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Talk to me about Advent calendars

Toying with a story idea for a holiday exchange, and I need a gut check. How common are Advent calendars in the UK? I'm talking about the object with the twenty-five doors that you open and get a piece of chocolate each day in December. Is that even the British name for them, and are they commonly used over there? And is there any class association to them? In my experience, at least, they were always cheaply made cardboard monstrosities with waxy chocolate inside that you picked up at the supermarket for about $10. So not the kind of thing people would display who could afford better; but that may be an American phenomenon, or unique to me.

Basically: talk to me about Advent calendars, whatever associations you have of them or memories you connect with them. Brits especially, but I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts.

This entry was originally posted at https://marta-bee.dreamwidth.org/9506.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
scfrankles
Oct. 8th, 2017 01:16 pm (UTC)
We call them Advent calendars in Britain too, and they are very common. As far as I know there are no class associations (I’m working class/lower middle class). Try Googling ‘British luxury Advent calendars’ - there are some really expensive ones. But yes, the average British Advent calendar is a cheap bit of cardboard with pieces of chocolate inside.

When I was a child in the 1970s, they were mostly flat pieces of cardboard - and when you opened the window there was simply a picture behind it. I do remember ones with chocolate in the late ‘70s at least, but I remember them as seeming new and exciting. We also had one at home one year that had plastic novelties behind the windows - that seemed exciting at the time. I do remember there being a greater emphasis on the Christian aspect of Christmas with Advent calendars when I was a child - but that might have been because I came from a Catholic background and went to a Catholic school. But you certainly got more of an emphasis on ‘Christmassy’ subjects - snowmen, snowflakes, Father Christmas, reindeer and so on. I don’t remember any Advent calendars that tied into TV programmes or anything like that - nowadays you’ll see ones for The Simpsons, Barbie and so on.

Also, I first remember Advent calendars as having 24 windows - because after all Advent does end on Christmas Eve. Can’t remember exactly when they first started having an extra window for Christmas Day but I assume it must have been in the 1980s.

On the whole I associate Advent calendars with children and childhood. I feel somewhat nostalgic about them but personally it would feel somewhat odd to actually buy one and display it.
donutgirl
Oct. 8th, 2017 07:31 pm (UTC)
I don't know much about xmas in the UK, but spent time in France growing up (1980s) and my experience were basically exactly what's described above. When I was a kid, advent calendars were common in France, but there was no chocolate in them. I really miss the flat ones with the images behind the doors -- I have fond memories of them, and I don't much care for the cheap chocolates in the new ones. Since Sherlock's around my age, he'd probably remember these too.

I too remember them being a lot more religious in theme than the ones I see today -- lots of creche scenes, or the three wisemen following the star. The artwork was sometimes beautiful. But I think there were sometimes more secular ones as well -- a wintry scene of sledding or something.

you might google search vintage uk advent calendars for images: https://www.google.com/search?q=vintage+advent+calendar+uk&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj2v-yX4eHWAhWB7YMKHc97BUIQsAQIJg&biw=1600&bih=769

Or if you're looking for modern ones, try UK shopping sites, though idk how many you'll find this time of year.
lindahoyland
Oct. 9th, 2017 02:17 am (UTC)
I remember Advent calendars long before the chocolate ones came out. They were religious. When I was a child there was a Christmas picture in every window. I had several I used again and again. I would associate them more with religion than class. I never had a chocolate one, but I bought one for my cats last year! I love the Jacqui Lawson online ones nowadays.

Edited at 2017-10-09 02:22 am (UTC)
hhimring
Oct. 9th, 2017 06:54 am (UTC)
The ones with pictures seem more common in Germany now than in the UK and some you get in the UK are imported from Germany, but you can get them in the UK as well, including some really nice ones by British artists. They're not cheap, though.
There are also still religious ones, although probably mainly in religious and Fairtrade shops, I suppose.
You do get the cheap chocolate ones in supermarkets (I think I saw a Disney one for Frozen, last year). Fairtrade shops and similar places have ones with good chocolate (from Divine Chocolate).
In my experience, they have 24 doors still, with 25 being the exception.
(ETA: that last observation is probably skewed, because I get sent German ones by friends, so 25 probably is more common than I think.)

Edited at 2017-10-09 07:04 am (UTC)
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