I know it’s not advent yet but I wondered how you were doing with your advent calendar choices? When I was a lass, an advent calendar was a picture of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and assorted shepherds, animals and wise men. These were usually pictured in a stable under a big star with everyone looking particularly beatific and having scrubbed up very well. (Suspiciously well in Mary’s case compared with how I looked when I had just given birth to my own eldest son) There were 24 windows and when you opened them there was a picture of something we all wanted for Christmas like a drum (no) or a toy soldier (nooo) or Christmas pudding (never liked ’em). If you were particularly racy and ahead of the game, you quickly moved on to having advent calendars with chocolate behind the windows. It didn’t taste very nice but chocolate is chocolate and having it before breakfast was a real bit of “Christmas is coming” decadence. And that was more or less how advent calendars stayed. (Except that most of them now have Darth Vader on them or that cartoon woman who bellows “LET IT GOOOO” at you in that Disney film I can never remember. Heaven forfend that it should actually show a stable or a donkey or the Saviour of the World)
Now though we have Social Media which is full of good things, but also never knowingly misses an opportunity to sell something as totally essential to the those with more money than sense and – even more unfortunately – to those who can’t really afford this kind of thing at all. We now have “The Luxury Advent Calendar”. Lets move on for a moment from the irony that the original Nativity scene shown on Advent calendars was a scene of poverty and simplicity (Sorry to keep bringing that up – Baby Jesus and all that) but the whole thing is completely doing my head in this year. Now I think that I have mentioned that I did have a bit of a foray into the Advent Calendar market a few years ago. I bought a Yankee Candle Calendar which encouraged you to light one of its little candles every night in December. I thought it might be quite festive, which it was. However, the scent made HOH cough and he kept moaning like a Grinch about his throat closing up and also they burned for ages! In the end I was considering taking the little tea lights into the back yard and battering them with sticks and vegetation like you see people doing in bush fires.
This year Advent Calendars have gone off the scale. People queued outside Liberty’s to buy theirs for £175.00. I’ll say that again £175.00. There is a Jo Malone one for £300 and even the Body Shop has them for about £100. If you can think of a make-up brand – it probably has an advent calendar this year. You can get them with whisky, with Lego and with pork scratchings. (That’s sort of crisps with hair on for those who aren’t sure. I know. I know. Being British is hard sometimes) Now, if you can afford them, I don’t suppose it is such a bad thing. The stuff behind the Liberty windows adds up to approximately £500 so it is good value if you like that kind of thing. I have a couple of problems with it though. Firstly, if you can’t really afford it but all your Social Media people are waving these things at you like they are life essentials, you can get carried away. Young people are particularly vulnerable to this. Also, I kind of think that there is a time and a place. Advent is still about Christmas (just about). It’s about an event that shook the world. Even at its least spiritual it is about simplicity and love and faith. There is a certain spirit about it that Reverse Advent captures far more successfully than some You Tuber waving around a sixty quid calendar full of skincare samples that the manufacturers thought that they would never be able to get rid of and telling you that she has no idea how she ever lived without it. This is before we make people even more uncomfortable by talking about the birth of Jesus.
Advent is about lots of things. For me it is about preparation and organisation. But is is also about slowing and reading and thinking and allowing myself to become full of wonder. I have to get myself together to do it and prioritise quiet but it is worth it. Sometimes I light a candle. (Not a scary one that HOH thinks is trying to kill him.) There are Advent Candles you know. You burn down a day as you count down. Just a little light. Makes you think. Makes you quiet. That is all.