Another Yuletide, Another Atrocious Advent Calendar

Lovers of this seasonal buy must know that the advent calendar is no fukubukuro

It’s hard to comprehend the intense desire for advent calendars put out by luxury brands. They are expensive and offer little by way of real, full-size, tangible products, yet they seem to draw considerable desire until the acquirer discovers that what she has purchased holds very little that can be considered evident value. You’d think that after last year’s Chanel advent calendar controversy (stickers were offered!), consumers would make more circumspect choices when spending on seasonal items. Apparently not, as more are lured by the over-the-top packaging of these frankly useless barely-one-month calendars. And then to find out way before the last day that every item that helps countdown the days till the 24th are not as great as they were thought to be. Regret comes earlier than Christmas.

The latest brand to be called out for offering products that are disappointing is Dior. American TikToker Jackie Aina has been unboxing Dior’s USD3,500 La Collection Privée Trunk of Dreams calendar with “24 Dior surprises”. (The one in the above photo is a different advent calendar, available here for S$845). And the brand meant it, the surprising part. Ms Aina, even with enthusiasm intact, said, on the 12th day of opening the drawers of the calendar, “so far it is what is is” and “it ain’t that great”. On the 16th day (she opened more than one drawer each time), the soap she found was “very underwhelming” (earlier, there was even a coaster!). It didn’t seem that Ms Aina was enjoying the “marvelous, miniature universe”, that Dior calls the sum of items in the calendar. The reactions to Ms Aina’s post are, as imaginable, far from restrained.

Unless you are an influencer who received the advent calendars as a gift from the brand, there is the very real possibility that you would not feel you have got your money’s worth. Many Western consumers of these fancy but feeble boxes-as-calendars have probably not encountered the Japanese fukubukuro, a New Year tradition of grab bags filled with items that, in total, are usually higher in value than the whole package that is paid for. Like the advent calendar, buyers of the fukubukuro do not know what is inside. In China, these bags are known as fudai (福袋), and the practice is similar to that in Japan, with content mostly worth more than what is charged for the stuffed bag. But in the marketing stratagem of luxury brands, perceived—rather than substantive—value is good enough. The advent calendar is perhaps just a metaphor: Ha, we got you!

Photo: Dior

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