Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: Countdown calendars and daily delights

Many twists on an advent tradition, for you and those you love.
Sami's partner, Jess, a masked white non-binary person with pink hair and a red checkered shirt with jeans holds Gravy Rae, a small black and white dog in a jean jacket along with two advent calendars, one with dog biscuits and one Dolly Parton-themed.

Many twists on an advent tradition, for you and those you love.

It’s the start of holiday season, readers! This month I want to talk about countdown calendars—more commonly called advent calendars. I understand these are mostly a Christian/Christmas-based tradition, but I encourage folks to adapt this month’s pleasure practice of small daily delights to however you celebrate at year’s end: Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Glitzmas, Solstice, New Year’s, etc. Whatever you celebrate, consider making a countdown of daily delights to a specific day that has meaning or value to you. So I’ll use the terms “advent calendar” as well as “countdown calendar” here, but I mean it very broadly, secularly, and probably a little sacrilegiously too.

Last year a friend bought me a cheese advent calendar from Aldi. Every day from December 1 to December 25 I opened a little snack size piece of cheese: pesto cheddar, Mediterranean herb Gouda, pepper jack, Gruyère, and more. It was a small tiny surprise each day that brought me pleasure. This year I decided I wanted one again and I gifted some to friends as well. 

I am excited by the idea of not only opening my own little gift each day, but also having partners and friends opening their own daily delights and telling me all about it. It invites sweet and simple interactions and shared experiences during a season that can be busy and stressful for many. You can choose to get the same calendar for you and a friend or loved one so you get the same little surprise each day, or get different ones for different people. Personally, I bought a “taste of Wisconsin” countdown calendar for one long-distance partner, a Dolly Parton one for my Dolly-loving local partner, a dog treat countdown calendar for multiple pups in my world, and a spice one for some chosen family. For myself, I went with another cheese calendar, though I got a Murray’s Cheese calendar instead of an Aldi one this time around. 


A lot of people think of advent calendars as chocolate-based (and/or for children), but there are tons of types of these available at different price points. In my search for the perfect countdown calendars for my loved ones I found calendars with tea, makeup, skincare items, Legos, Funko Pops, alcohol, jams, popcorn, and even an adult sexual advent calendar with toys and lubes and such! So many options! If nothing is really speaking to you or you’re on budget, consider doing a homemade countdown calendar exchange with a partner or friend. You can either buy a reusable calendar from a store (Target has a bunch) or make your own using paper loop chains, envelopes, wrapped numbered gifts, or a random collection of boxes. Your countdown calendar can be 25 days, 12, 10, whatever you want or have capacity for making. All that matters is having a collection of small daily delights for a period of time leading up to a specific date. If you’re making your own for someone you love (or yourself!), here are some ideas you can use for the entirety of the calendar, or mix and match these suggestions within one calendar as feels good to you! It’s all about creating pleasure on an intentional, daily basis.

Potential Homemade Advent Calendar Contents

  • Coupons for acts of service 
  • Daily affirmations
  • The name of a song you want them to listen to (or if you’re fancy, a QR code to scan to go directly to a song or music video on their phone)
  • Printed photos 
  • Notes describing fond memories with that person, poems, or quotes
  • Tiny treasures like figurines, stones or crystals
  • Bite-size or sample-size snacks
  • Stickers
  • Collectible or trading cards
  • Makeup and skincare samples

Whatever you do, do it with care and joy. Take pleasure in some daily delights next month and never forget to remind yourself that you’re a badass bitch—every day if you need!

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

An ode to the best and worst of Madison summers.

Eight stories over eight days, delivered directly to your inbox.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top