I have always loved Advent calendars: the kind where you open a paper door and see inside a window or door, the felt ornaments you use to decorate a felt tree, or the glorious ones of my childhood that revealed waxy chocolates. I love the anticipation they build for the season. I love the little excitement every day.
Now that I am a mom, I go a bit crazy over our Advent calendar. It goes up Thanksgiving night, which increases the anticipation quotient. Each day has a gift. Some little, like a mini candy cane, and some big, like a 1000 piece puzzle for the first day school is out. (We’ll spend two weeks putting that together as a family.) Some things she won’t like, clothes, but that gives us a chance to remember and practice polite “thank yous” before we get to the in laws on Christmas Eve. Some are tiny unexpected treasures she will love: a Duncan yo-yo the size of a quarter. We celebrate both Christmas and Hannukah at our house, so there is gelt and blue and silver markers on the 6th to celebrate the first night we’ll light the menorah.
Part of me feels guilty about the fancy calendar my only child gets. I couldn’t pull this off with two kids. Part of me knows that Advent is a real thing and I’m insulting people who celebrate the real Advent with my tradition. Part of me feels bad that I’m making the holidays even more materialistic. Really, I should have each day be a bonding activity, or a charitable act. Somehow I can’t make time to pre-plan holiday activities before Thanksgiving and I don’t have the Pinterest-patience to come up with 25 good deeds that won’t make my kid whine at me, then me yell at her, and both of us feel bad. I can manage to pick up a little something here or there throughout the year to fill a pocket in the calendar, and the effort gives me and her so much joy that I overlook my bad Advent feelings and keep the tradition going.
Tonight I pulled out the box where I stashed Advent gifts and started wrapping. I got to remember where I bought things and was surprised by an item or two. A few things she had outgrown and they went in the Toys for Tots box. Once all the gifts were wrapped and strategically placed – biggest gifts on the weekend and art supplies all in a row – I got to hang up the calendar. Tomorrow will be filled with excitement as she shakes, pokes, and squishes presents. Tuesday she’ll open her first gift. The only thing better than my Advent calendars growing up is making one for my kiddo.