As you know, my approach to Christmas is to get all of the preparation done in November so that from 1st December I can just enjoy the build up. So when people say “it’s still too early,” I understand but I can’t help thinking that their December is going to be a stressful one. Of course because I work with retailers, my Christmas begins on about 4th January each year because as soon as we’ve drawn a line under one, the next one begins. It’s been like this for me since 1993 so I’m used to it. It doesn’t spoil it and this year I’m hoping to make everything twice as good to compensate for last when we all went down with norovirus on Christmas Eve.
So, let’s think about the pleasure of the countdown. Every morning when the boys have left for school I try to sit quietly for a while. I suppose I should use the time for slotting in a few sit-ups and press-ups but it seems to be the only opportunity I have for a quiet think. As I’ve already said, at the moment I’m savouring an entry from Nigel Slater’s Chronicles every morning and when it comes to December, the joy will be augmented by an advent calendar with a small moment of self-indulgence every day.
I’m never really bothered about receiving presents on Christmas Day. As a blogger I’m given a lot of lovely things all year round and there really isn’t anything I need so I like watching everyone else have a turn for once. However, I do really enjoy opening an advent calendar, particularly a beauty one. I’ve discovered most of the beauty heroes that I now rely on by buying a good one. I find it’s worth spending a bit more and getting one that contains strong brands with decent products. Advent calendars are a bit like wine – the packaging costs a lot to make and they’re expensive to mail. After my experience of working in manufacturing I’d say that at least the first £12 you spend is going purely towards that.
However, advent calendars don’t have to be about ‘stuff’ and I’ve included two other ideas I particularly like – one is about thoughts, the other is about deeds so that you can give this year as well as receive. Let me take you through what I believe to be the best advent calendars 2018.
Best advent calendars 2018
1. The John Lewis & Partners Beauty Calendar
Let’s start with beauty. I’d done a careful audit and this one was already my choice when I received it through the post as an early Christmas surprise from John Lewis & Partners (a huge thank you to you JL&P – particularly from Mr MC who was about to buy it for me). It’s ready and waiting on the breakfast table as you can see.
I know what’s in it (although I’m trying to forget) and it’s exactly the sort of content I love. It includes tried and trusted luxury brands as well as an edit of new things to test in sizes that are more than just a single-use sample. It comes in a beautiful, unbranded box that you can then reuse for other members of the family by refilling it the following year. Here’s a little gallery of some of the things inside, it has 5 star reviews from everyone who’s bought it so far:
2. The Edinburgh Gin Calendar
If you’re not a beauty fan, how about gin? Mother’s ruin – just what we need to get us through December! I have this one too although it’s not sitting on the breakfast table – that wouldn’t be the best way to start the day… or would it? There are quite a few gin calendars around this year but the reason I like this one is that it’s all gin whereas quite a few of them are padded out with tonic. The other bonus is that it isn’t too repetitive. There are a number of fruit gin liqueurs inside as well and I’m particularly looking forward to trying the frankincense and myrrh flavour. Do bear in mind that it’s heavy so I’d suggest you get it delivered rather than trying to pick it up in store.
3. The thoughtful advent calendar
24 reasons why I love you; this is personalised and the idea is that you think of 24 reasons that are specific to the person you’re giving it to. You can either hand write your 24 reasons or have them printed – now this would be so lovely to receive. I’m not sure that there are many midlife men who would set their minds to it but it’s the sort of thing that my mum might have sent to me when I was living in London. It would also be a lovely advent calendar for a teenager or child who’s perhaps having a bit of a rough time, or someone who’s elderly and lonely… or anyone who’s in need of a boost.
4. The traditional advent calendar
Of course advent calendars don’t have to be about gifts. I’ll never forget the pleasure I used to get from opening the simple picture ones when I was little. I always try to remember to buy one and the person whose turn it is to open the square has to think of a carol or Christmas song that relates to the picture. The boys used to love it when they were little and they still comply… albeit reluctantly.
5. The stationery advent calendar
Another useful one at a decent pricepoint that’s bound to have something for everyone. It’s a calendar that’s good to share, taking turns to open it every day. And – they’ve even thought about it from an aesthetic point of view, each day there’s a new joke and you turn the box you’ve opened around until the final one completes a Christmas jigsaw puzzle.
6. The sock advent calendar
Now I think this is a small stroke of genius, especially if you live in a house with multiple males. It’s an advent calendar with a new pair of jazzy, cotton mix socks for each day. In terms of value it’s an advent calendar that will last all year.
7. The chocolate advent calendar
I had to include a chocolate one – and this comes from one of my favourite chocolate shops – the one I have to resist when I’m waiting at Euston Station which is something I do a lot. I may appear to be thoughtful by featuring the one that has chocolates for two… but in actual fact Mr MC isn’t a great lover of chocolate so it would just mean more for me!
8. The heirloom calendar
It’s lovely to have a really special wooden advent calendar. We have a nativity one that we bought when the boys were little although it’s a shame there aren’t more characters in the advent story because we seem to spend a lot of days unwrapping sheep and donkeys! This comes pre-filled the first time but after that, you could change the treats as the years go by.
9. The DIY advent calendar
There are so many men in my family who would love this – my grandfather was one of the first Radio Operators in the navy during the war and worked for Marconi after he left. He was always making radios so it must be in our genes. Anyway, a fun project for some for December.
10. The reverse advent calendar
I don’t know whether you’ve heard about this idea but it’s an opportunity to give rather than receive. It was started by a small charity called One Can in High Wycombe but you can do it for any Food Bank – the best place to find one is the Trussell Trust. The idea is that each day during December you put something into a bag for life (they ask for these so that they can reuse them). It can be staples or it could include Christmas items such as Christmas puddings – and small gifts too. In fact if you open something in your beauty advent calendar that you don’t need, pop that in as well. All you have to do is drop it off – and it’s better to do it by 20th December so that the charity has time to distribute the goodies inside. It’s an easy way to make life better for someone on your doorstep whose Christmas might not be the best one. Charity at a grassroots level – always the best.
So, a few things to consider there. I hope you treat yourself, I know some people are a bit snooty about advent calendars but they can be really good value. You see a lot of brands use them as loss leaders, including their best products in the hope that you’ll love them and become a loyal customer. Right I’m off to catch up with some comments now but I’ll be back again soon with my next Christmas instalment, in the meantime, I hope you have a lovely evening.
Disclosure: ‘Best advent calendars 2018’ is not a sponsored post
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