Technically speaking, Advent is the four-week Christian period of introspection and preparation leading up to the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25. This year, Advent starts on Sunday, Nov. 30, and carries through the four Sundays before Christmas.
More generally, "secular" Advent marks a 25-day countdown to St. Nic's arrival down the chimney.
Advent calendars -- from a smiling Santa to a gauzy Nativity scene -- long have been a low-key way for families to teach children about Christmas. Many calendars feature little doors for each day, opening to reveal a small present or piece of candy inside.
Now, more companies are capitalizing on the season. You could spend all of Advent looking for the perfect calendar, as several major brands now sell them, including Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, L.L. Bean and World Market. Or, if you're more naughty than nice, there's a, um, adults-only version.
In case you are still on the lookout, we scoured the Internet for the brilliant and bizarre:
Quench your holiday thirst by getting one of these boxes, from the Beer Cellar in suburban Chicago.
These calendars are filled with belly-pleasing goodness.
Fill your home with fragrances like snowflake cookie, icicles, angels wings (exactly what do angel wings smell like, anyway?), cranberry ice, Christmas cookie and Christmas garland. The limits are endless!
Not a big alcohol drinker? Try this string of teas calendar, courtesy of Artful Tea.
In the spirit of the increasingly popular Birch Box concept where users receive a box of cosmetic samples once a month, The Body Shop and Sephora stores offer 25 pint-sized lip gloss, hair ties, pore minimizer and more.
Count down to Christmas with "surely the greatest advent calendar known to humankind." The British-based Master of Malt warns of a spoiler alert: you can find out the contents, but they'll place them randomly so you're adequately surprised each day.
The magnetic chalkboard advent calendar holds 25 tins of chocolates and a $5 Starbucks card, a card you could splurge on yourself (don't go crazy) or stick in someone else's stocking.
Take a few minutes each day to build a little lego land. “Help the police to build an awesome sled to catch the crook who’s stolen the presents.”
Video courtesy of Cards Against Humanity
The makers of Cards Against Humanity, the completely irreverent and inappropriate card game, has a Kwanzaa (or whatever) Advent-ish concept. "You give us $15. We'll send you ten mystery gifts for the ten days or whatever of Kwanzaa." No refunds. No complaining.
Pamper yourself with a mini manicure, using a new nail polish hidden behind a daily window, from Sephora.
Not into Christmas but want the same experience of surprise and delight every day for a month? This super-environmentally friendly calendar focuses on one good dead or “heartfelt task” each day for 27 days.
Billed as the world's smallest Advent calendar, you can customize a little jelly belly tin courtesy of Zazzle. Plus, it measures your self control, assuming you can eat just one jelly belly at a time.