Best non-chocolate advent calendars
Kick the festive season off in style with an alternative advent calendar that ticks all your boxes
A good advent calendar can spark a little Christmas spirit in even the biggest grinches. This year there are so many creative and fun calendars to choose from that getting a standard chocolate one seems like a wasted opportunity. Whether you fancy beautiful bathroom products, novelty teas or just a pretty picture that opens every day, there’s an alternative advent calendar out there for you.
Planning your perfect Christmas? Don't miss our features on the best eco-friendly Christmas decorations for a sustainable season, Britain's best Christmas markets and our Christmas tree guide: how to choose the perfect tree, plus homemade decoration ideas.
In the meantime, however, here is our pick of the best alternative advent calendars.
Best non-chocolate advent calendars
Snow Globe Advent calendar by Alice Melvin
Designed by artist Alice Melvin, this sweet ornithological advent calendar comes flatpacked as two double-sided pieces that slot together to create a 3D ‘snow globe’. With windows spread across all four surfaces of the cardboard globe, you can unveil the name of a new bird – including a robin, waxwing and chiffchaff – every day until December 24.
Alice Melvin Snow Globe Advent Calendar, £10.95
Emily Sutton’s Toy Shop Advent Calendar
Peek inside this enticing old-fashioned 3D toy shop for a different heart-warming scene every day. Extra characters – a Christmas tree, snowman and sledgers – can be stood up outside the shop to create a delightful snowy scene. A beautifully illustrated calendar that can be used for years to come.
Emily Sutton's Toy Shop Advent Calendar, £10.95
Snowtime White Wooden LED Light Up Christmas Xmas Advent Calendar Scene
Bring an extra touch of class to your mantelpiece or tabletop this December with this hand-painted set of advent drawers, topped with a wooden cut-out of a festive village scene. The LED lights bring a magical feel to the church and carol singers, while the unimposing little white drawers can be filled with your choice of treat – perhaps a wildlife-themed pin, a miniature hand cream, or a cheeky chocolate after all? Refillable advent calendars are one of the best ways to start the magic early, if you can resist opening the drawers until the right date.
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Roger la Borde Christmas Conifer advent calendar
Preserve a little simplicity this Christmas with an old-fashioned window advent calendar. This charming scene created by artist Katie Vernon for Roger la Borde is one of our favourites, with a charming little picture underneath each flap.
Bird & Blend Tea advent calendar
Bring some variety to your daily brew with this advent calendar by independent brand Bird & Blend – the Willy Wonkas of the tea world. There are two teabags to enjoy each day with innovative flavours such as Chocolate Digestive Tea, Snowball, Rhubarb & Custard and Salted Caramel Lebkutchen. Don’t drink caffeine? There's a decaf version as well.
- Buy now from Bird & Blend (RRP £32)
Snaffling Pig Co. Pork Crackling advent calendar
Snaffling Pig’s hugely popular pork crackling advent calendar features six different flavours, including Marvellous Maple, Low & Slow BBQ and Black Pepper. British-made, the calendars contain RSPCA-approved pork and, new for 2022, are completely free of plastic as well as being fully recyclable. There’s also a version with beer pairings if you want to start the festive boozing from day 1 of December.
Lush advent calendar
Enjoy a month-long programme of home spa treatments with a Lush advent calendar, which includes such treats as a ‘golden pudding’ bath bomb, ‘gingerbread house’ bubble bar, ‘elf shake’ shower gel and ‘sleeping’ body lotion. At £185, you may have to share it to justify it – or just gift yourself an early Christmas present to make December one enjoyable build up.
- Buy now from Lush (RRP £185)
Usborne Advent Calendar Book Collection
Usborne stories are a staple of childhood for modern kids, and instantly recognisable. This collection of 24 classic and modern tales has been put together to inspire little would-be readers throughout the month of December – and what could be more exciting at bedtime than opening the window to see which book you'll be reading tonight? A surefire hit with kids and parents for the festive season when little minds need to be calmed.
