For many, an advent calendar is a traditional way to countdown to Christmas, with each door revealing a picture or a small piece of chocolate.
However, the recent rise in luxurious and decadent advent calendars has drawn criticism from Christian leaders as "spiritually destructive" to the religion.
Former chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II, Gavin Ashenden, stated that the growing indulgence in advent calendars, which now include decorations, alcohol, and even sex toys, is a sign of "spiritual illiteracy" in society.
Around 16.5 million advent calendars are sold annually in the UK, and retailers are increasingly offering more elaborate options.
Designer calendars now include a jewel-adorned replica of Chatsworth House, priced at £21,995, and variations containing whisky miniatures, cosmetic products, and even sex toys.
Mr. Ashenden, who converted to Catholicism after accusing the Anglican Church of being "completely swallowed by political correctness," said, "The task of advent is to clear the decks in our lives so that we have a bit of space to welcome Christ when we celebrate the incarnation."
"But instead of tidying up and making space for God, we are filling every possible hole with money and excess."
"It's like going to the doctor for a slimming prescription and getting permission to eat even more. Not noticing in our culture that this is the point of Advent is a sign of spiritual illiteracy."
Mr. Ashenden had previously warned that hot cross buns with unusual flavors, such as chocolate or caramel, could be the "work of the devil."
He added that while luxurious advent calendars were not as "offensive" as non-traditional buns, they were "equally senselessly destructive of what Christian holidays are meant to do for us."
This isn't the first time a Christmas countdown accessory has sparked religious controversies. In 2017, bakery chain Greggs apologized for replacing the baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the nativity scene while promoting its "Merry Greggsmas" calendar.
Advent calendars originated in the 19th century when German Lutherans began taking creative steps to mark the days leading up to Christ's birth.
Since then, they have spread and become a staple of holiday anticipation worldwide. Although a YouGov poll conducted in 2021 often targets children, it showed that one in three (34%) British adults said they have an advent calendar.
The first versions with chocolate filling appeared in the 1950s, and while they continue to dominate the market, high-quality calendars containing everything from cosmetics and decorations to cheese and LEGO are becoming increasingly popular.
London department store Liberty is believed to have initiated this trend in 2014 by introducing a box with 25 cosmetic minis priced at £149.
Now consumers have a rich selection. Despite the festive gift box from jewelry brand Missoma costing £365, its calendars sell out every year upon release, with the waiting list, starting in the summer, growing by 223 percent compared to last year.
Fortnum & Mason's Feasting Advent Calendar promises a "true celebration of exquisite pleasures – from classic teas, biscuits, chocolates, and confectionery to savory preserves, spices, and festive drinks" for £200. Dior's Le 30 Montaigne calendar, priced at £570, includes "exquisite scents, refined makeup products, skincare essentials, and aromatic candles."
Rebecca Ehrlich, an evangelical Lutheran pastor and author of "Christian Minimalism: Simple Steps for Abundant Living," said advent calendars have strayed far from their roots and become "much more consumeristic."
She said, "If you're a fan of whiskey and want to have a little whiskey while you count down the days until you meet Jesus, I'm not one to say you can't do that."
"But I'm not sure that having thousands and thousands of advent calendars will help us proclaim the advent of the baby Jesus."
"As soon as you start spending a whole bunch of money, and these crazy decadent gifts become even more excessive, we might miss the point of why we come. It's very human to take something beautiful and make it even more to destroy it. Sometimes that's what advent calendars become – destructive, making more."