On the day before Advent I finally brought an Advent Calendar.
And spent the next day veering between delight that I finally have an Advent Calendar that I’m happy for my children to grow up with, to bring out year after year until it’s faded and tatty looking and the embroidery starts to unravel, and disquiet that I started off Advent with an act of consumerism.
This was particularly jarring as I’m always bitching about how Christmas has been turned into the festival of buy-now.
I had plans to make a Calendar (although that would have involved buying the template and paints and brushes and glue and gold sparklies and etceteras, but the labour would somehow nullify that) but that fell through when Spotlight was out of templates and I could find no one else who sold them…
And then, at literally the very last moment, on the day before Advent, when I was just looking at an email catalogue from Oxfam, I found THE ONE. Hand-embroidered with individual pouches for little goodies, with a suitably festive design, while thankfully lacking any Santas. And hey, Oxfam = automatic reduction of consumer guilt. So I didn't feel bad about buying the embroidered stocking for the Poppets first Christmas or... Uh-um. Yes.
While my relationship with Christianity comes under the ‘it’s complicated’ status, I resent Christmas, a time when we celebrate the birth of a persecuted, Jewish refugee, born of a single mother (of ‘it’s complicated’ status), being turned into a corny blitz of excess.
And yet, whilst I resent the hi-jacking of a religious celebration into a commercial mockery, I’m just as guilty myself. The kids will only be getting a couple of presents each in their stocking, but I’m already looking forward to the food and drink of Christmas dinner, of dressing the kids up for it, of making Christmas pudding and watching with awe as my husband demolishes obscene quantities of prawns.
If we get to Church on Christmas day, (and with the two little ones this is a big if – all the local services start at 9.30am and I’m lucky if I’m out of my pajamas by then) we’ll be on a good thing.
If we find a quiet time in the day to reflect on why we’re celebrating, on the babies today who are being born in hardship, uncertainty and repressive regimes today, on the meaning of Christ in the world, we’ll be lucky. It’s likely to get lost between the wrapping paper and the wine.
But now, now I have the perfect Advent Calendar, and when I put a chocolate in day one for the Sprocket, he ate it with glee. He doesn't get it yet. He just gets the chocolate. But there's many, many Christmases to tell him all about it.