The Make Arcade Craftvent Calendar
This craft-advent (‘craftvent’) calendar is made by a small Salisbury studio and is made up of 24 individual felting craft projects for your Christmas tree, each in its own colourful box. The Make Arcade doesn’t list all the final designs, to retain the element of surprise throughout the month. Of course, if you don’t fancy adding a craft marathon to your daily December commitments, why not save up a few decorations to make over a festive drink with friends?
- Buy now from The Make Arcade (RRP from £70)
toucanBox advent calendar
We love this crafty calendar for younger children. Comprising a mix of books, crafts, recipes and games, there are 24 surprises to keep children aged 2-8 entertained in the run-up to the big day. Parents can relax, too, as there is a useful 'Grown Ups Guide' with a schedule describing what each box includes, so you can make sure you're well rested and on top of the washing-up before your child starts pulling out mixing bowls to make reindeer gingerbread in the middle of the floor.
- Buy now from toucanBox (RRP £35)
Our colleagues over on Gathered have a range of great step-by-step guides for making your own DIY advent calendar kits and ideas.
Wentworth Puzzles Santa’s workshop – advent calendar puzzle
Wentworth puzzles are known for their exquisite laser-cut wooden jigsaw puzzles for adults, so it’s wonderful to see them create this jigsaw puzzle/3D advent calendar for children. Kids will love piecing together the jigsaw, with its irregular pieces and lovely seasonal shapes, before adding the stand-up characters on each day of the month. The result is a jolly scene from Santa’s workshop, which any child (and adult) will enjoy completing.
- Buy now from Wentworth Puzzles (RRP £25)
Roger la Borde Hollow Tree Pop & Slot 3D advent calendar
This rather magical pop-and-slot advent calendar brings together all the animals of the forest for a nighttime meeting. The pieces come separately and pop out of a cardboard sheet, so children and grown-ups can enjoy slowly building the display over the month of December.
Lily's Kitchen advent calendars for cats and dogs
Are you a dog or cat 'person'? Whichever you love most, you can include them in the festivities this year by giving them their own advent calendar. The folks at Lily's Kitchen have created one for dogs and one for cats, made with herbs, botanicals and natural ingredients, with lovely illustrations that you'll enjoy looking at for a month.
- Buy now for cats from Lily's Kitchen (RRP £12)
- Buy now for dogs from Lily's kitchen (RRP £12)
Personalised colouring canvas advent calendar
By James Ellis
This lovely decorative hanging colour-it-in advent calendar will pretty up any corner of a room and provide a mindful creative challenge for children and adults throughout December. It comes personalised with the recipient's name at the top, is printed on canvas and has wooden bars at the top and the bottom to allow the calendar to hang elegantly down. The ribbon at the top is designed to hang on a hook or nail, so there's no need to ruin the walls with sticky tape or blue-tack. It comes presented in an organic cotton drawstring bag.
James Ellis gives 1% turnover to environmental causes, particularly tree planting, through the organisation '1% for the Planet'. So you can feel good about your purchase, too.
- Buy now from James Ellis (RRP from £32)
Little Trees Bees and Seeds Co. Grow-your-own advent calendar
Ever wondered what the gardener in your life is thinking about during that quiet period between Christmas and New Year? It'll be what seeds to order for the garden for spring. This grow-your-own veg calendar is a dream gift for a green-fingered person, containing a packet of heritage seeds each day, including amethyst dwarf French beans, rhubarb leaf chard, gardener's delight tomatoes, a range of herbs and a special grow guide for beginners.
- Buy now from Little Trees Bees and Seeds (RRP 34.99)
Tanya Jackson is a digital editor and writer for countryfile.com. She lives in Wiltshire and loves campfire cooking, swimming in the sea, rural folklore, barn owls and walking her Welsh collie in the misty hills. Tanya also has a passion for English food and drink – although nothing tastes as good as tomato soup out of a thermos on a crisp woodland walk.
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