Best alternative advent calendars: weird and wonderful countdowns to Christmas 2021

·18-min read
 (Best alternative advent calendars 2021)
(Best alternative advent calendars 2021)

If you listen very carefully, we’re sure you can hear the faint but definite sound of a bell jingling: Christmas is within sight. Well, close enough to start thinking about the bells and whistles that make it the most magical time of the year.

While we can’t wait for the parties, reunions and food, one thing that’s making us fidget with excitement is the thought of a brand new advent calendar.

Traditionally stuffed with chocolate and made for kids, advents have snowballed into a pre-Christmas must-have all of its own. Beauty advent calendars have been a festive fixture for a while now, and other brands are joining the countdown bandwagon too.

There are options for every taste, budget and whimsy imaginable, from stationery to sex toys, lipstick to LEGO.

The contents may have grown up, but the sheer glee of ripping open a new window every December morning remains the same, no matter your age.

With this in mind, we’ve created an edit of some of the weirdest, wildest and downright wonderful advent calendars around. Most are for adults but we’ve sectioned off the sweet-free ones for children in a dedicated section below.

Scroll on to see the alternative Christmas advent calendars to get now before they sell out.

Let the countdown commence!

Best Boozy advent calendars

That Boutique-y Gin Advent Calendar

Gin-uine fans of the juniper-spiked spirit will adore this advent calendar from specialist That Boutique-y Gin Company in partnership with Drinks by the Dram. Now a mainstay on all advent calendar line-ups, this year’s offering serves up 24 wax-sealed 30ml miniatures of the good stuff, from festive chocolate orange gin to Moonshot Gin. Bottoms up!

 (The Boutique-y Gin Co)
(The Boutique-y Gin Co)

£49.95 | Master of Malt

The Premium Gin Advent Calendar from Drinks by the Dram

Offering a great way to trial new bottles of gin without forking out for an entire bottle, this premium calendar helps you countdown to Crimbo sip by sip. Brands involved are top-notch: think Tanqueray, No.3, Hendrick’s and Jaisalmer. One for aficionados.

 (Drinks by the Dram)
(Drinks by the Dram)

£84.95 | Master of Malt

Beavertown Brewery Advent Calendar

Beer advent calendars are probably only second behind beauty ones in terms of popularity, and now Beavertown is back with it’s iteration that will leave you having a very hoppy Christmas indeed. What’s different this time around is that the calendar can break down into five fridgepacks, so you’ll always have a chilled can when the time comes - whether that’s the new Bones range or classics like 8Ball Rye IPA, Black Betty Black IPA and Smog Rocket Smoked Porter. This 24-pack comes with a free glass too, so you can sip in style.

 (Beavertown)
(Beavertown)

£55 | Beavertown Brewery

SEVEN BRO7HERS advent calendar 2021

Craft beer lovers will delight in this advent calendar, which brings together a festive mix of special beers from the Salford-based brewery. Varieties include the brewery’s award-winning Watermelon Wheat Beer and the ‘Crunchie in a can’ Honeycomb Pale Ale. If that doesn’t have you ready for your moment under the mistletoe, we don’t know what will. A very satisfying way to support a small business.

 (Seven Brothers)
(Seven Brothers)

£64.99 | SEVEN BRO7HERS

The Very Merry Gin Calendar

Craft Gin Club is back this Christmas with an advent that will have you gin-gling all the way to December 25. There are 25 varieties to discover behind corresponding doors, and QR codes take you to exclusive content from CGC ambassador Philip Schofield for every drink.

The selection of 25 gins include a sloe gin from Warner’s Distillery, the Chalkstream Gold Gin from The River Test Distillery, and the Cuckoo Supernova Gin from the Brindle Distillery to name a few. Fill the ice tray and grab the tonic, Christmas is about to get very merry.

 (Craft Gin Club)
(Craft Gin Club)

£99.95 | Craft Gin Club *Deliveries from early October

The Snaffling Pig Co. Crackling & Beer Advent Calendar

Offering a winning selection of snacks alongside beer, we can't imagine many men who wouldn't go wild for this advent calendar. There are 24 windows to open, behind which will sit either a packet of flavoured pork crackling (we're talking Low & Slow BBQ, Marvellous Maple and Perfectly Salted), or 330ml cans of Snaffling Pig beer.

 (The Snaffling Pig Co.)
(The Snaffling Pig Co.)

£65 | John Lewis

Best Food + Drink advent calendars

Fortnum's Feasting Advent Calendar

We may have only just folded away our lockdown loungewear, but dusting them out on the last night of November will be necessary if you're planning to crack into this gigantic advent calendar from Fortnum & Mason.

