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Why videos of $500 beauty advent calendars are flooding TikTok

Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you? Dior sells an advent calendar for $4,200. It comes with white glove delivery. And there’s more where that came from. Especially on TikTok.

Luxury advent calendars are becoming more popular each year, with offerings from Vogue ($456), Jo Malone ($495), Neiman Marcus ($225), Pandora ($486.50), Yves Saint Laurent ($400), Swarovski ($1300) and probably any other high-end brand you can think of. This might make you boil with rage, or bubble with curiosity, or rush online to see for yourself. Or, as we did in 2021 with Chanel’s notoriously terrible $825 calendar, you might admonish the companies that absolutely fumble the bag on their holiday offerings.

Those visceral reactions are why so many content creators are investing in these pricey advent calendars for their TikTok and YouTube channels.

“I really did spend over $20,000 on advent calendars,” said Mary Berry, who has been posting daily unboxing videos of luxury advent calendars on TikTok. Before she started posting advent calendar content, she had about 4,000 followers — now, she’s nearing 100,000.

Advent calendar videos scratch the same itch as online window shopping. Watching them is like filling up your virtual cart with virtual items, only to never actually check out and pay for them. As viewers, we get a rush of excitement when we see what item is behind each door. If we didn’t want to wait, we could just search for these calendars elsewhere and find a complete list of all the products inside, rather than watching along with these daily videos. But that ruins the fun, so we keep coming back to watch the next video.

After joining TikTok’s Creator Fund, Berry has made about $1,500 from the platform, which only covers a fraction of her spending on advent calendars. But, as the founder of Cosmos Labs, a business that manufactures cosmetics for brands, she sees her investment as a marketing expense.

“I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought I should be doing it, but it just felt like the thing to do — but now I’ve gotten clients from it, like actual beauty brands, because they see that I know what the beauty trends are,” Berry told TechCrunch. “We’ve gotten legitimate business out of it, which is crazy, because for us, business isn’t like, ‘Oh, we sold a mascara,’ it’s like, ‘We sold 100,000 face creams.’”

Even for creators who aren’t growing their own beauty businesses, the revenue from these videos can make advent calendars pay for themselves.

Amanda Golka, the creator behind Swell Entertainment, has been posting daily TikToks in which she opens each door of the Vogue advent calendar. She told TechCrunch that her viewers had been requesting advent calendar content for the last few years, but by the time December rolled around, it would be too late to buy the calendars, since they can sell out far before the holiday season.

This year, she finally got her hands on Vogue’s $456 calendar. Within a few days of posting her daily unboxing TikToks, she told TechCrunch that the calendar had almost paid for itself.

In the past, TikTok has been nearly useless for monetization, since creators were getting only a few cents per thousand views as part of the Creator Fund. Now, under the new Creativity Program Beta, creators who make videos longer than one minute are eligible to make way more money than they would have previously. Given the changes, advent calendar videos may be more lucrative than ever this year.

These TikToks aren’t coming from overtly religious creators. The elephant in the (online) room here is that advent calendars are a nod to the Christian concept of the advent, which represents the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Of course, a Kylie Cosmetics lip gloss countdown does not have much to do with Jesus. But Chris Stedman, a religion and philosophy professor, believes that there is still some kind of value and meaning to be found in these daily rituals.

Stedman has researched the role of the internet in people’s spiritual lives, especially as affiliation with religious institutions has declined in the U.S. Young people might not be going to church as often as their grandparents, but that doesn’t mean they don’t seek to understand the world around them.

“If you’re not plugged into institutions that give you structured ways to reflect on questions of meaning and purpose, you’ll still be doing that in the spaces where you’re spending time,” Stedman told TechCrunch. “TikTok is one of those spaces where you’re spending a lot of time.”

It may seem like a completely non-spiritual act to buy an exorbitantly expensive advent calendar, and then attempt to recoup the cost by making videos each day about what’s inside. And for most of these creators, they probably aren’t thinking about the birth of Christ when they unbox their new Mac lipstick. But they’re creating a sort of daily ritual, in lieu of religious rituals like prayer that other people might turn to.

“We have this very modern idea that religion is just kind of another thing that we can consume,” Stedman said. “You can shop around and get a little religion from your astrology app, you can do Tarot, you can wear a rosary… Religion can be all about DIY-ing your own personal sense of meaning, rather than being this collective thing that you participate in.”

Whether it’s following a detailed nightly skincare routine or pulling a Tarot card each morning, TikTok itself rewards ritual. These trends and ideas, which revolve around adopting a routine, tend to go viral. Even going on a daily “hot girl walk” can be a way of imposing order and meaning into our lives – and, so can opening the next door on an advent calendar.

“Even though we think we’re not shaped by these bigger forces, we actually are,” Stedman told TechCrunch. “These advent calendars may seem like they’re not loaded with significance, but actually they are. It’s just that the significance is, you know, the values of consumerism.”

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