The utterly inessential shopping list: Gin, beauty, beer and even Lego…the advent calendars have arrived

Forget about the big things. You can keep the necessities. Don't tell us about the must-haves. In the first Christmas edition of her new series, Country Life's Alexandra Fraser takes a look at a few little luxuries which, in a world too full of strife and woe, will help ease your way through life with a smile on your face.

My inner shopaholic: Halloween is over.

Logical part of my brain: It’s only been two days. Give them a chance to relax before-

Me, wrapping tinsel around my computer monitor as the office watches on, terrified: We’re in November now.

Logic: Only just. Maybe one more normal list…

Me, digging out my reindeer antlers: ‘Tis the season. The season is upon us.

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Logic: It’s really not. Look, do me a favour and think through this with me. You have two months until Christmas. Do you really, really want to start now? With something this big? Shouldn’t you save it, wait for people to eat the last of their Halloween chocolate, at least wait for the John Lewis advert to come out? Don’t you think it’s just. Too. Soon?


And so it begins… with a round-up of the best advent calendars.

‘Tis the season to eat chocolate

Fortnum’s Musical Advent Calendar for £165

Kicking off our retail roundup is a classic: the Fortnum & Mason musical wooden advent calendar, with Christmas tunes waiting behind every closed door to pipe you merrily to the gym, chocolate in hand. You could, of course, save £66 by getting the non-musical version…but why would you?

The plus side of this little piece of adorable: it’s durable and reusable, sure to last through your child’s entire childhood or indeed, your perfectly festive adult life. The downside: it’s sold unfilled. NEXT.

Fortnum & Mason’s Musical Advent Calendar for £165,

And thus, the alcohol advents begin

Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar

This one is 100% served filled. The Drinks by the Dram advent calendar features tipples from distilleries all around the world, from Scotland to America and beyond (even Taiwan. Who knew?).

Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar for £145,

 Have you guessed my favourite chocolate brand yet?

Godiva Deluxe 48-piece Advent Calendar

 They say sharing is caring but I say buy this, fill it with only your favourites and let your partner sort out their own advent calendar. Here’s hoping my plus one’s weekly ‘I read your column today, it was fine I guess’ is all a fallacy.

Godiva Deluxe 48-piece Advent Calendar

Godiva apparently have a rather more generous spirit than I do, because this advent calendar is designed to be shared with a special someone. Simply go into a Godiva store, choose two chocolates to fill each box and eat away day by day. Like the Fortnum calendar it’s reusable so no-one will notice if you slip in some budget chocolate next year.

I should probably mention that Godiva do a beautiful calendar for £20, but this is a) not sharable (give up all of my breakfast chocolate? Please.) b) not personalised and c) rather less utterly inessential. The choice is yours.

The Godiva Deluxe 48-piece Advent Calendar is available in-store only, priced at £60. To see what you could fill it with, visit

Not entirely sure what craft beer is but here’s a lot of it

The Beer Hawk Craft Beer Advent Calendar

 At the request of various gentlemen around the office: here’s something a little less spiritual.

While do I suggest that you crack this one open in the evenings rather than with breakfast, 24 beers sound like the perfect pre-Christmas present for someone who works just a little too hard (basically, everyone I know). Beer Hawk offer free delivery so the only thing left to do is order before the 1st December and have your can opener ready. Mine is on my keys.

The Beer Hawk Craft Beer Advent Calendar for £59.95 (down from £69.95), purchase at

Make-up for all of this season’s hangovers…

Space NK Advent Calendar

There’s a brand in here called Drunk Elephant and I’m going to be honest, that’s what sold me. 25 days of all the beauty products you always wished you could have but could never justify buying. The Space NK Advent Calendar costs £250 for £600 worth of goodies…you’re basically saving money. Basically.

Space NK Advent Calendar for £250,

Tipsy tipple, please don’t topple

The Tispy Tree with Fizz Advent Calendar

If you think I’ll be balancing this precarious stand on a precarious table in my tiny London galley kitchen on the 1st of December then you are absolutely right. Just need to source an anonymous donor/fairy godmother.

The Tispy Tree with Fizz Advent Calendar (also sold with gin, wine and beer) for £140 from

Something for the kids

Lego Advent Calendar

Sometimes you just don’t want to give a toddler a sugar rush right before the school-run (or so my mother tells me). In this instance, why not give them something for you to trip over/stand on for the rest of the year? With a gift behind every door, you can be sure that you’ll still be finding Lego Santas under the sofa in June.

Lego Advent Calendar for £22.99,

 Go on, just one more…

The John Lewis Gin & Tonic Advent Calendar

I couldn’t not. How could you not? The online warning reads ‘This is a substantial product, so if you’re picking this item up from one of our shops please ensure you can carry it safely’, so you just know there’s a lot of gin in there…one full bottle of Gin Lakes Explorer, to be exact. The question remains to be answered: Would you spend £55 for the chance to try 25 different tonic waters? Who am I kidding, of course you would.

The John Lewis Gin & Tonic Advent Calendar for £95, 

Bonus: inessential but attainable

Aldi’s Musical Advent Calendar

Be right back, my mother’s on the phone asking if I’m getting quite enough sleep.

Aldi’s Musical Advent Calendar for £49.99, 

If you purchased our entire shopping list you would have spent £987.83 and Merry Christmas old chap, you’re doing it right.