The Christmas packages have normally started to arrive by the middle of November. One from each Grandma, both for La Gidg, but both for my attention, arriving at a destination not our home address in order that I can sort them and stash them until the appropriate moments. Moment number one being December 1st when the advent calendars are revealed. I don’t mean to sound too much like Cleese and Palin but when I was a kid we didn’t have fancy pants advent calendars. We had one between the three of us, and there was no chocolate behind those doors, just photos of smiling reindeers and then on the ultimate day there wasn’t a photo of a present, NO there was a photo of the Baby Jesus, which is at it should be, isn’t it? You do remember what Christmas is about don’t you? My husband and his sister had the same thing, and therefore I know that I am not making this up or misremembering or in any way exaggerating. We also both recall being extremely happy and excited about our silly advent calendars when opening the door every morning was a major event. Then there was the year when our opposite neighbours in the street came back from a trip to Austria with an amazing present for my brothers and I, a calendar which hid an incredible secret, when the doors were opened there wasn’t only an image but a small sliver of chocolate pressed into the shape of Father Christmas! What magic this was to us (mostly, it was the seventies) innocent and naïve children.
Now it’s “de rigeur” that advent calendars should have chocolate in them, okay that’s fine. I can cope, I get it, and in fact if I can get there first, I want it. But this year’s parcels did not contain advent calendars, no they contained the next incarnation of advent calendars which seem to be “craft opportunities”. As far as I can tell the “opportunity” is for mainly for me and you could swap that word for “chore” and you’ve more or less got it. One is a box with 24 drawers in it and the other is bunting made out of scratchy hessian which has 24 slots both of which I am supposed to put surprises and prizes into every day. What’s happened to Christmas? Has it got all hessian wrapped as if it’s guilty about being the commercialised event that it is these days? “I’ve been bad; I must wear a sack and a badly drawn Father Christmas”. Bless them but have all the grandparents forgotten how crazy the month of December gets with all of the parties, and shopping, not forgetting work and how intense that gets as we get towards the close of the year. “We thought it would be fun”, yeah, I now have to remember to put something inside those slots every morning or be nagged into next week about what SHOULD be in there.
I’m not much better though, realising the absence after many years of the traditional advent calendars from the grandparents I picked up a simple chocolate calendar in the supermarket last weekend. I had a choice between Papa Noel and the Sacred Family. Which do you think I chose? I’ll give you a clue: ho ho ho.