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Remember how when you were a child every Christmas you were guaranteed to get at least one selection box? And weren’t they great? Admittedly you always got a few duff bars and there was the sibling factor (must not eat my favourite bar before my sister eats hers) but oh they were good. It was like having the sweet shop in your living room. Naturally my parents would ration the bars out but then one year the selection boxes stopped. We had outgrown them. At least we still had Santa.
But by 1997 we no longer had Santa. Christmas of 1997 looked to be a bad one; no selection boxes, no Santa why if it wasn’t for the presents and time off school I wouldn’t have bothered at all. Luckily for me a brand new product arrived on the market that made Christmas of 1997 extra special. That product was Celebrations.
I do not think I have ever been so impressed in my life as I was when Celebrations were launched. Mini-chocolate bars sold like boxed chocolates. Little itty-bitty Mars and Snickers sold like they were Roses or Quality Street. Genius. Pure genius. And more importantly it was like the selection boxes of old only more fun. I wasn’t the only one who was as impressed because the launch of Celebrations was the most successful launch the UK confectionary market has ever seen (according to the information that Masterfoods sent me). They were so successful that both Cadbury and Nestle brought out their own versions.
Ever since then Celebrations have become something of a staple in the UK confectionary boxes and not a year has passed without my family consuming at least one box. But this year I got my very own box. I was lucky enough to receive the 280gram box but Celebrations can be bought in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from tiny 99p boxes to giant 800gram tins. Basically there is a size to fit every pocket, need and person. The 280gram box usually retails for around £2.50 to £3.00.
The box is predominantly red with a cut away cellophane panel so that you can see the selection of chocolates. The word “Celebrations” is displayed predominately and looks very attractive being made up a letter from each chocolate bar. Other phrase that cover the box are “Prepare to share” (no chance of that I can tell you now) and “The sparkling selection”. The box also promises me that all the chocolates are foil sealed for freshness which is reassuring to know. On the back of the box it lists the mini versions that you can expect to find in each box.
The box is easy to break into and each mini bar is wrapped in a version of the full-sized wrapper which looks very attractive. Each wrapper is easily torn off with pre-marked signs which also reduces the potential for sweetie wrapper rustling.
Now for the taste test. Please note that the numbers in brackets indicate how many of each I found in this particular box and should therefore only be used as a guide. Once again I will try to avoid repeating myself when I describe the taste of each chocolate.
Bounty (4) I have a soft spot for this mini-bar. You see Celebrations first led me to suspect that desiccated coconut might actually be quite edible. In effect Celebrations introduced me to the knowledge that Bounty bars were very edible and very delicious. The chocolate when unwrapped looks just like a mini Bounty. It has the same tablet shape as its big brother. Opening the wrapper reveals a slight whiff of coconut to whet your appetite. The taste is a mixture of creamy chocolate with the rich tropical, sweet taste of the desiccated coconut. However the sweetness is by no means overpowering and it is not sickly. There is also a good chocolate to coconut ratio. Beautiful.
Galaxy (5) This is a square of Galaxy chocolate. The taste is as you would expect from Galaxy. It is creamy, smooth, almost custardy chocolate with the faintest bitter undertone to cut the sweetness. Gorgeous.
Galaxy Caramel (3) When you unwrap this one you discover that it looks exactly the same as the Galaxy. However lurking inside the familiar tasting Galaxy chocolate is the most silken caramel known to man which has a rich butterscotch vanilla taste. Charming.
Galaxy Truffle (3) Unwrapped this looks a little bit like an acorn or a rugby ball. Inside this chocolate lurks a truffle filling. The Galaxy chocolate tastes as before but the truffle filling gives it a malty, dry sweetness. This is my favourite Celebration and in our house is always the first to vanish. To good to be true.
Maltesers (5) This looks the same as the Galaxy Truffle when you remove it from its freshness-preserver. The shape of it gives away the fact that it will not just be a Malteser like you find in Revels. Basically it is filled with a sort of chocolate truffle filling but with little honeycomb balls inside it. The chocolate tastes smooth and creamy with a definite vanilla flavour, the little honeycomb balls add a strong, malty flavour which balances the sweetness. Apparently this is the nation’s favourite Celebration. I can see why. Magnificent.
Mars (5) It never fails to amaze me how much like a big Mars bar this mini version looks. Eating these makes me feel like Gilbert Sullivan. In times gone by these would have been the few ones left in the box by the time all the others had been eaten. However I have re-discovered the Mars bar and was keen to try this mini version. Happily for me it tastes just like the big ones. You get the wonderful malty nougat with the butterscotch caramel and the creamy, vanilla chocolate. Not only that but in shrinking it down they have kept the proper proportions of the original bar. The only way these will be left in the box is if I am saving them until last. Marsvellous.
Milky Way (4) The Milky Way was one of my favourite chocolate bars as a child and they would still be right up there (it helps that they are cheap). The mini Milky Way looks identical to the full sized one in every way except the size. The taste is also identical as you get the creamy chocolate with the malty whipped filling. The whiteness of the filling also contrast nicely with the chocolate. Magical.
Snickers (3) When I was little the Marathon used to be my chocolate bar of choice. I have to say that I was not overly impressed by the name change but Snickers still tasted the same. As with the mini Mars bar they have scaled this mini Snickers down perfectly. The combination of the creamy chocolate, chewy nougat, butterscotch caramel and the saltiness of the peanuts just melds perfectly leaving you wanting more. As close to perfection as its big brother ever was. Scrumptious.
Topic (4) Prior to eating Celebrations I had never before heard of the Topic, let alone eaten one. Once again I am eternally grateful to Celebrations for introducing me to another great chocolate bar. This mini version is equally good. You get the combination of the creamy chocolate, the butterscotch caramel with the savoury, woody kick of the hazelnuts. Terrific.
Overall I must conclude that there is not a dud chocolate in this box. Each and every one is as good as their big brothers. Therefore I would recommend Celebrations to anyone who likes any of the full-sized chocolate bars that are contained within Celebrations. They also make a good alternative to Roses and Quality Street. Unlike Roses and Quality Street they also seem to make a good gift for any age group, whereas Roses and Quality Street seem aimed at a slightly older demographic (you wouldn’t give a teenager a box of Roses but you would give them a box of Celebrations). Celebrations are also good fun to eat. I put this down to the fact that they are little mini chocolate bars but with the added fun of the selection boxes that we remember from our childhood.
I think that Celebrations provide excellent value for money. When you analyse them you will see that they are quite similar to plain old boxed chocolates. This is because you have your nougat fillings, caramel fillings, nut fillings and truffle fillings just as you would in boxed chocolates. Clever, huh?
However I can think of one major problem with Celebrations. After sampling them the only thing I want is a full-sized version of whatever it is I have just eaten. All they have done is remind me of how much I love the big versions. So next year if you are giving me Celebrations make damn sure to include a selection box as well. Or failing that, get me a bigger box. Or better yet both!