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Will you be buying an alternative advent calendar this year?

Advent calendars

December is nearly upon us and so some of you will be opening the first door of your advent calendar this week. But what will you find behind it?

A taster of craft beer? A pork scratching? Some luxury beauty products? Yes, Christmas 2017 is clearly the year of the alternative advent calendar.

Advent calendars

As a child, the closest most of my friends and I got to an advent calendar was if we followed the instructions on Blue Peter and made our own out of old Christmas cards.

In fairness, some would have an old one that was brought down from the loft year on year. The doors just about still hanging on and almost certainly revealing the Christmassy scene behind.

Sometime in the early 1990s, when my nephew was on the scene, chocolate-filled calendars appeared in supermarkets. And as various relatives bought him one (and did so every year until he left for university), he was guaranteed a pre-breakfast chocolate treat for 24 days on the trot.

Christmas shopping in Topshop in the late Noughties, I was drawn to a box containing 24 windows and each one stuffed with jewellery. Struck by how novel it was, I racked my brains as to who I could buy it for, before realising that it would be 25 days out of date by the time Christmas arrived.

Event of advent

Since then, I’ve noticed various permutations on the idea. There have been advent calendars for beer/gin/prosecco/whisky lovers, featuring 24 miniature cans or bottles, and those stuffed with two dozen clothing accessories for fashionistas who frequent high-street stores.

But this year, alternative advent calendars seem to be everywhere. And just like festive-themed food, these advent calendars are getting ever more inventive.

Asda is doing an advent calendar for cheese lovers; Greggs is selling one stuffed with tokens you can swap for baked goods; John Lewis has one for fans of pork scratchings and Selfridges offers one filled with mince pies.

There are even advent calendars for pets.

And if you like your beauty products you’re really spoilt for choice, with seemingly every brand and chain store you can think of jumping on this advent calendar craze.

Unwanted gifts

Given that the cost of some of the more high-end luxury calendars can run into three figures, are they actually worth buying?

Many who bought YouTube sensation Zoella’s 12 days of Christmas advent calendar didn’t think so. The vlogger’s collaboration with Boots was on sale for £50 but was found to contain about only £20 worth of goods – leaving many feeling understandably ripped off.

A separate investigation found that chocolate-filled calendars selling for £2 can contain as little as 70p worth of chocolate… Ebenezer Scrooge springs to mind.

Do you have an advent calendar to count down Christmas? Have you bought an alternative one this year? Or have you noticed any particularly extravagant or unusual ones for sale? Do you like them or do you think they’re totally unnecessary?


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Advent calenders are one of the few things retailers and manufacturers can sell at full price. I remember them from when I was a little kipper, when they were all themed on the traditional Xmas story in the New Testament. But now there’s a £10,000 one, with drams of rare whiskies inside, which isn’t quite in the original spirit… 🙂

Unlike Xmas itself, Advent is a purely Christian tradition, so it’s tricky when the current batch of offerings contain fragrances other than Myrrh and cost a great deal more.

Bob Sage says:
3 December 2017

At £10 grand a go, I hope it is original spirit!

One of my sons bought a wooden-drawer advent calendar – empty – but then filled each one with a small gift for his partner. Several were free – from visiting the cosmetics counters of different brands in a department store and being given samples.

Like any form of present, these calendars are what we choose them to be and it is surely up to individuals to decide how to treat their loved ones? But, like Easter eggs, the value is in the thought, not the content.

What a great idea, Malcolm. That sounds like far better value than some of the advent calendars on sale.

We have an advent calendar with wooden drawers too! It’s shaped like Father Christmas on his sleigh and I fill the drawers with little sweets and the odd (cheap) gift. My daughters sing jingle bells every day when we get it down from the shelf (it has bells on it) and take it in turns to open the drawers and there are always two things in there so they have one each. Then they say thank you to Santa before it goes back up on the shelf! It’s a lovely Christmas tradition in our house now – much more memorable than a disposable chocolate one.

Perhaps you need a box of these to fill, Ian 🎄

🙂 It did become, eventually, a search to find the largest kit crackers, but the kids did love pulling them. Great times. We’re just waiting for the grandchildren to start arriving.

Last night I spotted a cereal advent calendar in the supermarket with those miniature boxes of cereal. What next? Another example of too much unnecessary packaging at Christmas!

I went away for Christmas and the New Year. When I arrived home, there was a card about a failed delivery and several reminders on the answering machine. It turned out that I had been sent a box of 24 small bottles of beer – a sort of alcoholic advent calendar. I don’t mind a glass of decent real ale in a pub with friends but it will probably take me until next Christmas to work my way through 24 bottles of what looks like mainly tasteless foreign lager. 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺

Probably cost more to post than it was worth. I can’t even think of an alternative household application for such a liquid. Probably the grade that I used to call throwing lager.

I don’t know about the cost but I don’t have much time for beer from foreign countries, Belgium being a notable exception. I shared a couple of bottles with a friend yesterday evening and neither of us were impressed.

One of the bottles is named TRUMP ‘President of the Divided States of America’, which is described as and ‘Imperial Mexican lager’, abc 7.2%: http://www.pravda.beer/en/shop/trump-beer/ I hesitate to open the bottle.

Slug pub? Just don’t leave it very long as it soon stinks. 🤢

If it hasn’t got a worm in it, it’s not genuine.

Do worms like slug pubs? I only tried it once and disposing of it nearly made me puke. It didn’t smell until I chucked it on the garden and even hosing it down, the area stank for weeks.

I have no idea, Alfa. I was referring to certain Mexican liquors that actually contain a worm as one of the ingredients. I tend to avoid all things Mexican myself so I haven’t done a taste test.

Beer seems to degenerate into a childish game when looking at some of the names given to evil brews https://www.thrillist.com/vice/weird-and-funny-beer-names.

Some “foreign” beers are in fact brewed in the UK. I suppose there is nothing wrong if they use an identical recipe, but I would have thought water was the main determinant of authenticity. Perhaps ours slightly improves them.

I am not a beer drinker but do find a bottle of chilled lager (it hides the lack of flavour) on a hot day refreshing. Although a cup of tea is probably better.

The use of distinctive and silly names is marketing, but has encouraged people to think about what they are drinking and maybe look at alternatives to the mass marketed brands. With the introduction of ‘craft beers’ there seems to be a resurgence in thinking up new names.

It makes good environmental sense to brew beer in the UK and some pubs sell mainly regional beers. Differences in water need not be a factor because it is easy to condition water to achieve a consistent composition, making it easier to produce a beer of uniform quality. ‘Burtonisation’ is a well known example of treating water used in brewing.