Turns out, as I sit here, fingers poised, waiting until the last possible second to get this post written, it dawns on me that the advent calendar tradition never really was that much of a tradition in my house. That said, I do have this wonderful childhood memory of occasionally having these. What I remember loving most, were the calendars my mother bought that featured a dense Yuletide tableau. I could spend hours staring at the little scenes depicted, transporting myself to a world more colourful and exciting than mine ever seemed to be, all while hunting for the right number and my chocolate treat, knowing that this gesture was bringing me ever closer to my favorite holiday.
The other anticipation I recall enjoying was not knowing what the chocolate would look like; would it be a teddy bear? A christmas stocking? Of course by the 24th, you could be sure that upon opening the last cardboard flap, you would find yourself, face to face, with Santa…well not Santa per se but a tiny chocolate reproduction of him. This foretold the arrival of the real Santa, hopefully ladened with toy-booty, most of which would hopefully be tagged with my name.
The truth is that the chocolate advent calendar was mostly a torturous time. Early on, I was so so so desperate for my chocolate each day, it actually hurt. As I got older, I would succumb to my naughty urges and ‘eat ahead’. This would be followed by my wallowing in guilt, with the horrifying knowledge that I had zero self-control. So of course, why wouldn’t I share this ‘wonderful’ tradition with my kids?
As it turns out, I had in fact completely blocked out the memory of the advent calendar, that is until I came across one in a Singaporean supermarket. Surrounded by tropical jungle and intense sunshine, I needed every bit of help I could get my hands on to help me into the Christmas spirit. I bought two of these, one for my three-year-old and one for my husband. The baby was too young and I had numerous public trysts with Starbucks chocolate molten cakes under my belt to warrant any additional sweets. Of course the SGD30 price-tag helped encourage moderation.
The plain-jane picture should have raised the first red flag. The confirmation of a complete waste of money award was the lack of attention my husband paid to the calendar after eating December 1st. This is a man who *must* have something sweet after dinner and went to bed ‘without’ for a month.
I vowed never again. And then, the next tropical Christmas arrived, and my fingers twitched, reaching out for yet another over priced Advent Calendar, this time in a Bangkok market. I held off, barely, and vowed to make my own. One Ikea shopping trip later, I had my cardboard Santa and 24 small drawers to fill with goodies for my two little elves.
For the price of a reusable Santa and all the goodies —a selection of jelly beans, stickers, hair-clips and some chocolate coins— I still spent less than one of those rubbish imported store calendars. More importantly, the experience was intensely personal and I felt a great sense of satisfaction, which is pretty ridiculous since all I did was unwrap little items and re-package them in the pre-made drawers.
Maybe next year, I’ll take it up a notch and go the Danish route, preparing a ‘packet calendar’. I was fortunate enough to have one made for me in a previous life: twenty-four little packages tied along a string, hanging down. It was like having a touch of Christmas every day, which is the point really…
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Yule, Saint Nick and Sadeh. And let us never forget: a Festivus for the rest of us.