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Creative Advent calendars for the 2020 holiday season

Ten, nine, eight … There’s something about a countdown before a special event that makes its arrival all the more exciting. That's one reason why Advent calendars that track the run up to the holidays, and deliver delightful daily treats along the way, remain so popular.

“It’s about the anticipation,” says Alex Palmer, author of “The Atlas of Christmas: The Merriest, Tastiest, Quirkiest Holiday Traditions from Around the World.” “Each day becomes its own mini celebration and a way to savor every moment leading up to the big occasion. That’s something that never gets old — especially right now.”

Introduced in Germany in the mid-19th century in handmade versions designed for children looking forward to the holiday, Advent calendars went on to be printed and mass-produced. They made their way to the U.S. in the late 1940s, Palmer writes in the new book. “These early versions often included a Bible verse for each day, before chocolates and all variety of other treats became the norm.”

Over time, the seasonal countdowns have expanded to include goodies for grown-ups as well as kids in all sorts of unexpected and out-of-the-box themes — wine, cheese, yummy snacks for pups, you name it. 

And why not? Holidays are made for celebrating. Between the twinkling lights, colorful decorations and holiday gifts from the heart and fresh-baked treats from the oven, there’s always so much to anticipate. Each year brings an array of Advent calendars to count the days in festive ways. We chose these 13 to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. 

The E.l.f.tastic Advent Calendar

Enjoy E.l.f.'s best-selling makeup products all holiday season
Credit: e.l.f. Cosmetics/Nick Stokes

Enjoy E.l.f.'s best-selling makeup products all holiday season long. Open the calendar to unwrap a poreless putty primer, liquid glitter eyeshadow and more; $45 at elfcosmetics.com.

Man Crates Jerky Advent Calendar

Enjoy savory jerky bites, from garlic beef to
Credit: Man Crates

Enjoy savory jerky bites, from garlic beef to root beer habanero, each day leading up to the holiday; $79.99 at mancrates.com

25 Day Advent Calendar Playlist

25 Day Advent Calendar Playlist: Each day reveals
Credit: Uncommon Goods

Each day reveals a QR code scannable from any smartphone that takes you to a cover of a classic holiday song. Listen up for "Silent Night" and "Feliz Navidad" in this merry mixtape; $25 at uncommongoods.com.

Night Before Christmas Advent Calendar

Night Before Christmas Advent Calendar: The set includes
Credit: Funko

The set includes 24 itty bitty figures direct from Halloween Town. Look for pumpkin king Jack Skellington and buggy Oogie Boogie; $50 at Funko.com.

Popcorn Christmas Advent Calendar

Popcorn Christmas Advent Calendar: Pop quiz: What goes
Credit: Williams Sonoma

Pop quiz: What goes great with holiday movies and making evergreen garlands? Popcorn, of course. White, yellow and red kernels, popping oil and seasonings including salted caramel and French toast are tucked inside; $49.95 at Williams-Sonoma

​​​​​​​Sugarfina 8 Nights of Light

Sugarfina 8 Nights of Light: Cookies, caramels and
Credit: Neiman Marcus

Cookies, caramels and jelly beans are among the eight days of sweets in this Hanukkah tasting collection; $20 at Neiman Marcus.

Hot Wheels Calendar

Hot Wheels Calendar: Kids don't need a license
Credit: Mattel

Kids don't need a license to drive these cool rides. The collection includes eight vehicles, 16 ace accessories and a fold-out playmat to set the stage for miles of fun; $19.99 at mattel.com.

Palais des Thés Tea Advent Calendar

Palais des Thés Tea Advent Calendar: Comfort is
Credit: Macy's

Comfort is in the bag. Warm up a chilly day -- 24 of them, actually -- by brewing up tea in a soothing and delicious array of flavors; $32 at Macy's

Marvel 15 Days of Socks Advent Calendar

Marvel 15 Days of Socks Advent Calendar: Put
Credit: Target

Put your best (and most heroic) foot forward for the holidays. The 15-pair pack features a mix of crew socks and low-cuts in men's size 6-12 celebrating the Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and more; $15 at Target.

LEGO Friends Advent Calendar

LEGO Friends Advent Calendar: The 24-day set features
Credit: Kohls.com

The 24-day set features the world of Heartlake City, home to LEGO friends, as the kids will tell you. Mini figures of nature lover Mia and robots Zobo and Zobit, a snowman, two penguins and more will keep little minds busy; $29.99 at Kohl's.

Capri Blue 12 Days of Volcano Holiday Gift Set

Huntington Home Scents of the Season Candle Set:
Credit: Anthropologie

Freshen up with the fruity, citrusy fragrance of Volcano in a dozen ways including candles, scented oils, room sprays, and beauty and bath treats; $158 at Anthropologie.

Signature Advent Calendar

Signature Advent Calendar: In the mood for some
Credit: L’OCCITANE en Provence

In the mood for some pampering? Who isn't? This L'Occitane set includes two-dozen great ways to do that, including hand cream, shower oil and shampoo; $74 at loccitane.com.

12 Days of Cheer Countdown

12 Days of Cheer Countdown: American Girl fans
Credit: Mattel

American Girl fans can look forward to opening a dozen doors to see what's behind them. That includes a sparkly reindeer headband and a beaded bracelet. Telling more would be TMI and spoil the surprises; $50 at americangirl.com.

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