I am sure I am not the only person in the world that prepares for Christmas all year round. However, when it gets towards the end of November, I start to get in a little bit of a panic about getting organised. I suppose it is all the years of having worked in catering and retail that have trained my brain that Christmas needs to be sorted before December comes in because time off during that month was a scares commodity. Even now, I like to know where I am at before December hits us, but I think that is more to do with not liking the crowds going mental in the shops – thank goodness for online shopping.
I was little, long before advent calendars had to have chocolate in them. In fact, we had the same calendar that came out ever year – it probably had more sticky tape holding the doors on than there was actual original card. Each year, it became a thing to try to remember what was behind the door before you opened it.
When I did work every hour under the sun in the build up to Christmas – and often over the holiday as well, my Mum started giving me little gifts in the days running up to it. Often it was something as simple as an iced biscuit – I was reminded of this recently when I saw for sale a gingerbread advent calendar with daily biscuits like my Mum used to bake! It was her way of saying that I should be thinking about more than just making money for the company I worked for. This became a family tradition.
This tradition has evolved over the years, to what we do today, which is to give a gift every day during advent. Now before you scream at me that it is a huge extravagance, it really is not. The gift every day is nothing big, but instead, it might be a pen, or a sweetie, or a bubble bath, and of course copious amounts of chocolate coins!! I spend a long time looking for small unusual items to put in the bags – I get paper bags to put them in because I am too lazy to wrap items that are tiny! The boys love them, but find it hard to comprehend that it isn’t something everybody does. It is however quite an effective way of easing them into the Christmas spirit – I wish I could claim that was why we did it, but it is a happy side effect. Christmas preparations are such a difficult time for the boys with so many strange things happening. School days become quite random, as they practise for carol singing, and making crafts to sell at their enterprise night. There is always the chance of weather disruption too, but luckily the school hasn’t had any snow days in 5 years. It is a very confusing time, and then at the end of it you have such an in your face day that it is no surprise they find it totally overwhelming. The advent bags give them a chance to start thinking about the days and weeks a head, rather than have to keep telling them they can’t have this that and the other because it’s almost Christmas – it take some pressure off from both sides of the equation.
The gifts that go into the bags do take some planning, because I make them for all family members. Hubby thinks all my charts for this are hilarious, but I need to have a visual reminder of what goes in each bag for each person, that way, everyone gets a similar item each day – I do try whenever possible to give everyone the same thing but the old people don’t always understand some of the things the boys do! My charts also make sure I give something extra on the weekends – usually a craft item, because there is time to sit down and do it. They also mean that when I actually go to put the bags together – which I did yesterday, that nobody has an empty bag!
I do get the funniest looks when I buy loads of sweeties, the likes of sherbet fountains, and Freddo bars, and every year I get a cashier who has to ask why I am buying so many bags of chocolate coins – I put one in every bag for each day. Trying to explain the concept of the advent bag while you’re paying for your shopping a a tricky one.
It is something that has become important to the boys, and if it helps to get them through a difficulty confusing time of year, then it is time well spend. I love seeing their excited faces every morning in the run up to Christmas. It is well worth the effort.