Designed to delight foodies, the beautiful blue and red box hides all manner of mini and deluxe-sized gourmet goodies, plucked from F&M's famous foodhall. We're talking teas, preserves, chocolate truffles and condiments that will make your meals sing, and which can all make a special appearance on the Christmas lunch table.

An advent calendar like this would earn you serious brownie points if you're planning to give it to someone, but we're eyeing it up as a self-gift treat to enjoy all by ourselves. If not at Christmas, then when?

 (F&M)
(F&M)

£200 | Fortnum & Mason

Fenwick Food & Drink Advent Calendar 2021

Calling all foodies! Fenwick is bringing forward Christmas with its 2021 advent calendar which offers a series of food and drink treats to enjoy in the lead-up to the big day. Feast on the likes of Blackcurrent & Sloe Gin Jam from Blueberry Hill Preserves, Scottish Blossom Honey from the Edinburgh Honey Co, quince from The Fine Cheese Co (a welcome addition to any Boxing Day cheeseboard) and a classic gin from The Lakes Distillery amongst many other festive treats. We're licking our lips already.

 (Fenwicks)
(Fenwicks)

£110 | Fenwick

Ilchester Cheese Advent Calendar

Cheese fans know a good thing when they see it. There'll no doubt be stampedes to buy this Cheese Advent Calendar, made by So Wrong It's Nom with 24 bite-size portions of Ilchester's finest cheeses. Made for solo grazing, the cheese range from the spicy Mexicana to Aged Red Leicester and classic Cheddars. Why not pair them with a wine advent calendar to really make the most of your Christmas countdown?

 (So Wrong It’s Nom)
(So Wrong It’s Nom)

£8 | Ocado *available from early November

Giant Welsh Cheese Advent Calendar

Prepare for gut-busting levels of gluttony with The Welsh Cheese Company. The brand has released a cheese advent calendar this year, and it's not one for the faint of heart, nor the weak of artery. It weighs a whopping 4.2kg, or 24 truckles of specialist cheese from the finest producers in the country. Clear the fridge and dig out the elasticated waistbands ahead of its arrival.

 (The Welsh Cheese Company)
(The Welsh Cheese Company)

£149 | The Welsh Cheese Company

Candy Kitten 2021 Advent Calendar

The vegan confectioners are back at it, pleasing our sweet tooth with their treat-filled advent calendar. Shaped like a Christmas tree, 24 treats lie behind numbered windows, with a bonus treat in a pink box to enjoy on Christmas Day. This budget-friendly buy can easily be in addition to a bigger advent countdown. What's more, social change and reforestation charity TreeSisters will plant a sapling for every calendar sold.

 (Candy Kittens)
(Candy Kittens)

£12 | Amazon

Carluccio’s Advent Calendar

Calling all foodies! Carluccio’s is on call to make your Christmas countdown the most deliciously decadent yet. Its advent calendar might as well be a portable Italian larder, filled with 24 treats that will make each December day sing: think Stambecco Maraschino Liqueur and prosecco to Italian gianduiotti chocolates, Torcetti biscuits and Torrone Almond Nougat. That’s one way to guarantee a Buon Natale!

 (Carluccio’s)
(Carluccio’s)

£79.95 | Carluccio’s *Delivery for end November

Cartwright & Butler Luxury 2021 Advent Calendar

Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry, so why not splash out on this food-filled advent, packed with Cartwright & Butler’s finest. No minis in sight: the huge calendar holds 24 full-size products from biscuits and tea, to drinking chocolate, fudge, and chutney.

 (Cartwright & Butler)
(Cartwright & Butler)

£200 | Cartwright & Butler

Mariage Frères’ luxury Christmas calendar

Dressed in a suitably festive box, this advent calendar is perfect for the tea-lover in your life. The luxury French brand offers a selection of Noel-ready teas straight from some of the world’s finest plantations. Add a packet of your fave biscuits, and you’re set.

 (Mariage Frères)
(Mariage Frères)

£45 | Mariage Freres

Walkers Shortbread Advent Calendar

What better time than Christmas to indulge in the daily treat of shortbread? It is the season for excess, after all. Walkers makes biscuity dreams come true with its 24 window calendar packed with festively flavoured shortbread, from pure butter to salted caramel and chocolate chip. At this price, why not pair it with a tea advent and really treat yourself?

