To round up this series, I am going to show a few more calendars. I received the picture above from a collector. One of my sisters has a copy of this calendar and also sent me a picture of it but since the image I received from the collector is of higher quality, I choose to post the latter instead.
This calendar, showing a city scene with a Christmas market and a church tower, is stylistically similar to the one with “St. Niklas” station, shown two weeks ago, as well as the city scene with “Hotel Blautanne” and the “Turmblick”, shown last week (these three are actually my favorites). According to the print license code, it was printed or published in 1955, so it was probably designed either 1955 or the year before. The publisher is again Lederbogen Verlag. The size is approximately A4.
Behind the train line, we see the inscription “Kinderpost” (“Children’s post office”) on one building. The shops at the market place are “Puppenstube” (“doll’s house”) and “Konsum”. Konsum was a chain of cooperative shops and restaurants in the GDR. “Café Pieps” is “Café Tweet”. There are Christmas market stands “Süßer Max” (“Sweet Max”) and “Naschkätzel” (maybe translatable as “little sweet tooth”). “Rostbrater” is a stand where you can get roasted meet. In the right lower corner we can read: “Remove after Christmas the back side, it will show something nice in addition”. In the left lower corner, you see Rolf Keller’s logo and name. Below we read “Remove the back page after Christmas, it is showing something beautiful”.
A copy of this particular calendar is currently on exhibition in Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Schlossbergmuseum (see here), where one can also see other advent calendars from different artists and different times.
The same collector who sent me this picture also sent me pictures of two more advent calendars designed by Rolf Keller, shown below. They are somewhat different from the calendars we have seen here so far. In the first one, the motives are similar to the one above, but the much smaller display window creates a very different impression. We see a “Puppendoktor” (“Doll doctor”, i.e. a shop where dolls could be repaired; in the house where Rolf Keller was living, there actually was such a “Puppendoktor” and this probably gave the inspiration here), “Spielwaren” (“Toys”), and a bakery (“Bäckerei von Meta Schnupp”) and a pub (“Gasthaus zur Zapfe”, a bit surprising on a picture for children).
The idealized world shown on this calendar is not very realistic. This is even more so on the next calendar that also differs from the other ones in its close up view. There is a Christmas star, similar to the ones we have seen in several other advent calendars, and again a moon. However, this time it is not the crescent moon with a face but a full moon with the “man in the moon”. We have to read the inscriptions to the left to understand why the children in the picture are so excited. These signs read (from top to bottom): “Nikolaus” (St. Nicholas), “Christkind 2x klingeln” (Christ child, ring twice), and “Heinzelmann, 3x klingeln” (“Heinzelmänchen” are another type fairy tale character, although they don’t have any connection to Christmas). The sign on the door reads “Sandmann wohnt jetzt Nr. 7”) (Sandman now stays in no. 7). The inscription on the mail box reads “Wunschzettel” (wish lists). In some areas of Germany, the Christmas gifts are thought to be brought by “Weihnachtsmann”, a figure akin to Father Christmas or Santa, in other areas it is Nikolaus (who, however, has his own day on December 6th), in other areas it is the “Christkind”.
Unfortunately, I am not able to date these two calendars. There is a code on the second one, but it seems to follow a different system from the ones I know, and does not include the year. If the system was changed, this calendar must be from a different year, but I cannot say if it is older or younger than the other ones. I have once seen this one offered on ebay as “around 1950”, but I don’t know if that is true. These two calendars seem to be similar in style, so they might have been designed around the same time. My mother told me that the house and the garden door on this calendar resembles the house and garden door in Grüna near Chemnitz where Rolf Keller stayed in the 1930s and where his son Svend Keller spent part of his childhood.
Note the similarity of the cat shown here to the one on the roof of the gas station on the first calendar shown last week.
The last calendar I want to show is a larger one (about 25 x 35 cm). The “Turmblick” and “Weihnachtsbrücke” shown as postcard sized copies last week must also have been of this larger size according to the caption on the pictures. This calendar is, unfortunately, heavily damaged, but I am showing it anyway. I have shown the motive already in the last picture of last week’s article, in a black and white photography that seems to have been made after the original design for the calendar. Showing the calendar itself gives us an idea about the colors. The code on the back side shows the year 1957 as the year of print or publication. There is also the “L” logo of Lederbogen Verlag. The black and white photograph of this calendar shown last week was probably indended to be sent to Rolf Keller’s son Svend Keller, who had been imprisioned as a political prisoner (see last week’s article). The fact that this photograph was made although Svend Keller was released in 1956 indicates that the design was made in 1956.
Some of the “doors” are missing, so we can see some of the motives on the back side. A squirrel, a chimney sweeper, a horse. The back side is probably similar to the one shown for the second Calendar in the first article that shows similar motives.
The calendar shows some of the recurring motives also seen in some of the others: snow, a christmas star (on one of the missing doors), a crescent moon with a face, trains, a christmas market and christmas tree, a bridge, a horse cart, old style houses and buildings, churches and church towers, mountains. If you compare the different calendars, you may find some additional recurring motives. Last week, I had already written about the probable meaning of the “toy collections” in some of the calendars, e.g. in the “Winter” calendar shown in the first article and the “Weihnachtsbrücke” shown last week.
On the bottom, we read:
Unterm Deckblatt wohlverhüllt Under the front page, well covered
Zeigt sich nach dem Weihnachtsfest After Christmas becomes visible
Noch ein völlig neues Bild Another totally new picture
Wenn du Dir’s ausschneiden läßt If you get it cut out for you
The instructions for the removal of the back page on the back side contain a drawing in this case (and some very early artistic attempts of me or another child):
Picture advent calendars like these have largely disappeared. Today, shops are selling advent calendars where you find a piece of chocolate behind each door. The special joy of finding a different and unpredictable picture behind the little doors every day is something children of today are missing. In a time where children are overfed with images from the internet, from TV and from games, the sensitivity required to appreciate such old style advent calendars is probably no longer there. These advent calendars are part of a sunken world of the past.
We forget most of what is happening in our first years of life, but I still vividly remember these advent calendars from my earlier childhood. And looking at them again now, I feel in them the smile of my grandfather who made them.