12 Studies of Christmas: Advent Calendars

Next up in our 12 Studies of Christmas series - advent calendars. Invented by German Lutherans in the 19th Century, these festive staples have mutated from collections of Christmas pictures and the occasional chocolate into massive gift stockpiles, full of beauty products, toys and even yachts! We wanted to find out about advent calendars, what's in them and how people open them, so we asked 100 participants from across the UK and USA and these were our results.

First up, and most importantly, how many of our participants have an advent calendar this year? After everything that 2020 has thrown at us, you might expect people to treat themselves to a gift-laden Christmas countdown, yet we found that 51% of our participants did not have an advent calendar this year.

Of the 49% who did have a calendar this year, just under half had chocolate behind their doors. More traditional (but altogether more disappointing) pictures came a dismal second with 22.6%, while the increasingly prevalent beauty products, alcohol and assorted gifts came up next.


Advent calendars have one, very simple, easy to follow rule - open their 24 doors on the correct 24 days. Despite this, a shocking 10% of our participants said they open all their advent calendar doors at the same time! Although our overall study cohort was split 50/50 between men/women and US/UK, of those participants who chose to break the advent calendar golden rule 90% were from the USA and 70% were men. We should also note that 30% of these rulebreakers just had pictures behind their doors, meaning that they gained no material benefit from their terrible behavior beyond some Christmassy cartoons. Were they worth it to end up on the naughty list?

Our thesis was that people unable to resist the urge to open all their doors at once would demonstrate a lack of self-control in other areas of their lives, yet in almost all our other questions we could draw no conclusive distinction between the advent calendar bandits and the law-abiding majority. Interestingly, however, we found that people who did follow the advent calendar rules were actually about 15% more likely to drink and eat to excess on Christmas Day. Perhaps the anticipation generated by their correct advent calendar usage led to a bigger blow out on the day itself - a lesson in delayed gratification.

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