 (Walkers)
(Walkers)

£19.99 | Selfridges

Best Beauty advent calendars

ASOS Grooming 12 Day Advent Calendar

The beauty advent calendar bandwagon leaves no man behind - not at ASOS at least. The online retail giant releases advent calendars for him and her every year. Designed for the 12 days before Christmas, this year it comes in tote bag format with the products in a numbered box to keep the surprise levels high. Gifts include items from the likes of Bulldog skincare, Egyptian Magic, Lab Series and Elemis.

 (ASOS)
(ASOS)

£40 | ASOS

Lynx Advent Calendars

Lynx is on a mission to make this Christmas your most fragrant yet. This year's offering includes enough fragrances, body sprays and shower gels to keep you on top of your grooming game throughout the festivities. There are two calenders: a 24-day countdown (£40) and a 12 day one dedicated to Lynx Africa (£20).

 (Lynx)
(Lynx)

From £20 | Boots

William Morris at Home Dove & Rose Advent Calendar

The enduring appeal of William Morris' art has been channelled into beauty advent calendar form for the holiday season. Contents include #selfcare must-haves: think scented bath fizzers, bath salts sachets and shea butter enriched scented hand creams plus plenty more besides. Lovely.

 (William Morris)
(William Morris)

£40 | John Lewis

Boohoo beauty advent calendar

The fashion retailer has joined the countdown frenzy with a new calendar packed with beauty to get you ready for all the end-of-year parties in your diary. The contents total £140, a total bargain for the £60 price tag. There are 24 drawers inside and goodies include self-care heroes, eyeshadow palettes, beauty tools and more.

 (Boohoo)
(Boohoo)

£60 | Boohoo

Barry M Nail Paint Advent Calendar

Festive fingertips are in the bag with Barry M’s advent calendar, which offers a selection of 12 full-sized varnishes plus accessories like nail and cuticle oil.

 (Barry M)
(Barry M)

£40 | ASOS

Cowshed Beauty Advent Calendar

Enjoy the ultimate pampering Christmas countdown with Cowshed. The brand's 24-window design is packed with bestsellers including candles, hand cream and haircare. Add some plump white towels and you could be in one of their spas.

 (Cowshed)
(Cowshed)

£140 | John Lewis

Best Jewellery & Accessories advent calendars

Missoma Advent Calendar

The cult jewellery brand is back with its glitz-filled advent calendar, the contents of which would cost more than £800 if you purchased them separately. Aside from offering stonkingly good value for money, the box design itself is something to behold: the sleek black case is covered with a gold chain print and opens up to reveal 12 drawers complete with ribbon pulls. Trinkets include hair accessories as well as chokers and the Missoma's must-have huggies. All of it is perfect for adding a festive gleam to your daily look. Because if not at Christmas, then when?

 (Missoma)
(Missoma)

£395 | Missoma

Carolina Bucci FORTE Beads 18-karat gold and multi-stone advent calendar

Shine bright this festive season with this stunning jewellery calendar, packed with beads. By the end of the 24 days, you'll have enough to fashion your very own bracelet. Each one is carved from gemstones and selected for their beautiful colours - find out more from the information guide included.

 (Carolina Bucci)
(Carolina Bucci)

£850 | Net-A-Porter

Tutti & Co 12 Days of Gold Jewellery Advent Calendar

A shorter countdown with twice the thrill, Tutti & Co's calendar is the perfect gift for the person who adores their accessories. Over 12 days they will discover a curation of gold-hued jewels, from hair pins to earrings and necklaces.

Find a silver version for the same price here.

 (Tutti & Co)
(Tutti & Co)

£99 | John Lewis

Nasty Gal 12 Days of Recycled Jewellery advent calendar

Accessories make the outfit. Whether your jewellery box could do with an upgrade or you just want more shiny things to covet, Nasty Gal's advent calendar is a treasure chest of options. The 12 day countdown offers treats in the form of finery, from hoop earrings, simple studs and layered necklaces, with contents worth £80.

In short, everything you need to make this Christmas sparkle.

 (Nasty Gal)
(Nasty Gal)

£27.30 | Nasty Gal

Cartilage Cartel Sparkle Advent Calendar

The quest for the perfectly curated ear never stops, not even for Christmas. With this in mind, Cartilage Cartel has dreamed up a jewellery calendar that will take your ear stacks to greater, shinier heights. The advent holds a dozen gift boxes, filled with a shimmering selection of huggies, studs, cuffs and hoops. Time to shine.

 (Cartilage Cartel)
(Cartilage Cartel)

£90 | Cartilage Cartel

Best Fitness advent calendars

Myprotein advent calendar

The fitness expert has launched its first ever advent calendar for Christmas 2021. The contents are worth over £75 and include the brand's bestsellers, from Impact Whey Protein in salted caramel, a Crispy Layered Bar and The Myvegan Choc Chew in Chocolate Orange. The gold and blue box will make the perfect treatfor anyone who believes in fitness year around, not just in January.

