Where’s the chocolate?! 10 of the worst Advent calendar calamities

This has not been a banner year for Advent calendars. Tony’s Chocolonely was forced to apologise earlier this month, after it deliberately left one calendar window empty, apparently to highlight slave labour practices in the chocolate industry. A nice gesture, but one that apparently left thousands of children in floods of tears. More accidental was the snafu with Kmart’s calendar, which missed out Christmas Eve altogether. But how do these stack up against the all-time Advent calendar mishaps? Let’s find out.

Anyone who found themselves annoyed by the Chocolonely prank would have been driven to gales of outrage by Cadbury’s 2019 calendars, some of which shipped containing no chocolate at all. Every day, scores of consumers opened the door, tore off the foil and found a hole where the chocolate should be. This was thought to be the result of a simple production mistake rather than being a comment on social injustices. Still, it did cause one buyer to tweet angrily: “Cheers sons crying. Nice one”; an absolute classic of the genre.

The problem with no-chocolate Advent calendars is that every element has to be exactly right to offset the inevitable disappointment. Unfortunately, three years ago, the John Lewis no-chocolate Advent calendar failed this simple task as those who opened the 2 December window were greeted with a cheery message informing them that Christmas was just 16 days away. Mathematically, this was incorrect. Our children deserve better.

A similar fate befell anybody who purchased Hotel Chocolat’s Free From Advent calendar two years ago. As many recipients furiously tweeted at the time, the calendar didn’t have a door number three. Was it an error? Was it a joke, hinging upon some tenuous “three from” wordplay? Maybe we will never know.

And now for the mother of all printing errors. Think back to last Christmas. Think back to all the oppressive Covid regulations that stopped everyone from seeing their family. And now, think back to the time you opened your Dairy Milk Advent calendar and saw a message reading “Give hugs at Christmas”. Badly timed advice, to say the least.

We will now move on to rip-off Advent calendars, none of which caused more outrage than the one released by YouTuber Zoella in 2017. It cost £50. Its contents included tatlike candles, pens and cookie cutters, some of which were found on Amazon selling for 77p. Worst of all, the thing only had 12 windows. Zoella herself quickly apologised and the price was slashed in stores, but the damage had been done.

Here’s a more upmarket version of the Zoella problem. Chanel’s Advent calendar costs a whopping £610, and an army of TikTok unboxers have quickly revealed it to be terrible value for money. Its contents include a keychain, a wax stamp, a flip book and that most glamorous of items, a sticker book. To paraphrase Coco Chanel herself, the best things in life are free, but the worst will rip you off with giddy abandon.

On to my favourite category of Advent calendar fail: the ones that rely on personal taste. This was most famously illustrated last year, when the Celebrations calendar was found to include a miniature Bounty bar – the item that is traditionally left in the bottom of the tub until mid-January – on two consecutive days. Now, there might be people who actually like Bounty bars. But to the rest of the world, this was nothing less than a tremendous slap in the face. May this horror never befall us ever again.

However, this sort of outrage can quickly backfire. This year, for example, some consumers attempted to initiate a firestorm based on the fact that the first door of their Heroes Advent calendar contained a Cadbury Creme Egg. Sadly, this overlooks the fact that Creme Eggs are actually one of the more superior Heroes items. If Cadbury really wanted to punish us, it would have filled its calendars with nothing but Eclairs, a dismal, cursed insult of a chocolate.

Now, first it’s important that this isn’t a mass-produced Advent calendar, nor does it seem to be official. Nevertheless, this December a Sheffield professor ordered a Nightmare Before Christmas Advent calendar for her four-year-old great-niece, expecting “fun figures like Jack Skellington”, but was shocked to instead receive a calendar full of gruesome horror movie figurines. Not ideal, but it was reported that at least the girl took a liking to her Texas Chainsaw Massacre doll.

I have to confess that I might be the only person alive who was appalled by this but, in 2017, the Paw Patrol Advent calendar suffered from an insulting preponderance of Chase. Yes, Chase is ostensibly the leader of the Paw Patrol, but other members barely got a look in. By 6 December, that cantankerous canine had appeared behind three doors. In total, Chase made 10 appearances, while Zuma – lovely, sweet, overlooked Zuma, the Paw Patrol connoisseur’s pup of choice – didn’t show up once. Cheers sons crying, nice one.

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