Advent calendars are the latest trend for adults

Advent calendars stocked with liquor and bites of specialty foods are being aimed at adults, and they're catching on.

Move over colouring books, sales of beer and coffee Advent calendars for adults are on the rise

The Craft BeerAdvent Calendar is sold in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Yukon and Northwest Territories. (courtesy Craft Beer Imports)
They're not just for kids anymore. Adult Advent calendars, often stocked with food or booze, are being marketed directly to adults. 

While slugging back a beer every day might not seem terribly in keeping with the season, neither does sipping scotch or pounding tequila. But this year November 29th marks the first day of Advent in Christianity, and whether you're devout, semi-devout, or none of the above, the days leading up to Christmas can be both a season of giving and taking. 

Lego Advent calendars are popular for kids, but cost more than boxes filled with chocolate. (courtesy Lego)
While the kids have their Kinder, Playmobil and Lego Advent calendars — among many other options — it seems big people want their daily bread too.

Adult Advent calendars can be found in liquor and specialty stores, online, and on do-it-yourself websites. And they're angling for a bigger piece of the Advent market.

"The focus should be on adults, not just kids, and I think there's that whole market for it," explained Marisa Curatolo, a home economist, food stylist and cookbook author in Winnipeg. "And there are a lot of people during this busy season ... that need to stop and think and reflect really about what is Christmas."

One of the most popular adult-themed offerings is the Craft BeerAdvent Calendar. Last year's edition featured 24 varieties of beer from six continents, and quickly sold out.

This year, the Canada-made calendar is available in liquor stores in seven provinces and territories. If you can find one, it'll set you back around $150. 

On the cheaper end of the scale, Costco in Canada stocks a 2015 beer advent calendar that sells for about $90.

If your tastes are a bit more refined, the Scotch Whiskey Advent Calendar is available across Alberta and Saskatchewan for about $400. 

Curatolo offers another option — a make your own food-based Advent calendar. She teaches seasonal cooking and decorating classes, and is also a whiz at homemade gift ideas. 

Starbucks has issued an Advent calendar of ornaments filled with candy and a gift card base. (courtesy Starbucks)
Aside from perishables, she said there's not much you can't use in a food Advent calendar. Curatolo suggested filling the small squares with different spices, teas and coffees, or flavoured or aged olive oils that can be bought in bulk and at specialty stores. 

A 24-day nut calendar that includes flavoured types such as roasted honey, chili lime or Thai spice, is another option. Mini-liqueurs, truffles, chocolates and candy are also good options, while flavoured simple syrups, vinegars and salts are on trend too. 

"I really think this is an opportunity for people to have a new experience day to day, a short experience that doesn't have to be so complicated," Curatolo said. 

These modern variations on the calendar can enhance the experience of Advent overall, Curatolo said, adding that opening the calendar every day is like a forced stop during the harried rush of the holiday season. 

"It's the same as meditating in the morning or doing yoga in the morning or praying at night — it's the same idea, but you actually have something for the tactile type of person who needs that."

So, for example, a tea Advent calendar encourages someone to put the kettle on, steep a pot and sit down for a spell.
Curatolo said people can also tap into faith by adding devotional notes, short scriptures and prayers alongside the daily surprises. 

"I think people get too caught up in the materialism and consumerism of the moment and they don't stop themselves and understand that it's just time with your family and close friends," Curatolo said. 

Robin Summerfield is a syndicated food columnist for CBC Radio.