Advent Calendars

This week I have had the pleasure of starting to open the windows of my advent calendar.

“You have an advent calendar at your age?” I hear you cry!

Actually, I think these calendars are being increasingly marketed at “older” people and not just at young children. You can even get them with cosmetics and alcohol behind those little numbered doors.

Some years I have had calendars with pieces of chocolate in festive shapes sitting temptingly in their niches, but really I like the ones with pictures best.

This might seem odd to you as, obviously, I can’t see said pictures, but the fact is that I have always loved pictures. I used to adore painting and drawing when I was a child, and I continued to struggle to draw with thick black felt tips even after my sight was too poor to do this properly.

Maybe it is my inheritance from my artistic mother. I have a good imagination and enough memory of what objects and colours are like to be able to conjure up an image in my mind if someone can describe a picture to me. Of course, what I am picturing may not resemble the original, but does that matter? I don’t think so.

I vividly remember my first advent calendar. It had a golden coach on it and a glittery sky and I still recall that one of the windows had a bright red ladybird behind it. What that had to do with Christmas I don’t know, but it was colourful and I liked it.

Over the years these calendars have become more elaborate and I do like to try and find one with some tactile elements. I have had splendid ones that are 3D scenes. One was a representation of Bethlehem with lots of little houses in the streets. I had a tower with elves making toys inside once. I have had calendars which play “Jingle Bells” and this year I have a squirrel’s house.

Yes, I do mean “house.”

It is not a representation of a large nest (dray?) but a children’s picture book house. There are several rooms, with squirrels variously asleep, sitting by the fire and, in one case, climbing a ladder. This last one is great fun because you can push the little squirrel up and down the ladder. You can also turn a wheel and make Santa fly through the air.

So far, so childish – and in case you are wondering whether I ever have calendars with religious themes, the answer is, yes! Besides the Bethlehem calendar mentioned above, I have had ones with scripture texts and one with an African scene which a friend gave me, which had the nativity story divided up into brief episodes so that, by the time you opened door 24, you had heard the whole tale from the Annunciation to the arrival of the baby Jesus.

In the end, what I love about these calendars is the air of anticipation they create, especially when it comes to the fun of hunting for the door. I can’t do this unaided any more, although one year RNIB did produce an advent calendar with braille numbers on the doors. But even if I have to have help, I still enjoy waiting while my friend locates the appropriate little door. When she’s found it, I open it and listen to her description of the image inside. It is all part of the preparation for the big event and I have never lost my childhood delight in it.