When I was growing up, the holiday season meant two things: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special on repeat and Trader Joe’s advent calendar. Every day in December I would carefully open a perforated flap in the cardboard box, revealing a quarter-size milk chocolate shaped like a bell or star or present. Hell if I knew what Advent was (still pretty unclear, tbh), but that monthlong tease was something I looked forward to all year. As an adult my tastes have matured, which means I’ve branched out beyond milk chocolate to advent calendars featuring black licorice, loose-leaf teas, and experimental truffles. Pee-Wee remains nonnegotiable.
Below you’ll find some of the best advent calendars for 2022—and they are, no joke, selling out as I file this, so if one catches your eye, don’t sleep on it. If these best sellers are out of stock, allow me to point you to Neiman Marcus, Food 52 (we haven’t forgotten about you, Hanukkah observers), and—if skin care and beauty advent calendars are your vices—Sephora, all of which have great selections.
If you’ve got a kid (or if you yourself are that kid) who can’t get enough of those Christmas scenes at Hogwarts, this Williams-Sonoma Harry Potter candy advent calendar is right up your Diagon Alley. You’ll find Fizzing Whizbees, gummy owls, and, of course, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. While I didn’t get a booger jelly bean, I did eat something that tasted decidedly of mulch. Fun for the whole family?
Nicole Patel’s truffles sound gimmicky; the Austin chocolatier is known for flavors like Thanksgiving stuffing and smoked brisket. I’d dismiss Delysia as catering to the booger-jelly-bean crowd except that Patel’s flavors actually work. Her chocolate advent calendar features a five-by-five grid of numbered truffles, each inspired by a different holiday song. The conceit is a little high concept, a fitting match for flavors like roasted squash and chestnut (legitimately delicious) and wheatgrass (…challenging!).
For all but the thirstiest tea lovers, Vahdam’s advent calendar is the gift that will keep on giving long after December is over. Each day you’ll unbox a different tin containing 17 grams of loose-leaf black, green, or herbal tea—more than enough for multiple servings. Most are blends (the several varieties of chai are my favorite), but for the purists you’ll find first flush Darjeeling, oolong, and Assam as well. My Christmas countdown calendar oddly skipped December 20 and contained two December 22’s—which I didn’t mind since that meant a double portion of Vahdam’s deliciously floral rose black tea.
You’ll need some cookies to go with that new daily tea habit, and you could do a lot worse than Walker’s shortbread. It’s a classic for a reason. The ingredients in their traditional shortbread fingers are flour, butter, sugar, and salt—no nonsense, no antics. The craziest it’s going to get is four rounds of chocolate chip-flecked shortbread and a few squares that have bits of salted caramel toffee throughout (those days will be great days), but mostly you’re here for the undeniable flavor of butter.
If jam is your jam, Bonne Maman’s holiday advent calendar is back for 2022. People go batshit for this calendar and look, I get it. Each day you’ll be rewarded with a one-ounce serving of fruit spread in that iconic French jar, magically transforming your house into a charming bed and breakfast. There’s a lone container of honey tucked away behind a closed door as well. The flavors are a cut above your standard grocery store offerings—there’s pear with cocoa nibs, pineapple with yuzu, and fig with cardamom, the appropriate descriptor of which is, I believe, “scrummy.”
Your dentist is absolutely going to hate this one. For the uninitiated, wine gums are firm, fruity gummy candies that contain no wine and lodge in your teeth—like Swedish fish, but stickier. These particular wine gums are posher than the ones you’d impulse buy at a British pharmacy; each day’s packet contains five petite cubes that look like Turkish delight, dusted with a punchy flavored powder. There’s quince coated with lime, pomegranate with dragonfruit, and a lovely floral elderflower with yuzu. A thoughtful design detail: Each compartment features a standard Roman numeral as well as the number in Braille.
On the opposite end of the gummy spectrum are Lady M’s apple cider, tangerine, and raspberry jellies. Their soft, pâte de fruit-like texture puts up no resistance, and they burst with concentrated fruit flavor. There’s a variety of non-gummy confections too, from nuggets of almond cake enrobed in white chocolate to the absolutely revelatory chocolate-coated corn nuts. Chocolate. Coated. Corn nuts. This advent calendar is shaped like a wheel of fortune, with a keepsake snow globe smack dab in the center. It’s an advent calendar and white elephant gift in one!
This guy reminds me of Trader Joe’s calendars, and I mean that in the best possible way (see intro). Behind each window is a square of high-qual milk chocolate, stamped with a festive motif like holly or string lights. The chocolate is sweet, it’s milky, it is not filled with wheatgrass ganache. Like the calendars of my youth, the packaging is simple—a plastic tray in a cheery cardboard sleeve—and that’s reflected in the price. At $22, it’s the most affordable option on the list.
If you’re chocolated out, check out this Christmas advent calendar of individually wrapped caramels hidden behind a wintry anthropomorphic street scene featuring a car full of hamsters, just like those Kia Soul commercials. Massachusetts-based McCrea’s Candies makes caramels that strike the right balance between meltingly soft and jaw-achingly firm in both classic (maple and chocolate mint) and more unconventional (rosemary truffle sea salt and the mysterious “ginger fusion”) flavors.
For freaks like me, 24 days of Christmas licorice is the best holiday gift imaginable. Danish brand Lakrids by Bülow is one of my all-time favorite candy companies, and its countdown calendar does not disappoint. Hidden behind each door is an individually wrapped two-pack (one for me, one for also me) of chocolate-coated licorice in flavors like salted caramel, strawberries and cream, and vanilla mango. These sweet-salty, crunchy-shelled, marble-size balls might convert even avowed licorice haters—but if not, more for you.
Los Angeles-based Compartés is, according to their website, “the hippest and most trendsetting chocolate shop,” but their orca and polar bear-themed advent calendar is giving Lisa Frank circa 1992. Each day reveals a different ganache-filled chocolate square; my favorites punctuate the dark chocolate with jolts of fruit or spice like Hawaiian mango or gingerbread. My only quibble is that the packaging is a little tricky. The truffles are firmly wedged into their compartments, and it requires a combination of dextrous fingers and sharp raps on the back of the box to dislodge them. Every time I came away with chocolate under my fingernails.
This advent calendar weighs six pounds. (Or thereabouts—it was too heavy for my bread scale, so I weighed myself on the bathroom scale with and without the calendar, as if it were a baby.) It opens like a jewelry case, and inside each pull-out drawer are two single-serve sachets of hot chocolate. I use that term loosely—is “sticky toffee pudding white hot chocolate” technically hot chocolate, or just sugary flavored milk? Whatever the case, it’s caramelly and creamy and well served by a pinch of salt.
Like Vahdam’s tea advent calendar, this offering from Scottish chocolatier Coco yields generous portions—each day of the holiday countdown you can look forward to a beautifully wrapped mini bar of chocolate. Coco is all about investing in origin (meaning the places where cacao is actually grown), so its chocolate is made close to the source before being shipped to Scotland and crafted into flavors like salted caramel milk chocolate and Isle of Skye sea salt dark chocolate. This hefty calendar (over a pound of chocolate) is decorated not with snowmen or caroling cats but with bold, colorful graphic prints—very nondenominational, very moderne.