Advent calendars are big business, counting down enticingly from December 1st to Christmas Day. The first printed Advent calendar dates back to the early 1900s. Reichold and Lang’s printers in Germany produced some of the first mass-made calendars until the 1930s.

It was only after the end of rationing in the 1950s in the UK that chocolates were increasingly included as daily Advent treats behind each tiny door. The combination of the anticipation of Christmas and the promise of delicious mouthfuls ensures their lasting popularity. Increasingly, people are purchasing calendars that will be used for many years to come or even be passed on to their children as heirlooms, connected to fond memories of Christmases past. Once you own a permanent, annual advent calendar of a wooden or fabric variety, you will simply need to buy your 24 or 25 chocolate treats to drop into the boxes or pockets each year.

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Calendars to Consider

The selection is wide and varied. Conventional Advent calendars are available in an almost bewildering array. The selection has grown because of the increasing wealth of twists. We have a page devoted to that entitled Variations On A Theme. But first you might want to give thought to the list of options, including:

Calendars with chocolates behind each door

Paper calendars with Christmas images behind each door

Paper calendars with religious phrases behind each door

Wooden boxes divided into 25 sections

Wooden houses decorated with 25 door and window compartments

Calendars made from fabric, with 25 pockets sewn on

Small boxes to fill with gifts to hang from a tree, branch or stretch of ribbon

Crackers filled with gifts and chocolates

Miniature buckets on a line with a gift in each one

Mittens, pouches or socks on a line with a gift in each one

Pots of sweets in Advent tubes

Wall stickers

String of numbered balloons

Personalised photo Advent strings

Activities box and calendar combo

A box or string of paper packets, parcels or envelopes

Advent books

Advent twig trees

And that’s just our list. There will be more. We have a fresh selection of more specific calendar choices and suppliers below – but before we leave the basic decision-making, take a look next at our thoughts on trinkets for Advent calendars. This might help you narrow down your options.

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Advent Gifts

What type of gifts work with your calendar of choice will depend on the shape and size of the receptacle you choose and the age of the recipient. We suggest taking one of the boxes, bags, envelopes etc with you when shopping so you can check your proposed presents will fit. It can be challenging to find 24 small and completely different items. Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

For Adults: Chocolate decorations; chocolate coins; tiny pots of jam or Advent calendar_162525212marmalade; wrapped mini slices of Christmas cake; mulled wine spices; Christmas baubles; pack of tissues decorated with seasonal images; small items of jewellery; pot pourri refresher oils; key rings; lip salve; iTtunes gift cards; photos with a special significance and a message written on the back; Christmas jokes and poems (see Ed’s Christmas Grotto for Cracker Jokes and our Christmas Thoughts page for lines of poetry and wisdom).

For Children: Write or print out passes for staying up an extra 30 minutes or for treats such as a trip to the cinema or a Christmas event; any form of chocolate or sweet treats; hair bands and decorative clips; small toys; collectables such as Pokemon cards; magic tricks; stickers and badges.

Elf Helper: Perfume and cosmetic samples you may collect throughout the year or you find in promotional gift sets can make decent Advent gifts. You will also find many more ideas for Advent gifts on our Stockings & Socks page.

Presents

We Love

notonthehighstreet.com  a wide variety of different calendars to suit all tastes and pockets such as hand-made Advent Bunting, Advent Calendar of Tea, Personalised 24 Sleeps ’til Christmas Books, Lots of Pots of Sweets Santa Advent Calendar and Personalised Christmas Tree Advent Calendar Wall Stickers. See also the Badges and Treats combo, the Activities Box idea and the white marble tiles that make up the Personalised Desktop Countdown. A new favourite: Wooden Train Advent Calendar by Lisa Angel for £28.

hessian advent sack_213748681masterofmalt.com – a selection of 24 samples of wonderful Scotch whisky, including 15-year-old Bowmore Darkest, Copper Dog, Monkey Shoulder and Glenfiddich. The website reads: “Embrace the Christmas spirit every day during December with a Drinks by the Dram booze-filled Advent Calendar! From whisky fans to gin lovers, mezcal fiends to absinthe enthusiasts, there’s something for everyone.” Alcohol-based calendars are hugely popular. Just take your pick.

thorntons.co.uk – a personalised calendar of Thorntons delicious chocolates complete with the recipients name iced onto them. Basic boxed calendars, too, with favourite children’s characters pictured. “The Snowman and The Snowdog” calendar for £7 comes with a chocolate plaque that can be personalised and there’s a Gruffalo version, too, for £5. Thorntons has 3-for-2 offers on its calendars.

jacquielawson.com – a computer calendar that day-by-day builds a festive scene. There’s more than one choice of scene. Each day there are either musical animations or little puzzles to watch and complete – all adding extra elements to the developing Christmas scene. The Advent calendars make excellent gifts and are a great way to help your friends and family kick off the season. You can subscribe to this splendid website to secure unlimited use for a year or more and we promise it will bring you and your loved ones a great deal of pleasure.

biscuiteers.com – Biscuiteers makes beautifully decorated biscuits and for 2017 has issued a limited edition, embroidered Susie Watson Advent Calendar to put them in. Buy the Advent biscuit tin and cloth calendar in combination for £99. The hand-finished designs include ‘Santa Jolly Ginger’, his trusty reindeer and presents under the Christmas tree. There are 24 pockets for the Advent biscuits.

potterybarn.com – The Gilt Galvanised Advent Calendar – small buckets on a backboard in a frame – is simply stunning and we also adore the Stocking Tree Advent Calendar – a large wooden tree frame full of small stockings to fill with trinkets. You will see potterybarn.com has more wonderful Advent choices. Shipment to the UK is via Borderfree, so you pay for all shipping and customs costs during the checkout process.

