Christmas Day (December 25). Consecutive doors are opened every day leading up to Christmas, beginning on the start of the Advent season for that year, or simply on December 1. Often the doors are distributed across the calendar in no particular order. The calendar windows open to reveal an image, a 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. Often, each window has a Bible verse and Christian prayer printed on it, which Christians incorporate as part of their daily Advent devotions. Advent calendars may also have puzzles and games printed on their reverse side.
There are many variations of Advent calendar, including social media Advent calendars, and string up reusable Advent calendars. Many towns have created living advent calendars. Some Advent calendars even eschew traditional Christmas motifs and themes, focusing only on Jesus as the central character of the Christmas story.
Perhaps the most common Advent calendar, is like the one in the tweet, intended to be given to children in the weeks before Christmas. A box or window is opened each day, revealing a small toy or, frequently, a piece of chocolate.
Is Advent the 24 Days of December Prior to Christmas Day?
Sometimes, but not always.
A December 1 2020 Vox explainer on Advent delved into the manner in which Advent’s length is determined:
The reason for the shifting start date is somewhat straightforward. As celebrated by Christian churches in the Western tradition (as opposed to Eastern Orthodox churches, which keep a different calendar), the season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is celebrated on each successive Sunday leading up to Christmas.
There are always four Sundays during Advent prior to Christmas, but Christmas could be any day of the week — which means the distance between the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day varies. So the length of the season shifts from year to year: In 2016, Christmas fell on a Sunday, which means the season stretched over a total of 28 days. Last year [in 2019], it was 24 days long. This year [in 2020], it’s 26 days long.
Advent lasted for 24 days in 2019 (matching the calendar in the image), but it would span 26 days in 2020.
How Many Days or Boxes Are on a 2020 Advent Calendar?
Although Advent is officially of variable length, other factors influenced the design and format of Advent calendars.
A number of Advent calendar listicles in 2020 linked to more than a dozen calendars, none of which had 26 boxes. Some had 12, and others as many as 40, but 24 boxes seemed fairly standard for single-use and reusable Advent calendars alike.
Ergo, it was fair to say that it was likelier than not in any given year that an Advent calendar would have 25 boxes.
Would an Advent Calendar Purchased ‘On Sale’ on December 26 Serve as an Inauguration Day Countdown Calendar?
Post-holiday sales of discount candy are commonly described as a secondary holiday in memes and on social media, particularly after Valentine’s Day and Halloween.
Any holiday’s sweet spot for discount is the day after the holiday in question, in this case December 26 2020 (Boxing Day in the UK and Canada, and St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland). Wexler’s advice would presumably involve a countdown to Inauguration Day beginning on December 26 2020; Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day was slated for January 20 2021.
We calculated the number of days between December 26 2020 and January 20 2021; incidentally, when including the starting in the count, Wexler’s claim was technically true when basing it upon the length of Advent in 2020 — 26 days would pass between those two dates. Excluding the starting date in the count left 25 days between December 26 2020 and January 20 2021.
Wexler’s Twitter “pro tip” advised fellow users that discounted Advent calendars purchased on December 26 2020 could be repurposed to countdown to Inauguration Day on January 20 2021, including a photograph of a 24-day-long Advent calendar. Although most Advent calendars (particularly reusable ones) had 24 boxes, Advent lasted for 26 days in 2020. Using a “days between” calculator, we counted 26 days between December 26 2020 and January 20 2021. While Wexler’s tip would be slightly off using a 24-box Advent calendar, the claim was broadly true.