Countdown to what you ask? Christmas of course! Today is the second day of Advent.
In our home we have a family tradition of counting down to Christmas Eve with an advent calendar. Every year it is brought out of storage. Spider webs and dust are shook off. It is carefully hung on the wall. Twenty four pockets are filled with sweets I have been buying over the last few weeks. They are hidden away. On the 30th November, when the kids are not around I fill the pockets. I use the word ‘kids’ loosely as they are adults now. This tradition however remains important to us.
When I was a little girl in Finland Mum brought home an Advent Calendar. Our first ever. It was a wondrous thing. The size of an A4 sheet of paper, it had a Christmas picture printed on it. There were 24 numbered windows. Every morning would be looked forward to with great anticipation. We would each take turns opening a window with three of the sides perforated. It was with great excitement that we ever so carefully opened the window. There was always some delightfully exciting looking Christmas picture waiting to be discovered. On the 24th there was a Christmas Nativity scene.
The Advent Calendar windows were carefully closed and it was stored away for the next year. When the ritual would be repeated. Despite the familiarity of the pictures, and windows that had been opened before, the excitement never failed to thrill.
Then came the chocolate calendars. My, oh my! That was decadently delicious. And expensive. It was a once off treat. Of course there was only one chocolate behind each window. And there were three of us. Not only that, the calendar could not be re-used. Somehow the excitement of our tradition had become tarnished. It was never quite the same again. We wanted the chocolate calendar! Consumerism had dipped a toe into our Christmas tradition.
After we migrated to Australia the advent calendar became a far distant memory. The BC (before children) phase of our marriage remained calendar-less. Then I came across one at a Church sale. It had been handcrafted by a previous pastor’s wife. I remembered it well. She had wrapped little gifts into the pockets of the plain brown poster size calendar. It was part of a Christmas raffle prize. Whoever had won it obviously no longer wanted it. There it was in amongst the trash and treasure on the trading table. They wanted 50 cents for it. I snapped it up and took it home.
By then we had son number one. I had kept special wooden gift tags and other memorabilia from Christmas gifts of years gone by. I decorated the calendar with them and other Christmassy items. It looked awesome. With great excitement equal to that of my childhood memories the Advent Calendar returned into our home. And has stayed with us ever since.
Here it is, hanging on our wall leading us day by day to Christmas Eve.
© Raili Tanska