Unique Advent Calendars: Getting Creative with Countdowns

Advent calendars are one of the most cherished Christmas traditions for many families. But many of today’s Advent calendars bear little resemblance to the supermarket chocolate boxes of our childhood.

Now, you can buy fancy gourmet chocolate Advent calendars. Super-sized chocolate Advent calendars. Toy Advent calendars. Makeup Advent calendars. Heck, there are even super luxury Advent calendars that cost thousands of dollars and include designer goods for adults.

Advent calendars have turned into their own mini-industry. Adults love them just as much as their kids. (Hey, we were the kids who looked forward to those cardboard-tasting chocolate calendars back in the day—why shouldn’t we deserve something better?)

With so many Advent calendars on the market today, how can you choose which one to get? Read on for the most unique advent calendars for adults and kids.

Please note: this post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. I only recommend products that I use myself and truly recommend. Please read my disclaimer for full info.

History of Advent Calendars

The season of Advent in the Christian calendar marks a period of preparation and anticipation for the coming of Christ. Advent traditionally begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. 

Although Advent actually begins on a different day each year, secular observation of Advent—and Advent Calendars—typically begins on December 1. 

Advent calendars date back to the 1800s, when German Protestants counted down to Christmas by lighting candles, drawing marks on the wall, or eventually, hanging devotional images each day of Advent. 

Gerhard Lang is credited with creating the modern Advent calendar in the 1920s. While others had begun using printed calendars to mark Advent, he added the iconic doors that are ubiquitous today.It wasn’t until the 1950s that chocolate was finally added to calendars—marking the beginning of the Advent calendars we all know and love. Cadbury began mass-producing them in the 1970s, and a phenomenon was born.

Why do people love Advent calendars so much?

So how did something that began as a deeply religious activity turn into a treat craved by everyone from young children to famous influencers? 

The answer may be simple. People love surprises! 

Advent calendars add a tiny dose of mystery to our Decembers. Every day, you open your Advent calendar, not quite sure of what you’ll get.

Whether the mystery is if you’ll get the reindeer or snowman-shaped chocolate, or a flattering lipstick or bold eyeshadow, the sense of anticipation remains the same. 

Each day, you get to open a mini gift and experience the joy of the unknown.

For adults, Advent calendars also provide a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Instead of stressing about buying presents and figuring out your Christmas Eve menu, you get to take a few moments to yourself, rekindling the fun of your childhood.

Just as cliffhangers create a desire to keep watching your favorite show, the suspense of Advent calendars keeps you wanting to come back for more. No matter how small the prize, the unknown keeps you craving it.

Types of Advent Calendars

A wooden box with 25 handwritten dark wooden cubes numbered 1 to 25. Adventskalender is written in red with red stars on the open lid.

Chocolate Advent Calendars

Chocolate Advent calendars are the most traditional. But you’re no longer bound by cheap, fake chocolate shapes. High-end chocolate Advent calendars are perfect for both your kids and you.

Gourmet Food and Beverage Advent Calendars

There are any number of gourmet food options on the market now. From fancy jams to teas to cookies and even wine, you can get a little culinary surprise every day of Advent with today’s food offerings.

Beauty Advent Calendars

Beauty Advent calendars are growing in popularity among teen girls and adult women. Luxury beauty brands may offer expensive skincare options, while more affordable drugstore brands offer fun makeup calendars perfect for tweens and teens.

Activity Advent Calendars

A growing category of Advent calendars offers fun activities for the first 24 days of December. Instead of just getting a product, you or your child can play a game or complete a craft each day!

Luxury Advent Calendars

Luxury Advent calendars are a widening trend that require a real splurge. From high-end beauty brand La Mer’s $500 skincare Advent calendar, to Swarovski’s $1,300 Disney calendar, to Ingle & Rhode’s £25,000 jewelry calendar, there are options for anyone willing to splash out the cash.

