There will be a great many excited children waking up this morning eager to open the first window of their Advent Calendars. I wonder how many actually see beyond the chocolate goodie or toy revealed behind it.
Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian Churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”.
I don’t remember Advent Calendars as a child. I know I never had one anyway. When December 1st arrived, it meant only a few more weeks of school and then Santa would visit our house. A fortnight before the Big Day, Dad would go up into the roof and bring down the box of decorations. Over the years, we’d made paper chains and streamers from crepe paper to festoon the lounge and a variety of candle holders from wire coat hangers decorated with holly and tinsel which were put up in the windows but obviously never lit. We added to the box every year when older items that had become crushed or torn were replaced and our ceilings were peppered with tiny holes from umpteen thumb tacks to hold them up. Christmas cards were hooked over ribbons all round the room and as the 25th drew nearer, so our excitement grew.
We always had a real tree, and it was us kids’ job to decorate it. It seemed to be ‘tradition’ that no matter how carefully everything had been put away the previous year, at least one of the fragile glass reflective baubles would lie broken in the box, and the tree lights never worked until Dad had tweaked a few or replaced a couple of bulbs. Years ago, if one bulb failed, they all did, so each one had to be checked individually. We never had specific colour schemes or a plan and everything was haphazardly placed wherever we could reach. These days, lights work regardless, tree ornaments are co-ordinated in plastic or paper mache, and chained decorations are mass produced having no personality. I still have a tree decoration from all those years ago and there is nothing like it available today. Each of us ‘kids’ has one actually. It’s a simple reminder of the Christmases at home, our childhood innocence, kiddie dreams and expectations of things to come.
As children, it was a time of magic and wonder for us. Our eyes would round like saucers at Santa’s Grotto, his reindeer and sleigh suspended from the shopping mall ceiling. His Elves would be going about their business in softly lit alcoves on the way to his den, where you would sit on his knee and tell him what you were hoping for for Christmas.
In the days to come, little fingers will be opening little windows and retrieving the surprise within. If it brings them a little magical wonder as well at their age, I’m glad.