 (Myprotein)
(Myprotein)

£44.99 | Myprotein

Skinny Bars Advent Calendar

There’s no need to choose between naughty and nice if you’re trying to watch your weight this winter. Skinny Bars has brought back its advent calendar, filled with 24 of the brand’s full-sized low-calorie treats in flavours such as Rocky Road, Chocolate Orange and Dark Chocolate and Mint.

 (Skinny Bars)
(Skinny Bars)

£10 | Skinny Bars

Best advent calendars for adults

Durex Advent Calendar 2021 - Fun & Play Gift Box 12 Days of Fun, Limited Edition

Ready for a red hot festive season? Durex has you covered with its first ever advent calendar, packed with sex toys, condoms, lube and fun games designed to put the XXX into Xmas. There are 12 products in total, so either start your countdown a bit later or pair with another calendar to keep the treats coming thick and fast.

 (Durex)
(Durex)

£60 | Amazon

Lovehoney Best Sex Of Your Life Couple’s Sex Toy Advent Calendar (Man + Woman)

Designed for hetero couples to spice up the cold winter nights leading up to Christmas, Lovehoney’s sex toy adult calendar is back with a bang. There are 24 items nestled within, offering fantastic value for money as well as plenty to keep you occupied between the sheets. The headliner is the Womanizer Classic, which costs £119.99 on its own usually. Now that’s bound to get your bells jingling.

 (Lovehoney)
(Lovehoney)

£120 | Lovehoney

Lovehoney 7 Nights of Temptation Lingerie Calendar

This mini seven-day calendar is designed for maximum fun, with each compartment housing a piece of one-size lingerie that can fit a UK 8 - 16. Offered in a floral print ribbon-tied box, the contents are worth a whopping £100. If you're on the curvier side, there's a plus size option which goes to UK24.

 (Lovehoney)
(Lovehoney)

£60 | Lovehoney

Twelve Days Of Sexmas Sex Toy Advent Calendar

Make it an XXXmas this year. Nasty Gal has this adult toy 12-drawer calendar to make this festive period red hot with gifts including items such as a love dice and nipple clamps set, a bullet vibrator, edible bodypaint, feather tickler and cuffs, g-spot rabbit vibrator, and a massage candle. It’s enough to make Santa all hot and bothered.

 (Nasty Gal)
(Nasty Gal)

£131.40 | Nasty Gal *On sale from £219

Best Stationery advent calendars

12 Days of Bond paper-wrapped advent calendar

For the 00 obsessive in your life, there really is no better advent to be found than this James Bond-themed design, exclusive to Selfridges. The fully recyclable box contains a dozen of the sorts of things an international spy could feasibly ask for in his Santa letter, from playing cards, dry martini-flavoured popcorn and a Dr. No pocket square, plus so much more. No time to waste.

 (Selfridges)
(Selfridges)

£199 | Selfridges

Best no-sugar advent calendars for kids

The Gruffalo & Friends Advent Calendar Children's Book Collection

Parents looking for a way to ramp up the pre-Christmas excitement levels without sugar can look to John Lewis this year. The department store has this charming Gruffalo advent calendar in stock, containing 24 mini activity, song and rhyme books. Oodles of family fun.

 (Gruffalo)
(Gruffalo)

£9.99 | John Lewis

Personalised Wooden Advent Calendar House

Baby's first Christmas will be a treasured memory, even if they're not quite old enough to appreciate the tradition yet. Whether you know someone with a baby or have welcomed a bundle of joy into the family yourself, this personalised MDF wooden calendar will be able to be enjoyed throughout their childhood. There are 24 decorated doors to prise open behind which you can store a special something to enjoy as we inch closer to Christmas.

 (My 1st Years)
(My 1st Years)

£40 | My 1st Years

Peppa Pig Advent 2021 Children's Book Collection

Expect squeals of delight from young Peppa Pig fans upon receiving this themed advent calendar on Dec 1. The box holds a collection of 24 stories to read every day until Christmas.

 (Peppa Pig)
(Peppa Pig)

£19.99 | John Lewis

LEGO® #76390 Harry Potter™ Advent Calendar

There's no Christmas like a Hogwarts Christmas. If you can't get into the Grand Hall yourself, build your own with the help of LEGO's HP-themed advent calendar. Every day until December 25, you'll discover new pieces to collect and keep, ready for your Christmas Day build.

