One of the beverages we looked at during the ramble through festive beerdom that comprised last year's advent calendar was Fuller's Winter Ale. Happily (leastways, for the sake of padding out this year's calendar), Fuller's make another winter seasonal called Jack Frost, named after the sprite who nips at your nose on those cold winter mornings and coats the grass with glistening white crystals.
Both advent calendars and Jack Frost (as well as today's beer) are European imports, one rather more ancient than the other.
Jack Frost is another one of those characters from pagan times, and probably goes all the way back to Scandinavia when the Vikings were busy pillaging and looting. Incidentally, did you know that the French Normans who invaded England in 1066 were actually the descendants of Vikings who had invaded the country several times in previous centuries and also taken over the part of France that became known as Normandy? You don't have to dig very deep in the etymology to figure this out: Norman = Norse Man = Man from Norway = Viking. There's a bit more to it than that, but you can do your own research if you want the 12" version.
It's not surprising that a figure like Jack Frost would originate in a place as cold as Norway, but don't be fooled into thinking that it's always cold there just because of its northern latitude. Even above the Arctic Circle, the temperature has been known to pass 80°F during the brief summer, but it's that long, cold Scandinavian winter that excites the imagination with visions from centuries ago of families, or even whole villages (along with their animals... pee yew), shutting themselves up in a great communal hall while the sun disappeared for a few months and the snow piled up outside, sitting around a huge fire and passing the time spinning sagas and telling tales of Odin, Thor and all the other inhabitants of Asgard.
Advent calendars have a rather shorter history. It's thought they originated with German Lutherans in the 1800s, and by the early part of the 20th century had started to become a commercialised item. Making your own calendar (a real one, not a virtual calendar like this one) is a piece of cake. It's little more than two pieces of card glued together, one of which has 24 (or 25) 'doors' cut out of it which can be opened, and with a picture of something cleverly positioned behind each one, then the front of the calendar decorated. Hours of creative fun for the kids. It doesn't even have to be a daily calendar of the type we all know. Any kind of daily countdown starting on December 1st can become a family tradition.
Fuller's Jack Frost is a winter warmer, but slightly different in that it's brewed with blackberries, giving it an extra layer of autumnal fruitiness to be savoured while sitting in front of the fire on Christmas Day and digesting the huge dinner you've just eaten.