People have been celebrating advent, the days leading up to Christmas, since the 4th century AD. It was originally a time for new Christian converts to prepare for baptism, and, strictly speaking, takes place for four weeks, beginning on the Sunday closest to November 30th. These days, however, we usually celebrate advent from 1st December through to Christmas Eve, and it is less associated with baptisms and more a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and looking forward to the fun and festivities of Christmas Day.
The tradition of counting down the days to Christmas began in the mid 19th century, when German Lutherans would make chalk marks on their doors or light a candle for each day of the advent period. It was also in Germany that the first printed advent calendars were created, with Gerhard Lang usually credited with producing the first commercially available calendars in 1900.
The popularity of advent calendars spread throughout the western world, and they have always been a particular favourite of children, who look forward eagerly to their daily treat of a cute picture, a small toy or a chocolate. In recent years, however, there has been an explosion of luxury advent calendars that offer treats to tempt the adults as well.
Foodies have been particularly well-served, with advent calendars offering a wide variety of edible (and of course, drinkable) treats for festive food fans, and this year the selection is better than ever. So if you want to buy a food-loving friend an early Christmas present, or just to treat yourself, take a look at our guide to the best the season has to offer.
Fortnum's Feasting Advent Calendar
A name synonymous with gourmet food, London department store Fortnum and Mason’s advent calendar is everything you would expect from the home of the luxury Christmas hamper, and that includes the hefty price tag. At an eye-watering £200, it's certainly not cheap, but if money isn’t a problem, this really is the ultimate in foodie opulence.
Fortnum’s Feasting Advent Calendar includes 25 Christmas-themed treats, so you have a little something extra to open on Christmas Day, too. Highlights include the Marc de Champagne chocolate truffles, some pistachio and clotted cream biscuits, a Christmas tea blend, a fig preserve, and even a quarter bottle of champagne.
Artisan Biscuit Advent Calendar
If your idea of heaven is curling up in your favourite chair with a hot drink and a delicious cookie to nibble on, then this is the advent calendar for you. The Artisan Biscuit Advent Calendar, from edible gift company the Sweet Reason Company, offers 25 handmade, organic biscuits, all beautifully iced and decorated with festive themes. There are Christmas trees, snowmen, cute reindeer faces and plenty of other fun designs for you to enjoy. The biscuits come in an attractive Christmas box, but they’re not covered by doors, so you might have to use some willpower to save them for the intended day.
Artisan Brownie Advent Calendar
Another festive offering from the Sweet Reason Company, the Artisan Brownie Advent Calendar contains individually wrapped chocolate brownies in a range of exciting flavours, including mince pie, Baileys, mojito, honeycomb, salted caramel, chocolate orange, coconut, Oreo and peanut butter, plus some millionaire's shortbread, a flapjack and some fruit cake. There’s even a gluten-free version, which has its own range of flavours, including Baileys, Nutella, salted caramel, and chocolate orange.
Joe & Seph's Popcorn Advent Calendar
If you’re looking for some tasty snacks to enjoy while watching a few of your favourite Christmas movies, then look no further than this calendar from purveyors of gourmet popcorn, Joe and Seph’s. Popcorn has come a long way from the days of choosing between sweet or salted, and Joe and Seph’s Popcorn Advent Calendar includes 24 bags and 19 different flavours of award-winning popcorn, including salted caramel, tiramisu, milk chocolate and cinnamon custard roll.
Gourmet Marshmallow Advent Calendar
If you’re looking for a quirky but affordable foodie advent calendar, the Gourmet Marshmallow Advent Calendar from Naked Marshmallow is just the thing. There are 25 marshmallows in all, with 13 different flavours including strawberry cream, candy floss, cinnamon churro and bubblegum, as well as something extra-special on Christmas Day. For a little extra, they’ll even throw in a cute marshmallow toasting kit for you to cook them over.
Advent Calendar with Gourmet Chilli Powders
The perfect gift for the chilli connoisseur in your life, this ho-ho-hot chilli advent calendar from Marvling Bros has a different chilli to discover every day. With fiery favourites including the Ghost pepper and the Carolina Reaper, it’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you like spicy food, it’s a great way to discover the chillies of the world. There are even recipe ideas or hints to go with each chilli to help you make the most of your chilli collection.
24 Days of Tea
A real treat for tea-lovers, the much-anticipated advent calendar from Canadian tea emporium DAVIDsTEA includes 24 different teas in individual sachets. A mixture of old favourites, sneak previews, limited editions and exclusive blends, this festive tea collection includes flavours like Roasted Chestnut, Peppermint Amour, Fireside Mocha and Santa’s Secret. This year there are a total of three advent calendars on offer, so you also have the option of a matcha calendar or a caffeine-free calendar.
Other Advent calendars
In addition to gourmet food calendars, there are also several boozy calendars on the market, including wine advent calendars and whiskey advent calendars, as well as beer, gin and cider calendars. And it’s not all about eating and drinking, either - many toy companies and TV shows now have official merchandise advent calendars, while beauty companies offer advent calendars containing toiletries and cosmetics. There are gardeners’ advent calendars containing seeds, and even an advent calendar full of dog treats for your canine companion. With so much variety available, it really does seem like there’s an advent calendar for everyone.