The Bonfire of the (Advent) Vanities

In case you’re a working adult, how often, come December 1, do you feel as if there was just too much time in your hands ahead of the Christmas holidays? That there are just too many unbooked slots in your Outlook calendar, that the evenings are just so empty and bare? That maybe a special calendar would be in order to make the days pass faster?

Me neither. December is not a month, it’s 24 days of trying to scramble in a perpetual motion machine that keeps spinning faster and faster until it explodes in a relationship/family crisis the minute the holidays start.

Embracing our inner child was once considered sufficient for the precise duration of the Church-mandated Christmas holidays. Not anymore. It’s a permanent vibe these days. We skulk around clutching our (water)bottles and (yoga)rugs like infants, and throw manifestly loud online tantrums should anyone disagree with our world view. Like children, we need to be protected from some literature (To Kill a Mockingbird and the Handmaid’s Tale, as suggested by one (university) library in Canada, and some Shakespeare’s works, as called for by Finnish theatre students), as well as from certain fashion, art and history – everything on a rolling, arbitrary case by case basis as the fancy takes one, of course.

An adult advent calendar therefore is merely a natural continuum to this reverse evolution – although it has been around for a decade already, so it’s a chicken/egg -debate really. And I’m not referring to advent calendars filled with chocolates, I’m referring to advent calendars that include miniature things for adults. (Because what every adult needs when the holidays are over is extra 24 pieces of crap to throw out.)

I’m referring to the luxury adult advent calendars that help us “smell different everyday of this Holiday season”. Or maybe bring that much needed extra love to our hair for the next 3,5 weeks? Some packaging claim to be works of art themselves: “packaging depicts images of the brand’s greatest inspirations, botanical ingredients (can’t escape botanical, can you?) and conservation on each drawer”, or in the case of Tiffany’s advent calendar, it’s a reproduction of the Basquiat painting from their recent “Equals Pi” ad campaign, retails for $150,000 – and need I go on?

I do. Because unlike actual children, us adults can’t handle disappointments or surprises very well. Therefore, and probably also to save themselves from costly lawsuits, the brands photograph the contents of their advent calendars online so that before adding to basket we can pore over each minuscule sample to estimate whether 24 tiny soap bars packaged in a posh cardboard box are worth the hundreds of euros. (Yes, fair enough, with a chocolate advent calendar we also know there’s a bit of chocolate behind each door.)

To illustrate how adult advent calendars really are becoming actual first world problems, there’s now a great luxury advent calendar debacle making the rounds all the way up in The New York Times. An adult influencer had bought the €800 Chanel advent calendar and threw an epic social media tantrum because she was disappointed with the contents. After having seen them online before buying the thing (and obviously having over €800 of money to spend on an advent calendar). Millions of people have watched her videos online and mobbed Chanel’s Instagram profile because the brand is ripping off customers with such a betrayal of an Advent calendar.
(Any parent would point out the truly aggravating action of the influencer, which is, of course, that she had opened all of the doors already, much like a child would.)

So. Life is hard. Sure, people spend their money on all kinds of non-essential merchandise, and sometimes paying for cosmetics samples one usually gets for free with a purchase can make sense. I for one buy scented candles, which arguably is the equivalent to burning cash, so I’m really not in a position to criticise. I’m as much lured by the freebie and the sample bag and the giveaway as the next person. Isn’t this what modern Christmas is all about? To amass as much (preferably free) merch as possible, spread over as many weeks as possible?

And finally, as if this needed any pointing out, obviously about 99% of these luxury advent calendars are marketed for women. Obviously.

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