It's my life: Advent calendar heralds the arrival of Christmas

TODAY is December 1 and like it or not Christmas is coming. 

If, like me, you’re a sprinter don’t panic, today is only a reminder that the clock has started. It will be at least another ten days before the lack of Christmas shopping leads to panic attacks and insomnia.

Having one Christmas-obsessed child among my four means that I’m already immune to the season, as she’s been watching Christmas movies and playing festive songs for weeks. However, when my children were younger, I desperately tried to keep Christmas out until December 1. Each year we heralded its arrival by putting up the Advent calendar on a nail in the kitchen, a nail which remains empty all year in anticipation of this moment.

Our Advent calendar is a brightly painted, handmade wooden calendar, in the shape of a house. Each door has a symbol of Christmas on it and a tiny doorknob to open it by.

Its arrival was always met with as much excitement as if Christmas itself were moments away. I remember explaining it to my rather confused four-year-old son one year.

“What is it?” he wondered, jumping up excitedly in unison with the older children.

“It’s a calendar”, I explained, “when all the doors are open it’s Christmas.”

Moments later, I entered the kitchen where the same small boy stood beaming.

“Happy Christmas,” he shouted pointing to the calendar with all its doors open.

As I minded two little girls as well as my own four my difficulty was that for every door we had six little pairs of hands wanting to open it. Friends got over this issue in their homes by
buying separate calendars for each child, usually with chocolate inside. I saw no magic in that, so ignoring my children’s begging I came up with a solution which became a tradition in our house and cost almost nothing.

Each day I’d put a jelly or a piece of chocolate behind the calendar door and hide five other sweets around the kitchen. As they gathered the one who was to open the door did so while the others lined up for a cryptic clue as to where their sweet was hidden.

“Dad needed these after the soccer match against Denmark.” (The box of tissues.)

“Snow white.” (The fruit bowl.)

If they solved the clue quickly, they boasted how clever they were. If they struggled, it was my fault.

“That’s a stupid clue.”

Of course, nothing brought greater joy to the successful onlookers than sitting on the kitchen table munching their sweet while giggling and goading the last searcher. Occasionally tempers flared, but it was usually a fun if a little lengthy experience.

Today, however, the nail on the kitchen wall is empty. The Christmas season has begun, and no one has asked us to bring down the calendar.

I can’t say I’m that surprised as the other day I made a discovery in my youngest daughter’s bedroom. After years of begging she’s taken matters into her own hands and has bought herself a chocolate Advent calendar.

I’m no fool and fully realise that as our children grow up Christmas changes but some changes hit harder than others. As I despair at the empty nail on the wall and mourn the excitement of days gone by, I imagine my youngest munching on her daily chocolate is more than happy with the new tradition.

Maybe she’s right.

Perhaps it’s time to ditch that little wooden calendar and embrace new traditions. I’ve heard there’s all manner of Advent calendar’s out there nowadays offering daily doses of gin, prosecco or coffee to name but a few.

Perhaps I’ll use that empty nail after all.

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