Looking for a way to celebrate the Advent season and connect with wildlife each day? We’ve shared some of the best wildlife-themed Advent calendars out there, some of which will also support wildlife conservation charities.
Our colleagues over on Gathered have a range of great step-by-step guides for making your own advent calendars, including one made from different fabrics, and one involving embroidery, and a guide to buying Advent calendar craft kits. Plus, BBC Countryfile Magazine takes a look at the best non-chocolate Advent calendars, and BBC Science Focus has this excellent guide to 10 cool Advent calendars.
What is the Advent season?
One of the key aspects of the Christian celebration of Christmas is the Advent period. The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin ‘adventus’, meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’, and the Advent season is preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated at Christmas.
There are many Advent traditions, which different churches and communities use to count down the period. One such tradition is the Advent wreaths, where a candle is lit during church services on each Sunday of Advent.
Discover the best Advent hymns and music in this guide by Andrew Nethsingha, choral conductor and director of music at St John’s College, Cambridge, for BBC Music Magazine.
One of the most well-known traditions is the Advent calendar, counting down the days until Christmas Day. Modern Advent calendars are used between 1 and 24 December (sometimes also on 25 December), and are popular with Christian and secular communities alike.
A paper calendar was traditionally used, featuring scenes from the Nativity, and windows, one of which would be opened each day. These types of calendar remain popular.
In more recent times, there are now many variations of the calendar, which include chocolates or other gifts, and these are particularly popular among non-Christians. This kind of calendar is often themed around characters, games or activities.
Best wildlife and nature-themed Advent calendars 2021
Wild Life Advent calendar
Whether you’re buying this for yourself, a child or a friend who is young at heart, this Wild Life Advent calendar from Schleich is a cute way to engage with nature this holiday season. Each window contains an animal or item, focusing on African (and Madagascan) wildlife including a hippo, an elephant, a cheetah, a meerkat, a ring-tailed lemur and two birds.
Some of the pieces are quite small, so it is not suitable for children under three years of age, and adult supervision is recommended. We’re not sure about the inclusion of pirate treasure, as unsurprisingly we would prefer more animals! For those more interested in domestic animals, Schleich also have horse and farm animal Advent calendars available.
Woodland Trust silver birch Advent calendar
Printed in the UK on FSC-certified paper, this new Advent calendar was designed exclusively for the Woodland Trust by illustrator Amanda Loverseed. It features a silver birch tree in winter against a night sky and surrounded by snow. The windows open to reveal for illustrations, many of which are of wild animals, including a badger, a barn owl and a robin. The Woodland Trust also has an oak tree Advent calendar designed by Amanda Loverseed available.
Sustainable Animal Facts Advent calendar
Learn about wild animals with this eco-friendly Advent calendar, designed and printed in the UK on 100% recycled card. Each Advent calendar also provides a £1 donation to the World Land Trust‘s tree planting project in the Borneo rainforest. The cards are A5 in size, and include the animal’s name, it’s IUCN Red List Status and a fun fact about the species. There is also an activity card for each day, which can be turned into a paper chain after use.
The Urban Botanist Limited Edition Plant Advent calendar
Bring the outside in with this Limited Edition Plant Advent calendar from The Urban Botanist via Selfridges, in recyclable packaging. Each item comes individually wrapped to ensure that the plant is kept safe during transit, and the calendar includes 24 plants, planters and ancillary botanical gifts such as airplane Christmas baubles, potted Christmas cacti and fairy lights, worth over £250.
The plants are all carefully chosen to be able to survive in the calendar, and the back of the calendar has discreet light holes so they can receive light. A QR code sticker is sent which has a direct link to plant care instructions. Available for delivery from 20 November, the calendar will be made up the day before shipping to ensure they arrive in pristine condition.
National Trust Children’s Advent calendar
Featuring a reindeer, robin, red squirrel and hedgehog delivering Christmas presents, an illustrated woodland scene decorates this children’s Advent calendar from the National Trust. The windows open to reveal more illustrations.
Christmas Forest Animals 3D Pop Advent calendar
It’s a build-your-0wn Advent calendar with this adorable forest scene, with artwork by designer Katie Vernon. Two sheets of cardboard are provided with 24 pop out icons which neatly slot together to form this 3D Advent calendar.
This shop also has a range of other wildlife-themed 3D Advent calendars available, including Northern Lights also by designer Katie Vernon, Frosty Forest by designer Antoana Oreski, and Silver Stag by Kendra Binney. For each Pop & Slot Advent calendar sold, Roger la Borde will donate £1 to Tree Aid.
PLAY in CHOC Vegan Chocolate Toy Advent calendar
This plastic-free calendar features 24 drawers, each containing an organic vegan chocolate, a 3D puzzle toy and a fun facts card. The chocolate has 100% Soil Association certified organic ingredients, and is also nut, gluten and soy free. The 3D toys include a reindeer, an owl, and a Christmas tree. The outer sleeve can be opened up into a landscape to play with the 3D toys.
The calendar is reusable for future Advent seasons, by refilling the drawers with gifts of your own choice.
Seed Packets Christmas Advent calendar
Be inspired to grow-your-own with this thoughtful calendar filled with 25 wildflower, vegetable and herb seed packets. The packets themselves are made from recycled paper, the seeds are contained within a paper sachet inside, and it all comes in a recycled (and recyclable) box. The wildflower seeds are all from British species grown in the UK.
Animal Building Blocks
Build your own animals this Advent season with this Advent calendar from KreativeKraft, which comes with easy to follow instructions and a playmat. A wide range of both extant (living) and extinct species are included, such as an elephant, a turtle, a T-rex, a lantern fish and a bee. Due to the various small parts, this Advent calendar is advised for children aged three years and above.
KreativeKraft also has a Zoo Animals Advent Calendar, with 24 detailed figurines of a range of animals, including a lion, a giraffe, a panda, and a sloth, and a Dinosaur Advent Calendar with 16 dinosaur figurines, including triceratops, spinosaurus, and allosaurus, 8 accessories and a play mat.
Main image: Homemade Advent calendar. © Switlana Symonenko/Getty Images