Advent Calendars

Do you hang up an Advent calendar at the beginning of December? Perhaps you make your own and lovingly fill it with tiny gifts or burn an Advent candle. Maybe you prefer to take part in the #FoodBankAdvent reverse advent calendar.

Advent calendars used to be so simple when they were just a bit of cardboard printed with a snowy scene dotted with tiny doors that were opened every day to reveal a picture. I can still remember the anticipation of opening the door each day and being unable to resist sneaking a peak, ahead of time, at the nativity scene behind the double doors of the twenty fourth. It was easy to open the doors without anyone noticing as we were only allowed to fold, not tear, the doors so that after Christmas the calendar could be put away and brought out the following December. Because that’s what you did in the days before our present throwaway society.


These days, Advent calendars seem to be less about marking the days until Christmas and more about conspicuous consumption. Toys, sweets and jewellery fill children’s Advent calendars while some adults need a luxury treat every day of December with Advent calendars containing gin, perfume, make-up and probably anything you can think of. One year, we tried a Drink Advent, the idea being to have a different drink each evening. Not all alcoholic, I hasten to add. It all started so well with hot chocolate, gin cocktails, lemonade and mulled wine. By the tenth, we were flagging and in the middle of December gave the whole thing up. If only I’d had the forethought to plan ahead and written a list.

Reverse Advent Calendar

Reverse Advent Calendar fpr #FoodBankAdvent

Last year, Ruth set up a Foodbank donation point in the Christmas shop and I was intrigued by a little boy and his mother who brought in two bulging carrier bags filled with food. They explained that they’d done a Reverse Advent Calendar, putting something into a bag for the Foodbank for each day.

I’d always been a bit sceptical about the food donations as it seems an inefficient way to collect, with all the running around to donation points and sorting out food, some of which may be inappropriate or unsafe (such as cans of soup that are nearly fifty years old); giving money seemed more useful as it could be used to buy the right things, in bulk. But having spoken to that little boy, I realised how inclusive it is to donate food. He’d helped choose what to donate and had obviously discussed with his mother why they were doing it. Talking with others who came in to donate, we agreed that picking out food (and other basic essentials), particularly when we’re doing our own Christmas food shopping, makes us think about other people’s situations in a way that dropping a few coins into a collection tin could never do.

Our local Foodbank is one of over 400 foodbanks giving emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK in the network run by The Trussell Trust and we have a donation point in the Christmas Shop. If you want to make a donation to your local foodbank, they probably have a list of things that they need each month and a special Christmas list. The Braintree area Foodbank’s  Christmas list includes tins of meat, Christmas cakes, biscuit selections, tubs of sweets, mince pies and bottles of squash as well as toiletries such as toilet rolls, shampoo, shower gel, wet wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, which should be donated by the beginning of December.

How many days until Christmas festive dog

We’ll each add our twenty-four things to the big collection box by the end of this week and then, because we need a little excitement in our lives, we’ll count down to Christmas using this little fellow. And possibly hang up an Advent calendar too.


10 thoughts on “Advent Calendars

  1. And here’s me feeling instant guilt – I just bought the kids advent calendars with 24 small boxes of cereals. I was thinking cheap instant breakfast really. We usually have a quilted advent calendar that my mum made for the two older children, it has little pockets for chocolates and we share the calendar. I do have a box of quality street chocolates for it but may just eat them straight out of the box… I donate to the food bank trolley in our local supermarket but in a rather random way (never 50 year old tins!). I need to look out for a wish list for our food bank and try to be a bit more thoughtful. I do remember the advent calendar with small pictures behind the doors, I used to love mine. When growing up, we always had a wreath with four candles, one for each of the Sundays in Advent. I remember my granny once forgot to extinguish the candles in hers, the candles burnt right down and the heat managed to crack the (not very pretty) glass coffee table. Luckily, the carpet didn’t catch fire. Sorry, I am rambling. Have a lovely week.

    1. I wonder if your granny had an Advent wreath the next year. An elderly German lady used to buy her Christmas tree from us every year and take it home to decorate with candles, in the traditional way. It always seemed a rather dangerous thing to do but she kept coming back for years.

  2. We still prefer a cardboard calendar with picture windows. I got a chocolate one for my younger daughter when she was little. She enjoyed opening the windows but she left the chocolates in a heap and my husband ate them! The reverse Advent Calendar sounds like an excellent idea.

  3. Lovely Anne. We also had a beautiful cardboard Advent Calendar that we used each year, when I was a child. We loved opening the tiny windows. A few years ago I tried to make a creative Advent Calendar for our children with tiny gifts…but they helped themselves to everything well before time and the whole thing ended up in a big mess. Each year I donate food (new!) to a local organisation that collects. I take our children with me to drop it off…just to remind them that not everyone is as fortunate as us. I love your little Christmas dog!

  4. Our youngest daughter was only talking the other day about making a contribution to the local foodbank, they publish a list online of what they require over Christmas. She has bought a chocolate advent calendar for the three of us to share! My wife has produced a advent calendar for our two grandchildren every year and the oldest one is 14.

    1. I wonder if you’re democratic about sharing the chocolate or whether the first one to the calendar gets it. I don’t think you’re ever too old for an Advent calendar.

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