Christmas has sneaked up on me a little this year. Obviously the nature of Christmas is that, even though we all know perfectly well about the passage of time, and the date on which it falls, we are all still legally required once over the age of eighteen to spend every day of December gasping with disbelief about how soon Christmas is. You can even vary the ways you describe the time still to go, for added shock factor: “X shopping days ’til Christmas!”, “Only ONE weekend left until Christmas!”, “13 sleeps…!” etc. etc.
But I have been doubly surprised this year, both by losing a month to the blur of late pregnancy, birth, and a newborn, and then more cruelly and less predictably, losing a weekend that I’d mentally earmarked as ‘Christmas begins here’ and instead spending that weekend in hospital with Persephone, who had bronchiolitis. (It was a very sad couple of days, but she’s much, much better now.)
But here we are. December the 12th. And I wanted to share, only a little belatedly, some of the advent calendar action going on in our house this year.
I LOVE advent calendars. I just love everything about them. I think it’s the heady combination of nostalgia, the joy of anticipation, and a fair dollop of unashamed greed and delight at the prospect of starting each day with a portion of chocolate. I love chocolate advent calendars (although – foil wrapped, please), I love decent picture advent calendars, and I particularly love ‘other’ calendars. Three dimensional ones, or ones made of material.
So we retrieved Rosa’s advent chest from the attic, and I set about filling it up. My Mum bought this for Rosa as a Christmas present a few years ago, and she is just now at the age where she can not only enjoy it, but also remember it from last year. Rosa was adamant that it should contain chocolate buttons – because this was what I put in it last year- and I was torn between boredom at it being just the same, and pride at my stubborn small person with her respect for traditions and a great memory…
The really lovely thing about this chest is that my Mum also bought a set of advent charms to go with it, so each day Rosa can open the chest, scoff down her chocolate button, and then hang up that day’s advent charm in the frame above.
But is that enough? No! I read with envy on The Imagination Tree about Anna’s ever-creative ideas for crafty loveliness with her children, and last year I was much taken with her idea of an advent activity tree. Thankfully just a smidgen of realism interceded into my Christmas reverie. Hence rather than start creating our own, then spending all of December berating myself for not finishing it, I instead remembered this blog post I found via Pinterest, where a rather enterprising and handy American has provided a whole set of advent activity slips that lazy people such as myself can just print out.
So I did just that. I erred slightly on the side of lazy caution, tending towards those activities that are low effort (sing a Christmas song) rather than those that I might regret at 5.30pm after the school run, when the baby’s crying and my two year old is tantrumming because she’s taken against her coat for some reason. I also found some activities were a bit unlikely (‘go for a sleigh ride’, anyone?) and some a bit American (I would be surprised if I could ‘go to a Christmas parade’, and am not minded to ‘send a Christmas card to our troops in the military’). But there are a hundred activity cards, plus some blanks, so there’s plenty of choice.
In a snatched rare moment of November calm, I printed off the ones I wanted, and put them into two envelopes, which I diligently labelled, ‘advent activities’ and ‘advent activities – reserves list’. I’d originally thought I’d sort through them all in advance, but actually what I do is have a quick riffle through that morning, and pick out one I quite fancy doing that day, then stick it into the chest without Rosa noticing. Lazy, but it works for us.
So this year it was evident that if Rosa was gleefully opening up the doors on her chest each day, India would need to have something of her own. Which is to say that if she didn’t have something of her own, she would throw herself to the floor in misery and start howling and pulling at her hair. In slightly shameless fashion, I therefore emailed my very generous mother to suggest that perhaps she might like to get India her own advent calendar as her present this year. And look!
Isn’t it a beauty? My mum said that she wanted India to have something to ‘do’ each day, just as Rosa gets to hang up her charm. So India has a decoration to velcro onto the tree. We all love it. Rosa loves it so much that she cried with jealousy when we opened it. In fairness, I nearly did, too. India loves it so much that I spend a lot of time distracting her from it, otherwise she wants to get out all of the toys all at once and to hold them, enjoy them, play with them
and lose them.
But does that stop me having advent calendar envy? Of course not. You’ll note my advent calendar in the first picture. It’s the Cadbury’s one next to Rosa’s. Bought for me by Oli after I stopped hoping he would develop telepathic powers, and instead said to him directly and plaintively, “I don’t have an advent calendar this year!” I love the one he got me, which may look a little dull next to the tasteful beauty of Rosa’s chest, but makes up for that by having quality chocolates, and a satisfyingly huge looking no.24 door, to boot. But I still covet advent calendars. I can’t help myself.
Feast your eyes on this one. I discovered these fabric advent calendars on a rather lovely blog a couple of years ago, and was immediately thrown into a frenzy of desire. Look at the little bells with which you hang each decoration on the tree! Look at the lovely felty hand-sewn gorgeousness of the decorations! They are hand-made in Scotland, and the very talented creator of these beauties only makes a few each year. They cost a fairly hefty amount of money (I think around £60) but I do think they’re worth it for the amount of time and effort that goes into each one. I have promised myself that in a few years’ time I will treat myself to one.
I think I was actually in the middle of telling Oli that we needed to save some money this year when my eyes fell on this wondrous item in John Lewis. “So if we can just spend a bit less and make sure we make sensible financial decisions and – oh my GOD look at that!”
A wooden advent house, with little drawers for each day. And batteries so you can make the windows light up. There are many reasons why I don’t need to buy this. Including a rather negative review on the JL website about its quality. But that doesn’t stop me wanting it.
In the meantime, Christmas preparation has been continuing apace. Or as best it can in a house that seems full of small children, which is to say in snatched small pieces, in amongst washing, tumble-drying, breastfeeding, loading the dishwasher, turning on CBeebies, and everything else.
There has been more by way of festive fun happening here, but that will have to wait for another post. I have a snuffling, sleeping newborn on my chest in the sling, and I can tell by her wriggling that she is about to wake up and be very cross with me…
Until next time. May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.