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.
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
String of numbered balloons
Personalised photo Advent strings
Activities box and calendar combo
A box or string of paper packets, parcels or envelopes
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.
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 marmalade; 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.
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, the white marble tiles that make up the Personalised Desktop Countdown and the Wooden Train Advent Calendar.
masterofmalt.com – a selection of 24 samples of wonderful Scotch whisky, including such brands as 15-year-old Bowmore Darkest, Copper Dog, Monkey Shoulder and Glenfiddich, so you can “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.
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. Buy the Advent biscuit tin and cloth calendar in combination. In recent years, Susie Watson and Sophie Conran have created designs to delight.
libertylondon.com: Liberty’s stunning calendar, housed in a beautiful Liberty London box, is an annual best-seller, with each drawer revealing a beauty treat hand-picked from Liberty’s favourite brands, including the likes of Hourglass, Byredo and Diptyque. The store’s facade is captured in its wintery glory, with Liberty print decorating the inside. The products are worth around three times the retail price of the calendar. Little wonder it flies out of the iconic London store.
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. There are other stunning wooden calendars with other Christmas designs, plus a beauty calendar. 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, available for pre-order from selfridges.com from October.
selfridges.com – The luxury calendars at Selfridges traditionally sell out fast. They are available exclusively at Selfridges from late-September. You have been warned.
snafflingpig.co.uk – the Advent calendar that’s A3 sized and full of pork scratchings encourages a “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.
thewhitecompany.com: The limited edition Advent calendar from The White Company is back from October, filled with 24 luxurious treats. The packaging is, as always, classically and stylishly ‘White Company’ chic.
nespresso.com: Coffee lovers take note. Nespresso launched its first Advent calendar in 2019 to count you down to Christmas with a selection of flavoursome blends. Unusually, it came cube-shaped. The calendar included blends from Nespresso’s festive collection.
Beauty Advent Calendars
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. Here’s a selection of our favourites.
Jo Malone; Kiehl’s; Liberty; Charlotte Tilbury; ASOS; Decléor; Harrods; Elemis; L’Occitane; Clinique; Morris & Co; Liz Earle; Net-A-Porter; Rituals