Advent calendars originated in Germany around the early 1900s. The OG adventskalender design was paper, often embellished with foil and other sparkly elements, and contained numbered doors hidden within a print of a winter scene. Each door opened to reveal a yuletide image or greeting, and finding the doors was half the fun.
Today, advent calendars are so great because you can mold them to your liking. You can use them as a family, taking turns opening doors and ogling at what’s inside. Or you can give each person their own — including yourself — so everyone gets a small pick-me-up to boost their winter days. You can DIY and fill the doors and drawers with your own treats, or you can go the store-bought route and be surprised yourself. And you can opt for the traditional chocolate advent calendar, or find something more suited to your tastes.
Sometimes, the latter is more fun (because, if we’re being honest, advent calendar chocolate isn’t always the best). If you’re looking for a non-chocolate advent calendar, these alternative advent calendars rely on the same concept but reimagine it in a gazillion different ways. Open doors to reveal unusual and creative items — everything from booze and jam jars to socks and makeup. Pick one of these up, and the days will fly by.
Preserves Advent Calendar
If you’ve ever swiped a gingham-patterned mini jar of Bonne Maman jam from a breakfast buffet, you know how irresistible they can be. This deluxe advent calendar gathers 24 of the little gems in hard-to-find flavors like Rhubarb & Strawberry, Raspberry & Lychee and Peach & Lime.
12 Nights of Wine Advent Calendar
On the 12 days of Christmas, your true love gave to thee a different wine to sample each night! This box will offer 12 different glasses of world-class wine.
24 Days of Tea Advent Calendar
This très chic take on the traditional advent calendar comes from the Parisian company Palais du Thé. Each door contains elegant single-estate or gourmet infusion sachets flavored with elderflower, cranberry and more.
Hot Sauce Advent Calendar
This spicy gift set features 25 different hot sauce varieties, each with different seasonal labels and names like “Rudolph’s Red Nose Maker.” It’s the perfect winter gift for anyone who puts Tabasco on everything.
12 Days of Hot Sauce Advent Calendar
If 25 hot sauces seems like too much heartburn for one person to handle, this one comes with a more manageable 12 bottles. (That doesn’t mean they’re any easier on the tongue, though!)
Mini Mani Month Advent Calendar
The Spirit Co. Advent Calendars
Friends: The Official Advent Calendar
Could this be any more festive? This is the ultimate countdown to Christmas for any Friends fan. Inside, you’ll find pockets packed with 40 trinkets and surprises, including themed ornaments and recipe cards. This one will be released in October — or you could go with Harry Potter, Star Wars, Home Alone or Marvel versions instead.
Reusable Christmas Tree Advent Calendar
You can fill the present boxes of this reusable advent calendar with your family’s favorite candies, love notes, holiday challenges and other treats of your own devising. Even when it’s empty, it looks great on a mantel.
Reusable Wooden Advent Calendar
Watch your family’s faces and this calendar light up each day, thanks to built-in LED lighting. You can also re-use this one year after year, making it part of your family’s tradition.
12 Beers of Christmas Beer Box
Sample wares from breweries across the United States without leaving your house! This box, which ships in December, comes loaded with 12 different craft brews.
12 Coffees of Christmas
Serve up 12 different brews — of the coffee sort this time — to keep you going through the hustle-bustle of the holidays. Each flavor comes in its own, single-serve K-cup.
Signature Holiday Advent Calendar
This advent calendar is certainly not cheap, but the French beauty and skincare treasures inside will probably last you all year. (Bonus: If you don’t need one of the products, you can repurpose it as a stocking stuffer — we won’t tell.)
Puzzles Advent Calendar
Fidget toys are all the rage, and if you’re always looking for something to do withy our hands, this advent calendar might help. Each day comes with a metal wire or plastic puzzle to take apart and put together, fostering that brain-body connection.
Star Trek Borg Cube Advent Calendar
Resistance to this advent calendar is futile. Inside the Borg Cube is 24 surprises sure to delight any Trekkie collectors, like coasters designed after the console screens from the original series, or Enterprise-D socks. If that’s not your fandom, there are also Beatles and Dr. Who advent calendars available.
Woodland Advent Calendar
This wooden tabletop advent calendar is rooted in a tree design that comes with a pouch containing 24 creatures to create a festive forest scene, piece-by-piece. It’s perfect for those who enjoy the. minimalist style.
Enamel Pin Advent Calendar
Put them on a jacket, pin them to a bag there’s no end to the places where you can put these enamel pins. Some are holiday-related, and some are not, so you can wear them all year.
Nutcracker Advent Calendar
This Christmas tree-shaped advent calendar is perfect for fans of the Balanchine ballet and Rifle Paper Co. stationery. It features tiny doors that reveal illustrations of ornaments, angels, snacks and more.
Countdown to Christmas Wooden Advent Calendar
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