The twinkly lights might be strung up as soon as Halloween is over, the radio might start playing festive classics in mid-autumn and, some people have been saving for presents since summer – but the true start of Christmas celebrations come on the first day of December, when the countdown begins in the form of advent calendars.
We think the best ones are wooden. Why? Firstly, almost all of them look cute and become part of the Christmas decorations.
Secondly, you can use them year after year. This leads onto the third reason – they are eco-friendly.
And lastly, in many cases parents can choose the fillings – from sweets to little trinkets, the choice is yours.
We were looking for calendars which looked fun and magical – and are reusable. We also included options which didn’t involve food or treats of any kind, and others which had deep boxes or slots for multiple goodies.
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Pushka Home Christmas tree advent calendar: £45, Pushka Home
We love the unique design here – a simple wooden structure in the shape of a Christmas tree, on which to hang 24 individually numbered hessian sacks, waiting to be filled with whatever treats you choose. There is an (optional) personalised sack for Christmas Day which is a little bigger. You can also choose from a variety of different colours for the sacks – we plumped for the glittery red. There is a little bit of assembly required but nothing two minutes and the tiniest bit of patience can’t handle.
Yumbles vegan personalised advent calendar: £65, Yumbles
More than half a million (and counting) people are vegan in the UK – and this charming little advent house is created with those in mind. Made from wood, covered in glittery “snow”, personalised and with a light up glow feature to boot, this design certainly looks the part. The chocolates by Free From Queen are included and taste delicious. Sometimes health-type foods are thought to sacrifice taste but we can honestly say that these dark chocolate offerings are a proper treat. We love how each is moulded into a festive shape from wreaths to bells.
Matalan gingerbread house advent calendar: £22, Matalan
Tall (36.5cm) and with a solid base, this house-themed calendar comprised of deep “window” drawers is totally charming – complete with gingerbread man and a little post-box (presumably stuffed with Santa’s letters). We loved the realistic snowflakes and that the insides of the drawers were painted neatly – this level of detail showed fantastic value for money.
Jojo Maman Bebe advent calendar house: £16, Jojo Maman Bebe
This is much bigger than it appears in images – and each day is a large box tray that can fit an awful lot in – ideal for families with multiple children. It’s not actually made of wood, but high quality cardboard that has been beautifully illustrated and will definitely stand the test of time, and makes it a really affordable option.
Petit Collage Merry Christmas 3D puzzle advent calendar: £17.95, Hurn & Hurn
Made from recycled materials and decorated with bright vegetable inks, this calendar comes bursting with fun and eco-friendly credentials alike. The packaging, once opened, will fold down to create a platform on which your little one’s festive scene will be built up piecemeal during the countdown to Christmas. Behind each of the 24 doors are two shapes which can be easily slotted together to form a miniature figurine – from carol singers to candy canes – for the display. While the doors are attached via perforated joins that obviously cannot be resealed, the figures will last forever and become part of every Christmas.
Melissa & Doug Advent Calendar: £14.99, John Lewis & Partners
Perfect for families who want to avoid chocolates and sweets, this colourful wooden tree is wonderfully festive. The magnetic baubles live in the box at the base of the tree and are added each day up until the 25th – when the big star can be placed at very top and celebrations begin.
Great Little Trading Co woodland advent calendar: £45, Great Little Trading Co
This is sturdy and solid – you can imagine it lasting for years without showing any sign of wear and tear. The paintwork is crisp and neat, and the little doors open and shut smoothly. We love the painted festive figurines attached firmly to the top – and the fact its traditional festive colours which will become a vital part of your annual decorations. You’ll add your own treats, but in addition there is a little message behind each door showing clearly how many days there are until Christmas.
Meri Meri wooden advent calendar: £34, Meri Meri
This rustic winter wonderland is packaged inside a diminutive but beautifully illustrated box, complete with a leather handle. The box opens rather like a suitcase and inside are the 24 doors of advent. While the actual doors cannot be resealed the wooden characters and case are forever. This is about as far from garish as one could hope to get.
Create Gift Love wooden personalised advent calendar: £32, Create Gift Love
This gorgeously walnut woof crafted calendar in the shape of a house contains a rustic hessian bag and a peg which is moved to every different date of advent, each of which is shaped like a window. The bag’s contents aren’t included, giving you the freedom to make your own choice. This can also be personalised, and will last for many Christmases to come.
Fortnum & Mason snowy house advent calendar: £90, Fortnum & Mason
This is a large and solid structure with old-fashioned, charming illustrations depicting the façade of a house during the festive period. The handles to each door or window are all “pop out” objects including golden bells, red robins and even a little cat peering through the window. The doors open smoothly – the level of craftsmanship here is high – and the space behind each door is deep and dark, upping the surprise element. Multiple gifts and treats can fit into each space. On the back is even a little presentation label for the recipient.
Lisa Angel advent train: £28, Lisa Angel
This is such a playful twist on traditional advent calendars, particularly for budding infant train spotters. Comprised of a train plus two carriages, this locomotive contains 24 drawers in total, 12 in each carriage (six on either side) each ready to be filled with precious festive cargo. It is reusable and can be personalised. It’s important to note that this is very much an ornament rather than a toy – the wheels don’t turn.
The verdict: Wooden advent calendars
For originality, we’d have to say the Pushka Home Christmas tree calendar must be our winner – the choice of colours for the sacks and the option to personalise make this extra special. But f you want a calendar with non-edible built-in fun the Meri Meri wooden advent calendar is just so elegant – and the contents can be kept for years to come.
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