The countdown to the countdown to Christmas is on (yes, you read it right). The time of year where festive excess really moves up a gear. The buildup to advent seems to start earlier and earlier each year. Which is why we’re glad advent itself (the real countdown) does not suffer from such inflation.
However, the tradition of advent calendars is one we’d love to see upgraded. Check out our upgrading tradition article for more traditions we’d love to see made over.
Where did it start?
Advent itself is rooted in religious history. Derived from the Latin word adventus (meaning “arrival” or “approach”), it is a stalwart of the Church calendar which itself dates back thousands of years. In this case, the countdown is to the arrival (birth) of Jesus - Christmas day, and starts four Sundays in advance.
The modern advent calendars you see in the shops are a different story. They’ve only been around for a couple of hundred years since their invention in Germany. Chocolate versions are younger still - having only really risen to prominence since the 1950s (they first appeared before WWI, but successive wars and depressions change the priorities somewhat). We seem to be quite keen on them here in the UK, having once been home to the world’s most expensive calendar (Harrods, 2007 £50,000. Now overshadowed by Tiffany’s) and the world’s largest (St Pancras Station, 2007. 71m high).
Nowadays, they’re as far from their religious origins as it gets. Shiny, plastic-wrapped, printed card with plastic trays, containing plastic-wrapped sweets (often made with palm oil), single-use of course. Don’t get us wrong, we’re no scrooges. We love the idea of getting in the festive spirit, building anticipation, and tradition itself. ’Tis the season to be merry, jolly and generous, after all. But given how modern this particular tradition is, surely we can indulge it in a more sustainable way?
Here are some options.
We LOVE this initiative.
Advent of Change is a non-profit with a mission: to help make the world a more fair, equal and sustainable place. It all started with Kristina, and her idea to reverse the purpose of a product built to receive to one that is designed to give instead.
Image from: https://adventofchange.com
Kristina achieves this through her advent calendars, which donate to multiple charities with one purchase, and raise awareness for their amazing work at the same time. Each door you open reveals your donation to a charity and a bit about the work they do.
Like all great ideas, it quickly caught on - raising almost £100k within a matter of weeks of launch! This year, they have four amazing advent calendars and a year-long wall calendar as well. They’re all plastic free, recyclable and made using sustainable paper. and together they support 72 charities!
Our hats go off to Kristina, what a great way to spread festive cheer.
- Make your own
A quick Ecosia [link to apps blog] search produces 637,000 results for ‘DIY advent calendar’. So if you’re feeling crafty, there are plenty of options to choose from!
Why not get the whole family involved too? You can make a family calendar together, then you (the instigator) can choose what is revealed, or contained, behind the doors.
Image by Markus Spiske Via Unsplash
Bonus points for reusing and upcycling things. And for making it reusable next year!
That’s a decent number of projects to choose from. Enjoy!
- Get a reusable one
If you don’t have the time to make your own calendar this year, consider buying a reusable one instead.
The Independent has a ‘midway’ option of buying DIY calendar kits. You can achieve the same thing using ethical Christmas decorations - such as Notty Reclaimed’s. Otherwise we of course recommend supporting an independent maker (preferably local). Etsy or Notonthehighstreet have a range of options if you’re searching online.
The green credentials of each vary but we imagine that, if reused enough times, it’ll pay off in the end.
- Picture calendars
Of course, if none of the above fit the bill, we’d recommend a paper/card calendars over the treat-filled versions.
They’re not all created equal though. The more of the following criteria it fulfills, the better:
- Supports a charity or good cause
- Made from recycled material
- Is recyclable
- Uses FSC certified paper
- Vegetable-based inks
- Independent (or eco-conscious) producer
Regardless of your calendar, enjoy the countdown!
We’ve got our own countdown too! Our Christmas markets are running in 3 cities across the first two weeks of December - perfect for getting in the festive mood. You can find out more here. We hope to see you there
Or - you could always get a chocolate one!