Presents

fortnumandmason.com – Fortnum’s traditional paper advent calendar is decorated with the Piccadilly store’s iconic façade, with renowned window displays and Christmas wreaths  and is also available in wooden form or with musical attachment, but at a considerably bigger price. For £90 there are stunning wooden calendars with snowman, Santa’s sleigh and Christmas tree designs. On the beauty front, there’s the £150 “Iconic London Girl About Town Gift Box” and for £25 there’s one for tea lovers. The selection is wide and enticing, so  be sure to check out Fortnum’s website.

lego.com – Lego Advent Calendars combine a must-have toy (anytime of the year, let alone Christmas) with the Christmas countdown to create an annual winner. The Lego Star Wars edition is a particular champion. Lego City and Lego Friends are other splendid options.

diptyqueparis.co.uk – Exquisite scented candles are Diptyque’s flagship product, but the French perfumer also produces bath and body products and other items of luxurious fragrance. You will find a decadent collection in its gorgeous Advent calendar, retailing in 2017 for £300. Available for pre-order from selfridges.com from October 12, 2017.

selfridges.com – These luxury calendars, full of delightful little surprises from brands such as Kiehl’s, Lancome, YSL, and Victor and Rolf, traditionally fly off the shelves. They are available exclusively at Selfridges from mid-October – but these calendars sell out fast…very fast. You have been warned. For 2017, the calendar is based on two cities – London and Paris. Retail price for 2017: £120. Also check out Charlotte Tilbury’s make-up calendar – another of the many superb beauty calendars now becoming a Christmas must for many.

neimanmarcus.com – Socks for Christmas. Never the most creative or, for that matter, welcome of gifts. But we will certainly make an exception for Marcoliani’s Sock Advent Calendar for £382, with 24 pairs of luxury socks made from the finest Italian yarns. Each day of the calendar reveals a new motif or length, from classic stripes to bicycle intarsia, ankle socks to no-show socks. Orders can be paid for through Borderfree.

snafflingpig.co.uk – the Advent calendar that’s A3 sized and full of pork scratchings is back, emblazoned with the words “Merry Piggin’ Christmas”. As the website blurb points out, chocolate Advent calendars can be great for a sweet tooth “but if you’re more of a savoury loving swine, they’ve tended to be a piggin’ let down.” Thus the creation of this tasty porky delight for £17.50.

Beauty Advent Calendars 2017

Forget the chocolate! Beauty Advent calendars are the must have countdown product of the age and have been some of the most sought-after pre-Christmas products of recent years. Okay, so maybe don’t ditch the chocolate calendars altogether. Maybe combine the two instead. Treats at every turn. Go on…you deserve it. Once again this year, some of the biggest and best names in beauty, fragrance and pampering are delivering their ever-popular calendars in the countdown to big day. Here’s a selection of our favourites.

Check out the afore-mentioned Diptyque and Selfridges calendars at selfridges.com as  a matter of course, retailing at £300 and £120 respectively. Both are available to pre-order from October 2017. And then there’s this little lot…

Jo Malone (£300): A striking Georgian townhouse design holds a decadent collection of mini perfumes and scented body creams. This is exclusive to Harrods in October but available across the UK from November 2017.

Kiehl’s (£95): Skincare products in travel-sized packaging – 24 of them of course – include favourites like Crème de Corps and Midnight Recovery Concentrate. This is exclusive to Selfridges from October 2017.

Liberty (£175): This sells out every year – and fast. But then Liberty’s stunning calendar, housed in a beautiful Liberty London box, features 15 full-sized products, alongside deluxe samples, with each drawer revealing a beauty treat hand-picked from Liberty’s favourite brands, including Votary, Le Labo and Diptyque. The value of the products is more than £500 but the calendar is priced at just £175. That’s quite a deal. It will be available at Liberty London from October 25, 2017.

Charlotte Tilbury (£150): This for the make-up lovers. Charlotte Tilbury’s Naughty And Nice Magic Box Advent Calendar includes some of her best-selling hero products in handy travel sizes. It’s an annual winner. Look out for this calendar in Selfridges and online.

ASOS (£55): Available from mid-September at asos.com, this calendar includes brands such as Cowshed, St Tropez and Smashbox and is great value for money.

Decléor (£65): Decleor is known for its luxury skin products and this is a spa-licious, 24-box treat full of skincare essentials. Again, these fly off the shelves…so be quick. These calendars are available at Decleor spas and decleor.co.uk from September 2017.