 (LEGO)
(LEGO)

£25 | Selfridges

Polly Pocket Advent Calendar

Countdown to Christmas with everyone's favourite tiny doll, Polly Pocket. The bright pink box contains 25 days of playtime treats including the micro dolls, wearable jewellery and magical animals.

 (Polly Pocket)
(Polly Pocket)

£19.99 | John Lewis

Best brilliant and bonkers advent calendars

The Beatles Advent Calendar

Rocking around the Christmas tree just got that bit easier thanks to this advent calendar themed on the Fab Four. Wrapped in pop art style, there are 24 gifts that will leave Beatlemaniacs twisting and shouting with joy as they discover one each day until the 25th: think a Yellow Submarine-shaped tea diffuser, coasters and a Beatles bauble for the tree.

Eaglemoss also has a Doctor Who and a Star Trek advent calendar to delight screen fans this Christmas.

 (Eaglemoss)
(Eaglemoss)

£109.99 | Eaglemoss

Draper Tools advent calendar

If you're one of the millions of people who embarked upon a DIY project in the last 18 months, you'll know the value of a properly kitted out toolbox. For those whose collections are lacking, Draper Tools' DIY advent calendar is perfect. The practical gift features 54 tools and associated bits hidden behind its doors: think a precision screwdriver handle, a hex magnetic screwdriver bit holder, and even a sturdy bottle opener which is bound to come in handy during the festive period. What's more, £1 from every sale will go to the Tools for Self Reliance charity who help people in third world countries learn a valuable trade and earn a proper wage.

 (Draper Tools)
(Draper Tools)

£46.99 | Robert Dyas

Wedgwood Christmas Advent Calendar 2021

Sweets and beauty not doing it for you? No matter, there are hundreds of other advents to choose from - including those made for the home. Heritage brand Wedgwood's elegant 2021 calendar hides porcelain treasures within each numbered drawer. All are finished with a white satin ribbon, ready for hanging on the tree. They’re designed to be used year after year, bringing festive joy to the home every Yuletide.

 (Wedgwood)
(Wedgwood)

£650 | John Lewis

CEWE Advent Calendars

Use your advent calendar as a chance to look back on this year's favourite memories with a photo-and-choc countdown. There are six options from CEWE (available at Boots), some fill-your-own, others just with images and calendars filled with images and Ferrero/ Kinder treats. Options start from just £7.99.

 (CEWE)
(CEWE)

The Urban Botanist Plant Advent Calendar

As a nation, we’ve welcomed more houseplants into our homes over the last two years than ever before. If you’re on the hunt for a new leafy friend to add to your collection, you’ll go wild for this advent. The world’s first plant advent calendar houses horticultural treats that will turn your mates green with envy, from potted Christmas succulents and cacti to airplant baubles and fairy lights. There’s even a gin miniature hiding somewhere in the mix. Brilliantly bonkers, totally original.

 (The Urban Botanist)
(The Urban Botanist)

£174.95 | The Urban Botanist

Also available at Selfridges

That Counts’ 24 Days of Gifting Advent Calendar

We all know that small businesses have taken an absolute walloping over the last year or two. This Christmas, use your advent purchase as a chance to give back without sacrificing tradition. Behind each day of the Calendar is a gift from a UK-based, purpose-led small business. It could be a donation certificate supporting a charity or worthy cause, or physical goodies like stationery and snacks, to self-care.

 (That Counts)
(That Counts)

£96 | That Counts

Auntie Mims Gemstone Geological Advent Calendar

For an advent calendar that really rocks (sorry), try this wholesome take which puts gemstones in the spotlight. The alternative design is packed with two dozen numbered envelopes for every day leading up to Christmas. Each contains a beautiful gemstone or fossil along with an info card so you can learn all about your new addition. A personalisation option on the box is also available, useful if you’re thinking of giving this as a gift. What better time than Christmas to make a positive impact?

 (Auntie Mims)
(Auntie Mims)

£70 | NOTHS

The Forest 7 Co. Personalised Family Advent Candle Set

One for the whole household to enjoy, this advent recruits 24 numbered candles to countdown to the big day. Light one every evening and enjoy the festive glow before bed. Personalisation available.

 (The Forest 7)
(The Forest 7)

£39 | NOTHS

Mixpixie Personalised Christmas Playlist Advent Calendar

Yodel your way through Yuletide with this musical take on a classic advent calendar. Each door unveils a new festive track that you can scan to play on Spotify. By Dec 25, you should have built up the ultimate Christmas playlist to enjoy all day.

 (Mixpixie)
(Mixpixie)

£18 | NOTHS

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