From cheap and cheerful Christmas countdowns to budget-blowing advent delights – we’ve had the tough job of reviewing a whole host of Yuletide offerings to mark the start of the festive season. After much debate (and a few tummy aches) we've finally selected our top 10 advent calendars for 2013…
M&S Where’s Wally milk chocolate advent calendar
Fantastic value and one of the team’s favourites. Once you locate the correct date the search really starts as a new challenge to find Wally, Wenda, Wizard Whitebeard and friends is found behind every door. Then, when the hunt is over a small but festive milk chocolate shape awaits.
£2.50, from marksandspencer.com
Carluccio’s advent calendar
While the packaging is simple and may not kick-start any Yuletide yearnings on first sight, each window opens to reveal individually wrapped penguins, Santas and more Christmas characters. The chocolate is delicious and the foil wrap means they’re easier than most to prise from the box.
£10.95, from carluccios.com
Montezuma’s British Pudding Chocolate Advent Calendar
These disappeared in record time when sent into the office . Milk and dark chocolates inspired by Montezuma’s popular British Pudding Bars are bigger than your average daily advent surprise. With four different flavours including Eton mess, treacle tart, summer pudding and lemon meringue, each day brings a new revelation.
£9.99, from montezumas.co.uk
Hotel Chocolat – ultimate advent calendar
The stalwarts of advent chocolate, Hotel Chocolat’s calendars are simple yet stylish and boast luxury chocolate, meticulously carved and scattered behind a jumble of doors. Available in high-cocoa white, 70% dark or creamy milk, each variety of calendar opens like a book and easily stands unaided.
£12.50, from hotelchocolat.com
Charbonnel et Walker, Christmas Advent Calendar
This classic-looking red and gold calendar from one of Britain’s earliest chocolatiers contains some of the best chocolates we tasted. From luxury praline to smooth caramel, each understated door reveals a truly grown-up treat.
£25 from, charbonnel.co.uk
Biscuiteers advent calendar
If you’re not a chocoholic but still want to mark the impending festive onslaught with something sweet, then look no further than the cookie cutters of Biscuiteers. Their 24 Christmas ginger biscuits, handmade and beautifully decorated, come with an optional, limited edition cloth calendar by designer Susie Watson.
£45 for the tin (£85 with cloth calendar), from biscuiteers.com
Prestat – The advent calendar
If you feel like a little indulgence this year, Prestat’s daily chocolate truffles should fit the bill. Sticking with a tried and tested design, The Three ‘Prestat’ Kings once again lend their faces to one of the most luxurious countdowns of the year. A handy stand on the back means you can display this bit of extravagance wherever you please.
£30, from prestat.co.uk
Bettys advent calendar
One for the sustainably minded, family-run Yorkshire business Bettys have produced a delightful fabric calendar, which is sure to serve for many Christmas’s to come. Complete with a bag of white and milk chocolate shapes, all are individually wrapped and made from the finest quality Swiss chocolate.
Drinks by the Dram - The Ginvent calendar
One for the grown-ups, a very Merry Christmas will be had by all with the Master of Malt’s Ginvent calendar. Behind each door you’ll find a sample of gin from market leaders, artisan blends and lesser-known distilleries. There’s even a whisky version if that’s more your thing.
£99.95, from masterofmalt.com
Fortnum & Mason – Wooden advent calendar
It may be on the pricey side but this wooden calendar from Fortnum & Mason’s will be sure to set the festive scene in any home. With large wooden doors and plenty of space behind them you can create your own countdown of homemade favourites and personalised treats or opt for a selection of Fortnum & Mason's traditional sweets, from gold coins and jazzies to rhubarb & custards.
£125 filled (£95 unfilled), from fortnumandmason.com
And a couple for special diets...
Moo free – organic dairy-free advent calendar
Winners of 2013 Vegfest awards for best range of vegan chocolates, Moo free are once again coming to the rescue of dairy-free foodies with their cute calendar packed with smooth and delicious chocolates.
£4.75, from moofreechocolates.com
Plamil – no added sugar advent calendar
Sweetened with xylitol, these dark chocolates with 72% cocoa solids are the perfect option for those looking to cut back on the sweet stuff.
£4.95, from plamilfoods.co.uk
How will you be counting down to Christmas this year?