The best – and worst – of advent calendars

I sometimes wonder if advent calendars have taken things a hair too far.

Back in my day, advent calendars were made of paper and had a simple door to open each day leading up to Christmas. Behind each door was a tiny picture, but there was no actual, tangible prize.

If you were VERY lucky, a grandparent might give you one of those German advent calendars with a tiny piece of chocolate behind each door. But that was as good as it got back in the 70s and 80s.

Advent calendars date back to the early 1900s and originated as a festive way to count down the 24 days before Christmas. I think they were also meant to teach kids patience, maybe? I don’t know. In my case, it clearly didn’t work.

Today, advent calendars are loaded with loot and have literally just become a way to get 24 small gifts leading up to the day when you get all the big gifts. If you’re on board with that idea, then I have good news: there are some crazy good advent calendars out there.

You just have to be careful, because there are some bad ones, too. Here’s a rundown of the very best and worst of advent calendars.

  • The gold standard: chocolate advent calendars. I know that Godiva had one, which I haven’t tried. My favorite chocolate-maker, See’s Candies, also puts out a delicious advent calendar. But this year, we were very pleased with our choice of the Anthony Thomas chocolate advent calendar. It was the classic with the little foil-wrapped chocolate presents – you can’t go wrong. Who can possibly wait for the 24th to eat the last one? We sure didn’t.
  • Best choice for young kiddos: Playmobil advent calendars. I’ve written before about how much we loved the Playmobil advent calendars when Xage was younger. Honestly, even as an adult, I found the Playmobil sets so much fun! Each day, you get another little animal or item that by the end add up to an entire play scene. We kept our Playmobil advent calendars for years and played with them every holiday season. They are fun for so much more than just the first 24 days.
  • Fun for tweens: Funko advent calendars. A few years back in our peak Harry Potter fandom era – and before J.K. Rowling ruined it for everyone by being trans-phobic – I splurged on the Funko Harry Potter advent calendar. It was a hoot and we loved opening the doors each day to find a new favorite HP character. Whatever your fandom, Funko probably makes an advent calendar to suit you. They are fun if you like collecting characters – but chances are, you’ll only end up loving a handful of them.
  • Great for adults: boozey advent calendars. I’ve seen rave reviews about the mini-bottle Jim Bean whiskey 12 days of Christmas calendar and I suppose if one was a whiskey fan and loved those little bottles, it would be pretty cool. This list has loads more wine and booze-laden advent calendars for the 21+ set assuming, of course, you’re into that sort of thing. Responsible advent-ing, everyone.
  • The saddest, worst and scammiest “healing crystals” advent calendar. This past fall, many crystal lovers were targeted with Facebook and Instagram ads for the “National Geographic” healing crystals advent calendar. It was clearly a direct-from-China item and I knew there was a risk that it would be a scam, but I fell for it nonetheless – as did many others, per the complaints available online now. Lo and behold, when the package arrived, it was revealed it to be full of gravel from someone’s back yard and a few random glass pieces. A total rip-off. I am sorry to anyone who shelled out $25-30 for it like I did! You live and you learn, I guess. Oh, and there are still dozens of these exact sets available on Amazon, so buyer beware.

Bottom line, get your advent calendar from trusted brands and manufacturers, or else you could fall victim to a scam.

Got any stories about other exceptionally good or bad advent calendars? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or over on Facebook or Instagram.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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