Toy Advent Calendars

Of course, toys are a popular option for children’s Advent calendars. Beloved toy brands like Lego, Hot Wheels, and Nintendo all offer fun options. You can even find your kids’ favorite characters and shows like Bluey, Paw Patrol, and Disney Princesses in Advent calendar form.

Pet Advent Calendars

Yes, you can even get Advent calendars for your pets nowadays.Purina offers a “gourmet” Fancy Feast Advent Calendar for cats, while you can get your dog an Advent calendar with a different treat each day. Just make sure not to mix up your pet’s calendar with your kid’s! 

Best Activity Advent Calendars for Children

Why settle for Advent Calendars with stuff, when you can give experiences instead? Activity Advent Calendars will keep your kids busy during the busiest time of the year, while helping them create memories that will last a lifetime. That’s better than any physical gift they could receive!

The Printable Pair Activity Advent Calendar

With our Advent Calendar Activity Bundle, your kids will get to have fun every day of December leading up to Christmas. The downloadable and printable bundle includes activities like word games, mazes, connect-the-dots, and much more! Keep your kiddos guessing throughout December with this affordable and entertaining option.

Advent Calendar 24 Activity Bundle +bonus Christmas Day activity - Instant Download

National Geographic Gemstone Advent Calendar

What’s better than an educational gift? This Advent calendar surprises your kids with a different gemstone each day, helping them learn all about the different stones. It even comes with jewelry settings to make jewelry out of the stones, making this a great calendar to keep your kids busy throughout the month. 

LEGO Marvel Avenger Advent Calendar

LEGO is an iconic brand—and their Advent calendars are sure to be a hit with any kid or kid at heart. This Marvel Avenger calendar includes superhero minifigures, mini-builds, and accessories that will make your children run to their calendar each morning to see what they can make each day!

Best Chocolate Advent Calendars

What’s December without a chocolate Advent calendar? These elevated calendars are perfect both for kids with a sweet tooth and moms who are looking for a little indulgence this holiday season.

Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate Pop-up Advent Calendar

This indulgent chocolate calendar is perfect for adults who are looking for an elevated experience. With exquisite Neuhaus chocolate behind each door, it’s the perfect treat for stressed-out parents looking for a brief respite from Christmas shopping.

Galaxy Advent Calendar

The smooth, classic Galaxy chocolate in this Advent calendar will take you right back to childhood. The indulgent milk chocolate figures are perfect for parents or children looking for high-quality chocolate in a traditional setup—without a steep price tag.

Lindt Milk Chocolate Advent Calendar

Lindt’s luxurious chocolate fills a high-end calendar at a relatively affordable price point. It’s the perfect daily treat for any chocolate lover.

Best Advent Calendars for Adults

Don’t leave all the fun to your kids! These grown-up advent calendars are the perfect antidote to holiday stress. Step away from the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and meal planning and treat yourself to a fun surprise each day of December.

Pukka Herbal Tea Advent Calendar

My personal favorite Advent calendar, the Pukka tea calendar is perfect for chilly December nights. With a different organic tea blend each day, you can stay warm all season long. This is the fourth year in a row I’ve gotten one of these calendars for myself, and I can’t wait for the surprise of which tea I’ll get to drink each day!

Gourmet Licorice Advent Calendar

Is chocolate too unsophisticated for your refined tastes? Then maybe this Danish LAKRIDS BY BÜLOW gourmet Licorice Advent calendar is more your style. With different flavors, sustainable packaging, and impeccable attention to details, this Advent calendar is perfect for the gourmand in your life.

The Body Shop Advent Calendar

The Body Shop is known for high-quality, luxurious skin and hair care. This Advent calendar is filled with some of their cult-favorite products, making it perfect for some holiday self-care surprises!

The Body Shop Advent calendar daily items are shown with a bright red box.

Advent calendars continue to evolve. While lighting candles remains an Advent ritual to this day, today’s Advent calendars would be unrecognizable to the observant families who started the tradition. However, with the stressors and pressures of the holiday season, who couldn’t use a little surprise every day? Advent calendars offer a daily treat that can bring true joy to your holiday celebrations.

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