The concept of an advent calendar is a hugely popular aspect of today’s Christmas customs, ranging in price from £2 to over £1000 in the case of luxury brands. Nowadays, advent calendars are available in many different forms, including cosmetics, alcohol, and even pet treats. However, in recent years there has been a surge in efforts to literally ‘reverse’ this excessive consumption that so many of us are guilty participants in. 

Advents were first mass-produced in 1908 by German publisher Gerhard Lang, credited as ‘inventor of the printed advent calendar’, inspired by childhood memories of his mother sewing 24 cookies into the lid of a box. By 1958, chocolate calendars were becoming widespread, with Cadbury joining in 1971. In the present day, an estimated 16 million advent calendars are sold across the UK, 83% being chocolate or sweet-based. 

With rising poverty in Manchester, we have witnessed the growth of food banks in order to provide for those in need. For example, the Trussell Trust currently operates a network of 1013 food banks across the United Kingdom and is expecting to supply 1 million parcels to those in need this winter.

Now, you may question how this links to the little doors you open for 24 days a year, which is where the ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’ gets involved. While its origins are unclear, the foundation is that instead of receiving, you give back, with this being heavily linked to food poverty. Participants are asked to collect non-perishable food items over the festive period, to donate to food banks. People also often include toys, sanitary products, and toiletries as these tend to be expensive and lower priorities for families in dire need. 

A more recent trend is clubs and societies coming together as groups, which seems to be leading to a big increase in donations to food banks via reverse advent calendars. The Didsbury Celtic Club, a football supporters club located in a South Manchester pub, is a great example of this. They hope this year to donate 500 food items collectively and a large amount of toys to a local food bank. Spokesperson, Gareth Thomas spoke about their decision to organise a reverse advent calendar, in what will hopefully become an annual activity for the club. 

‘My friend’s daughter told me about the idea that her school was encouraging them to take part in, and I thought it was a great idea’  Gareth says,

 It might be a drop in the ocean of need but at least it's a drop, and it’s important to help each other out, especially at this time of year.

So, while December may already be underway, in the midst of shopping shenanigans and festive fun, so many charities and organisations need your help. If you are fortunate enough to be able to donate, whether in reverse advent form or otherwise, please consider spreading some Christmas cheer where you can.