Embarrassingly Excessive Advent

I have a confession to make.  I have an obsession that has gone into the realm of embarrassing.  Do you have one of those?  Maybe a penchant for shoes or purses or coats beyond what is reasonable for your budget or your closet size?  Maybe this desire even contradicts your core beliefs?

My addiction is advent calendars.  Not those paper ones where you open for a new picture every day.  Not the felt ones where you stick a new ornament twenty-four times.  Not one where you get a festively shaped piece of chocolate every day.  Not even the cute ones with little drawers that can hold a Hershey Kiss.  Folks, all those enabling Advent calendars have been part of my life, but I’ve moved beyond those.  My problem is much worse.

Behold!  My daughter’s advent calendar!  Purchased from The Land of Nod several years ago it has been the instrument of my decline.  Note that every day in December, up to and including Christmas – totally Advent inappropriate, having a pocket for the 25th – my daughter gets a gift.   I’d like to say that they are just little trinkets, and there are some.  However, there are Lego sets in there, my friends.  Small Lego sets, but Legos nonetheless.  There are objects too big for the calendar, thus the “box” cards, which direct my little girl to an extra box of wrapped gifts.  For example, today she got a book, which is too big for day 1 pocket.  I confess that there are even articles of clothing in some of those numbered pockets.

If I step away from this monstrosity and look at it objectively I’d tell you that I live in a tiny house that doesn’t need more stuff.  We are a family that values experience over things.  My daughter will get tons of Christmas from our extended family, if I didn’t get her anything she’d have more gifts than the average kid.  I’m sure, in confidence, my mom would tell you that I’ve made her feel bad about buying things for her granddaughter because I’m so anti-stuff.  In fact, the commercialism of Christmas is just obscene and my favorite part of the season is our celebration of Hanukkah, where we light the candles together as a family and quietly say a prayer as the lights burn down.   I love that moment of togetherness and quiet.

(But I also REALLY love the Advent calendar.)  I love that there is a day where the cookie cutters I bought her in Minnesota will remind her of our family vacation.  I love that there are Nutcracker leggings for the day she’s going to the Nutcracker, and brass instrument leggings for the day we are going to go see a brass holiday concert.  I adore how she springs out of bed every day in December to see what I got her.  Her joy and gratitude are an amazing way to start the day.  I love the planning involved:  making sure her crafting gifts are delivered just before our annual crafting party.  It is excessive and ridiculous and I can’t stop.

I CAN’T STOP!  Last year the Advent Calendar issue took a terrible turn, because my favorite online knitting shop, Jimmy Beans Wool, started offering a knitting Craftvent calendar.  I couldn’t resist and I loved getting a knitting surprise every day last year.  So I bought it again.  Gak!  There’s not even any thoughtfulness in this one.  It’s pure unadulterated Christmas commercialism and I love it so much that the guilt just slips away.

I refuse to calculate it, but I may spend more on my daughter’s Advent calendar than on her Christmas presents.  My husband is a stabilizing force with the actual holiday gifts.  I know I spend more on my Craftvent calendar than he spends on my gift.  It’s this weird annual sickness I have: excessive advent celebration.

I cannot wait to see what we get tomorrow!  And the next day!  And….

Afthead Advent

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.