The Advent Calendar Opening Ceremony

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Seven o’clock in the evening, and all’s dark.

Except for the growing number of cheery strings of Christmas lights piercing the damp gloom. Every street dog walk is punctuated by these gaudy acts of creation which cannot help but make one’s heart sing.

Meanwhile, in a tall Swedish end of terrace on the wrong side of the road from the forest, Father is coralling the children. And indeed, the dog. And where’s the cat?

“Everyone,” sounds a strong paternalistic baritone in almost Dickensian style, “time to open the advent calendar.”

Actually, he should have said Advent Calendars. We have two: the politically correct two-card sandwich with doors and pretty pictures, and the heinously 21st century recycling nightmare which contains chocolate shapes. But they’re English chocolate, which is considerably more vegetable than cocoa. Maybe we should call it a vegelate advent calendar.

Then no-one would buy them.

I digress. Everyone congregates at Father’s call, in the bedroom which regrettably still doubles up as a sitting room. I thought we would have parent-space by now, and my children would be insisting on their own most pleasant bedrooms: but no. From six until eight every evening, the bedroom must be a sitting room and everyone sits around and drops crumbs and leaves toys and slightly damp towels to be put away.

But the atmosphere was crackling, for the children love a bit of vegelate pressed into a suitably Christmassy shape.

“Right, Children,” sounds out Fezziwig Shrewsday, calling everyone to Adventy order,”time to make our guesses.”

And everyone turns to look at me. Felix is trying not to laugh, that edge-of-hysteria squeakiness which little boys do so well. He is just waiting for the punchline.

Because every day it is customary for his mother to say ‘ a bugle’.

“I’m guessing it’s going to be a bugle.”

General merriment. “What are you going to guess, Dad?” Maddie chimes in.

“I think: a candy cane,” Fezziwig proclaims, rather than says.

The children roll about laughing.He always chooses that, too.

“Maddie?”  Fezziwig enquires.

Maddie, the Snow White of the family, usually chooses something cute and fluffy. A robin, perhaps, or a little teddy bear.

“A polar bear,” she says, sweetly. Somewhere feel sure I hear little birds chirruping in sympathy, but it must be my imagination.

The remaining guess falls to Felix. Felix takes no prisoners where Advent calendar guessing is concerned. He weighs up what has come before. He looks at the probability of which Christmas symbol might be likely at which stage of Advent. Clearly the more important symbols must wait for now, for we are in Advent’s early days.

“Some sort of farm animal,” he say, eyes narrowing speculatively.

I’d say it’s too early for stable inhabitants myself. But with great imagined drum roll, Fezziwig prizes open the door.

” It is….a very fat cow,” he announces roundly.

“I won,” says Felix. I make a mental note to talk to him once again about humility and the social graces.

But all eyes have left the fat cow, and now rest on the vegelate advent calendar.

“Guesses, please?” ventures Fezziwig.

I am taking a new tactic today. The calendar doesn’t look very traditional. I decide to enquire after its form. “What have we had on it so far?”

Felix’s photographic memory reels off what has come out of the calendar so far. A penguin with another animal (he alleges they were having a fight, but how he can tell that when it’s chocolate I’m not sure) and another penguin, a bauble and a Christmas Tree.

Two penguins in two days. I’m not good at odds and probability. I say: “A penguin with a grenade.”

That’s my chance squandered, then. But it’s a good game. Other guesses include a penguin with a tank. I am a trend setter.

It was a star.

And that’s what we do, every Advent evening at seven sharp.

Nineteen more to go.

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35 thoughts on “The Advent Calendar Opening Ceremony

  1. I have not had the pleasure of Advent participation previously, but, after reading this and the post from Queenie A, I must get on board the Advent train. I see sugar plum fairies in my future.

  2. What lovely fun! Our little miss has an advent calendar this year, the angels and manger type (guess from whom it came?) and I hear tell she has managed to climb up and open a few extra doors already. I, on the other hand, would never survive a chocolate advent. I am sure all would be stuffed into my mouth, hopefully not all at once.

  3. I don’t think I’ve seen an Advent calendar without chocs for years. The admirable Lidl’s, here in France, supplies Advent calendars for about 2€ filled with German or Belgian chocs, which even makes me, M. Scrooge of La Moussiere, interested in the coming of the three wise chaps – including the cretin who chose myrrh ( should have gone with the glace cherries):)

  4. I have failed as guide parent and honorary aunt. I bought the card-type advent calendars in Finland for Cooper and Cayleigh. If either of them knew they could be getting chocolate, they will be put out with me over my choice.

    1. If Cooper and Cayleigh are anything like my two they will be well aware chocolate possibilities, Andra; yet they still love the magic of a traditional one. I bet one from Finland must be gorgeous. They will love every door.

  5. i love the tradition, so much more family bonding over the guesses than to just open the doors with no fanfare. Do the kids fight over who gets the prized piece of vegelate? My parents had to get three of the tacky calendars every year, because the idea of only getting our fix of plastilate (the Canadian version of not-quite-chocolate) every three days sent us girls into hysterics.

    1. Hi Lexy: no, the kids know it’s a turn-taking thing. Sometimes it’s good for one to have something one day and not the other. A sense of entitlement can be a burdensome thing.

  6. What truly precious time spent, Kate. I just love hearing this. I miss that time…a lot! :-) I did something a Nan can do to take part without interfering with what Sophia and Karina are doing within their home. I wrapped up 24 little books, Christmas and otherwise, and took them for under their tree. Then they jointly choose one each day. When I’m there we can read them together and in between they enjoy. I found the idea on Pinterest and jumped at it.

    And my good friend, purchased me the best on-line Advent Calendar…Christmas in London. How about that? It’s interactive, full of history, and visually lovely. Advent is a wonderful time of year for adults, too, but never as special as sharing with a child. I love sitting in your sitting room.

    1. Debra, the advent book idea sounds absolutely wonderful. How inspiring! Your grandchildren are fortunate indeed.

      And I would LOVE to see Christmas in London….time for a little Google….

      1. Try Jacqui Lawson dot com…London Advent Calendar. It’s just fabulous. I believe it came with a fee and as a gift I don’t know the cost, but I doubt it’s much. It’s a treat! oxo

  7. This post busted another myth. I assumed that you Europeans always ate a superior grade of chocolate than Yanks. It sounds to me like your Advent calendar is filled with the same chocolate flavored wax as what my sister buys my niece — and usually ends up scarfing herself since my niece is not a much of a fan of chocolate-flavored wax. “Some sort of farm animal” and “a penguin with a grenade” — excellent guesses!

  8. I’m delighted by your family tradition! My Felix is opening his before breakfast, setting up each of his “Olive the Other Reindeer” characters with alternating precision and complete chaos.

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