Advent Calendars: love ’em or hate ’em?

Every year my children receive chocolate advent calendars from their generous grandparents. However this year I was able to buy paper calendars for the girls from Oxfam – which received a mixed response 😦
I personally believe that traditional paper calendars are better than chocolate ones – but am I being mean, and a little old fashioned?
These are my thoughts on why they are better:
1. A paper advent calendar gets better day by day: each door reveals a new picture and by the end of advent you have a joyous Christmas scene.
2. However by 24 December chocolate calendars are a mess of torn cardboard, ripped foil and plastic packaging: hardly festive!
3. Why do multi national confectionary companies (such as Kraft) get to tell us how to celebrate advent? And don’t get me started on the £95 L’Oréal advent calendar, or the heavily criticised £50 one created by Zoella.
4. At the end of the day, traditional calendars can be recycled. However the mess that is left behind by the chocolate ones makes them difficult to recycle, only adding to the 736,571 tonnes of rubbish that is created each Christmas.
5. There is enough over consumption and debt generated at this time of year anyway. Why not buy a simple charity calendar and enjoy the mindful task of opening a door each day to reveal a picture, rather than wolfing down chocolate (which doesn’t even taste that great!)
What are your thoughts on advent calendars?
Paper or chocolate?
Or do you own a perpetual calendar: one that can be used again and again? Some families also take part in ‘reverse advent calendars’: donating an item a day to a local foodbank.
I really enjoy reading the ideas and projects from New Dream, a not for profit organisation which is working to challenge American perceptions of consumption and consumerism. They produce an online advent calendar here, filled with ways you can step off the consumption conveyor belt at this time of year.
I really recommend reading their website and looking at some of the ideas they have to ‘Simplify the Holidays’.

12 thoughts on “Advent Calendars: love ’em or hate ’em?

  1. stellamaryg says:

    I agree with you 100%. I am in my mid-sixties and I remember the excitement I felt as a child when 1st December came and I was able to open the first door on my advent calendar. To me, the little pictures were magical and really summed up the true meaning of Christmas. Life was much simpler then!

    These modern ones are simply crass. The plastic packaging is a nightmare and the chocolate is awful. They have everything to do with modern consumerism and little to do with the Christmas I believe in.

    I buy a traditional card one from Oxfam for my young grandson and I also buy one for myself. I still feel the old magic and I know that my grandson loves his too.

    I will take a look at Simplify the Holidays.

    Back in 2015 A Rocha did one online to co-inside with the Paris Climate talks. It can still be accessed via

    • Thank you for your lovely comment! I had a look at the online calendar – really interesting. I feel sad – and also cross with myself – that my girls had such an adverse reaction to the calendars I bought them (my eldest hasn’t even opened hers because there is no chocolate!). How did I let it happen that well meaning relatives created this expectation that the only advent calendars are chocolate ones? Lovely to know there are grandparents like yourself who stick to the traditional ones.

  2. My family had a paper calendar when I was growing up – the same one every year – and I always looked forward to getting it out at the start of December. I didn’t know about the chocolate calendars until I was an adult, and I’ve never quite understood their popularity.

  3. I have just had a quick look at the New Dream website. Great to see such an organisation.

    My daughter wants her ears pierced for Christmas, which in itself isn’t going to create clutter and an excess of packaging.

  4. Nadine says:

    My opinion of advent calendars is torn between adult me and the kid me I remember. They were awfully exciting in childhood, not just the little chocolate, but looking at the pictures and colours too. As a zero waste journeying adult I have to say…blah! So much waste! Kids don’t need chocolate every day. I have seen some beautiful fabric ones or other diy versions in which you can decide what to put in each pocket or baggy or whatever style you chose…could be candy, could be some other food item or something else entirely. I understand the dilemma between giving the kids a nice surprise like we experienced back in the day, but I wish for my daughter, once she’s older, that she doesn’t weigh gifts and treats that heavily. I would probably get create with an advent calendar and make one myself and what to put in it…well..I’ve got at least two years to figure that out…

    • A perpetual calendar is a lovely idea – I like the wooden ones (usually trains) as well as the fabric ones. You could always vary what’s inside, from year to year. My children aren’t usually too demanding at Christmas, but their reaction to the paper advent calendars has really shocked me and I’m sad that they now associate advent with chocolate tat 😦

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