Thursday, December 15, 2011

The advent calendar

There are two things that I distinctly remember about Christmas time when I was growing up: the Ray Coniff singers and the advent calendar. Luckily, there are several radio stations that play Christmas music 24/7 so I get my fill of Ray Coniff, and we do have an advent calendar to help get us to Christmas. But the calendar at our house has left me wanting. It's not horrible,it's cute. It's a snowman with little pockets where a miniature snowman can rest from day to day on his way to the big 25. Sometimes there is a candy waiting inside the pocket, and sometimes, like this year, there is a small note explaining some act of kindness to perform for someone else that day. My kids seem to like it alright,and somehow the snowman continues to move down the line, but to me it is a sorry excuse for an advent calendar. First off, it's a snowman. Talk about political correctness. For all we know, we could be counting down the days to the winter solstice or New Year's Eve or the first day of spring. Yes, there are little pictures on the pockets displaying Christmas-y things like wrapped presents and candy canes, but I just don't like it.

You see I'm spoiled because growing up we had the best advent calendar around. My mom made it out of felt, fabric and lots of glitter. It had a large christmas tree sewn against a felt backdrop, and below the tree lay a calendar with an ornament pinned on each day. Before the sun even rose in the sky, whoever's turn it was, would unpin the glittery felt ball or red and white striped candy cane or stocking, and pin it to the tree. Then we'd take one of the felt dates stuck to masking tape which had been re-stuck with whatever tape we had lying around, and place it on it's appropriate spot on the calendar. To see the tree fill with ornaments, and watch the dates spread across like an army of little number ants gave me twice the thrill. The anticipation was almost more than I could stand!

When I ask my kids about getting a new one, they seem uninterested. "We love our calendar," they tell me.

I squish my nose up in confusion."But it's just a snowman," I remind them. They don't seem to mind.

When I travel home and see the homemade felt calendar of my childhood with the glitter nearly gone, the felt coming up in places, the taped numbers smudged and barely sticking, I wonder what I saw in it myself. Yes, it was a simpler time, but that calendar had seemed magical to me.I stare at the little ornaments and felt-made presents for hours. My kids think it looks homemade and old-fashioned. They're right, I guess,I sigh.

Lucky for me,I still have the memories. And when you think about it, it wasn't about the calendar, really, but the season itself that made people more merry and gay. And no matter what the advent calendar looks like or what famous person is singing "Winter Wonderland" the spirit of the season brings it's own pixie dust of magic over whatever decorations you adorn your home with. And each time you admire your tree or the shiny ornaments or move--as in our case--the little snowman to the next pocket thereby bringing you one day closer to Christmas, a spark lights in your hearts. That's the magic of the season, the whole reason the Grinch was able to grow a heart at the end. It isn't about the packages and boxes and bags!Or the tinsel and the lights, but about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ that brings us joy and peace in this season no matter what kind of calendar you have. What a wonderful and beautiful message of hope!

I still want a new advent calendar. I don't think one like I had growing up would be that hard to make. I would change a few things to make it a little more ergonomically friendly, but I can't help but think anything would be better than a snowman counting down the days till Christmas. But that's just my opinion.

According to Mr. Snowman we are over half-way there. So Merry Christmas everyone. And may each of us remember the real reason for the season.

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