The Countdown to Christmas
by Fiona Clarke and Sarah Robertson
First introduced in the 19th century, an advent calendar was used to mark the 24 days prior to Christmas. As a child I remember the countdown; each day, beginning on the first of December, I’d peel open one flap on the 25-day calendar and retrieve a chocolate. I could barely contain my excitement knowing that the best holiday on the planet was one day closer. After falling into obscurity, advent calendars have made a comeback. Appealing to all ages, the selections now include European chocolates, exotic fragrances, rare teas, luxe beauty products and even socks. Here are some of our favorites.
Behind the front’s festive illustration of the Jo Malone London townhouse, wrapped in a twinkling gold bow, the calendar is packed with fragrant gifts, from colognes and candles to bath and body products. In addition to cult classics from the luxury beauty brand, comes exciting seasonal launches, including a mini Frosted Cherry and Clove Candle which is new this Christmas. Jo Malone Boutique at the Biltmore Fashion Park, $450.
MAISON DU CHOCOLAT
Appease even the most demanding chocolate connoisseur with an artful calendar from this renowned Parisian chocolatier. Inside you’ll find an array of chocolate-covered almonds and pralines that will make the 24-hour wait each day even more tantalizing. www.williams-sonoma.com, $500.
Countdown to Christmas with this festive assortment by London’s renowned Molton Brown. Titled Merry Muddlement , pamper the recipient with this luxurious grouping of intoxicating eau de toilettes, refreshing bath and shower gels, gentle hand washes, rich oils, soothing lotions and delightful baubles. www.saksfifthavenue.com, $250.
It all began 165 years ago as an Old-World apothecary in New York’s East Village. Flash forward; Kiehl’s has a loyal and staunchly devoted fan club worldwide. The calendar, featuring designs by renowned artist Andrew Bannecker, holds 24 surprise formulas – one behind each door – including cleansers, face masks, facial serums, hair products and moisturizers. Kiehl’s, Scottsdale Fashion Square, $70.
Keep those tootsies warm and stylish this winter with two-dozen pairs of beautifully-patterned and richly-colored socks. Made from the finest Italian yarns, each day of the calendar reveals a new motif or length – from classic stripes to bicycle intarsia, ankle socks to no-show socks. www.neimanmarcus.com, $475.
The famed Parisian perfumer has assembled the ultimate gift: 25 little pleasures to discover before Christmas.The advent calendar brings together holiday treasures in a magical box. Emblematic products, housed in discovery formats, make each day a celebration. The selection includes 15 mini-candles, seven personal fragrances, two body care products and a limited edition surprise. www.diptyqueparis.com, $425.
NEUHAUS WINTER WONDERLAND
When the recipient opens each compartment they’ll discover one of Neuhaus’s famous, deliciously rich chocolate pralines. As each door stays open, it adds another layer to the magical pop-up Belgian market that looks just as pretty once the countdown is over. www.neuhauschocolate.com, $70.
FORTNUM & MASON RARE TEA
Calm upcoming holiday jitters with a comforting cup of tea in hand. Created by the world-famous gourmet food hall, Fortnum and Mason, this rare wooden calendar chest includes customer favorites like Imperial Jasmine Green, Fuding White Peony King, Uva Highlands Pekoe and Double Dragon Pearl teas. www.fortnumandmason.com, £145.
Space NK, a luxury beauty retailer offering a range of skincare, cosmetics and gadgets, has free-standing shops as well as boutiques within several Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s stores. Its first ever beauty calendar is housed in an opulent emerald green and burgundy open-out box. Hidden within each of the 25 pull-out drawers is a beauty favorite from new brands including Votary as well as bestsellers from the cult-favorite beauty retailer’s top brands including Sunday Riley, By Terry, Diptyque, Malin+Goetz, R+Co, Ouai, Dr. Dennis Gross, Eve Lom, and Tata Harper. www.nordstrom.com, $250.
THE BEARD MAN
Perfect for the man that’s trying to look just a little a bit like Meghan Markle’s hubby (a.k.a., the Duke of Sussex), this festive box is filled with beard oils to keep his facial hair soft, healthy and smelling amazing. Although located in London, the sales associate assured me that delivery to the “colonies” would be easy-peasy. www.thebeardedmancompany.com, £29.99.
For the friend who wants the gift of great hair, products by Oribe will be much appreciated. The gift set, housed in a stylish black-and-white, calligraphy-decked trunk, was designed in collaboration with award-winning Japanese calligraphy artist Aoi Yamaguchi. The contents are equally terrific: travel-size beauty treats include Gold Lust Repair and Restore shampoo and conditioner, a rollerball perfume, a geometric gold hair tie to accent that perfect coif and, our favorite, a mini Dry Texturizing Spray. www.nordstrom.com, $285.