Can’t tolerate dairy? Don’t want a sugar overload first thing in the morning? With just over 2 weeks to go to the start of advent here are my top 5 ideas for what you can do instead to celebrate advent and the run up to Christmas.
Tradition and habit in the last few decades have seen the huge rise of chocolate advent calendars in the UK. Whether for sacred or secular reasons, by many they are now an absolute essential tool to help excitedly count down the days of December to Christmas.
Growing up, we (my siblings and I) weren’t allowed chocolate advent calendars. I now completely respect my Mum for making this decision, though at the time thought she was far too old-fashioned. Instead of a sugary treat to start each day we had a beautiful traditional paper version – a picture waiting behind each window, and enough shedding glitter to warrant getting the hoover out every second day. At 18 I left home to go to university and prior to my first advent away from home I smugly told everyone that advent calendars weren’t all chocolate filled – they should be about tradition, nativity pictures and glitter. Then lo and behold on December 1st 2000 a chocolate advent calendar from Mum arrived in the post…
Back to 2012, and many chocolate calendars later… For the last few years I have just gone with the flow eaten a milk chocolate calendar, but always wished for a tastier dark chocolate option – I much prefer higher antioxidant dark chocolate, free of dairy, and lower in sugar. Wandering in Hotel Chocolat last week (waiting for a train you see), I stumbled upon a 70% pure dark chocolate advent calendar. This excited me immensely. I then wondered whether there were others on the market, did a bit of research and ended up with the round-up blog post. Along the way I stumbled on some other lovely ideas which (shock horror) don’t include any chocolate at all. My mum would be proud…
Here are my 5 top alternative ideas to a milk chocolate advent calendar.
1. The Calming One: Get an Advent Candle
These are available everywhere – the above candle is from Lakeland.
I love the idea of spending around half an hour each day, peacefully watching the wax burn down and counting down the days to Christmas, without having an inch of an effect on your health or waistline. Contemplative bliss.
2. The Traditional One: A Paper Advent Calendar
Again, available everywhere, I love this Victorian one from Traditional Advent Calendars. Nativity scenes and shedding glitter a bonus.
3. The Indulgent One: A 70% Dark Chocolate Version
Whilst dark chocolate is still a treat, choosing dark chocolate is a superior choice to milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains less sugar, and is perfect for those who can’t tolerate dairy (or who just love dark chocolate). At least 70% is a great place to start.
My top 3 choices are;
- Montezumas 70% Dark Chocolate – £9.99 for 240g of chocolate
- Hotel Chocolat 70% Dark Chocolate – £12 for 125g of chocolate
- Plamil 72% Dark Chocolate – £4.95 for 135g of chocolat
4. The Crafty One: Make or buy your own fabric calendar and fill it with your treats of choice.
a) First buy/make the calendar
My favourite options are:
- A crafty make it yourself version from Lakeland @£12.99
- Not crafty? Buy an already constructed fabric version. I like this tree one by Gisela Graham fr0m Giftsfromhandpicked.com @ £12.95
- There are also some gorgeous ideas from Not on the High Street – a combination of already made and do it yourself.
b) Decide what to fill it with?
- This is the fun part, and I challenge you to be as creative as possible – perhaps make your own date&nut balls or raw chocolates wrapped in film or foil. You could even write a little thought for the day, memory or poem for your loved one to read first thing each day – like a Chinese fortune cookie?? – You get the idea!
- For a simpler and easy option to fill up your 24 days, Divine make bags of 70% Dark Chocolate Coins or 70% Dark Choc with raspberry or mint discs. Both are of course dairy-free.
- Or lastly how about a fancy tea-bag filled Calendar? I bet you can’t buy that in the shops. I love Pukka Teas, Dr Stuart’s teas, and of course Twinnings. All brands do a great variety of herbal and caffeine flavours in sealed bags – a different one for at least every day of advent!
5. The boring idea: Be a humbug and don’t have an advent calendar…
Not really an option in my opinion but I had to get to 5!
So what will you be doing for an alternative to a milk chocolate Advent calendar? Montezumas vs a Candle (or both!) looking good to me right now. ..