I’ve always loved advent calendars, though I have no idea why. The ones we used to get as kids, filled with tiny squares of cheap, waxy chocolate embossed with seasonal images of reindeer heads and snowmen and bells were enough to fill me with joy every day in December. I never liked the chocolate much, and often forgot to open the little paper doors on the day they were meant to be opened, but I loved having an advent calendar all the same.
I’ve continued the tradition with my own kids, though the calendars have changed a little. Oh, you can still get the paper ones with waxy chocolate shapes, but there are far better options to be had, too. The Man We Call Dad has a weakness for rich, smooth chocolate, and so a few times we have gotten the gigantic Lindt chocolate advent calendars. Most squares have more than one morsel of chocolate in them. Perfect for sharing: the kids each get an advent calendar, they eat one of the two chocolates, and give the other to The Man We Call Dad. Net result is the kids each get a hit of luscious melt-in-your-mouth sugar-high goodness right before they head out the door for school (the teachers must love us), and The Man We Call Dad gets… two.
Two years ago, we discovered that Playmobil — that wonderful invention — puts out advent calendars where each day is another piece in a playset. So… we did that instead of Lindt chocolate. The kids were ecstatic. The Man We Call Dad… less so. (Though finding a whole box of Lindt chocolate in his Christmas stocking went a long way towards fixing that).
Last year… last year this Mama wasn’t nearly so organized. She didn’t order a new Playmobil advent calendar, nor a lego one. In fact, somewhere around the wee hours of the night a day or two before the first of December, this Mama found herself scribbling furiously on little slips of paper, rolling them around a pencil, and fastening them with a teensy little hair elastic, since they had come in a package of about a million and were about the right size. When I was done, I grabbed the first fancy bowl I could find — this shiny gold plastic one that came from the dollar store, I believe — and threw them all in, higgeldy piggeldy. A giant heap of paper scrolls in a shiny gold bowl.
Each scroll was marked with a date from November 30th to December 25th, though I have no recollection now as to why I started the dates before the first of December. The scrolls said things like “Play Kids of Catan” and “Read a story under the Christmas tree” and “Go for a walk to look at all the Christmas lights in the neighbourhood.” Simple things, not too time consuming, and for the most part, absolutely free. We built gingerbread houses, did puzzles, played games, watched Christmas specials on tv.
Every day had something to do together as a family, and we found ourselves looking forward to opening each scroll each and every day. We had so much fun, we didn’t miss a single one.
This year, we’re doing it again. The scrolls have been made, tied up with red yarn this time, and the first one was opened this morning: bake banana bread. The kids are excited, they can’t wait to see what’s next. Personally, I can’t wait until they see Saturday’s scroll: Stay Up Late Tonight! All the way until Dad’s airplane gets in at midnight! We can’t wait to see The Man We Call Dad walk through the door. He’s ours for the whole month of December. The best Christmas present ever. I find myself not wanting anything else at all. Except maybe some socks. And yarn.