Advent calendars emerged in the mid-1800s to help young Christians count down the days until the Feast of the Nativity. The four-week Advent holiday is meant to inspire solemn reflection and meditation ahead of the birth of Christ.
Early examples of Advent calendars featured little paper windows that opened up to reveal religious pictures or Bible verses, according to BBC’s Sunday Podcast.
But what does a tiny plastic Jedi Starfighter have to do with Advent? Not much.
Nowadays, it seems the calendar has strayed far away from its original religious intent. They’re stuffed with collectible toys, pricey makeup, and even shots of whisky.
To poke fun of the rise of Christmas kitsch, the Christian humor website Ship Of Fools asked its fans to nominate and vote for the worst “Badvent” calendars.
As their results suggest, it gets pretty bad out there.
Simon Jenkins, the website's editor, gave HuffPost his perspective on the trend:
I think retailers have seen an opportunity to monetize this rather sweet detail of traditional Christmas . . . The religious story behind ACs doesn’t work for the retailers, of course, so other stories – Star Wars, Barbie, and so on – drive out the deeper meaning behind ACs. That’s bad for religion, of course, but it’s also bad for the inspiring themes embedded in Christmas: the message of peace on earth; the search for a promised child; and the generous gift given at Christmas. The focus shifts from generosity to shopping.
Here’s our round-up of some borderline tacky calendars that had us scratching our heads and wondering -- what does this have to do with Advent? We've also included some options we think do a good job of preserving the generous spirit of the season.
1. The Star Wars Calendar.
"Every day in December is a countdown to Christmas in a galaxy far, far away with exclusive LEGO Star Wars minifigures and buildable fun," Lego writes in its product description. "May the force be with you all season long."
Sold by Lego.
2. The One Direction Advent Calendar.
Sold by Morrisons.
4. The Whisky Calendar.
The producers promise the calendar "contains all the festive spirit any whisky lover could ever dream of."
Sold by Drinks By The Dram.
5. The Sexy Calendar.
No. Just, no.
Sold by Ann Summers.
1. Divine Advent Calendar.
This calendar contains 24 windows that reveal parts of the Christmas story and contains fair trade chocolates. The company says a portion of the proceeds will go towards providing notebooks for school children in Ghana.
Sold by Divine Chocolate USA.
2. The Where's Wally Calendar.
This advent calendar is sold by the U.K. charity Cards for Causes. The organization sets up temporary Christmas card shops that help fundraise for affiliated charities like Save the Children, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Alzheimer's Society.
3. The UNICEF Calendar.
"For each Advent Calendar purchased, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF receives 9%, which helps support UNICEF’s programs that provide lifesaving nutrition, medicine, education, clean water, emergency relief and more to children in need in more than 190 countries and territories," spokesperson Marci Greenberg told The Huffington Post.
Sold by U.S. Fund for UNICEF.