Children love the slow build of Christmas. So much of the magic is in the anticipation. Not the mince pies in Tescos in September. That's just a spoiler. But in our house, from 1 December, we start getting Christmassed.*
It all begins with the advent calendars propped up against the cereal boxes on 1 December. I never cease to be amazed at how exciting our i-padded, i-playered children find opening little numbered windows every morning. It's the first thing they do when they get downstairs and they queue up to show me what Christmassy little picture they have found. [Note that it's a good little learning tool as well. Number recognition practice for the little ones, a neat lesson in perseverance for all ages.]
Of course advent calendars have rather come on since we were young. Nowadays, there are four categories: The Traditional, The Chocolate, The Ostentatious and The Homemade. We've dabbled with all of them but have returned firmly to the first camp (yes I know, humbug). This year we have three on the go, all thoughtful gifts from Great Aunties. Each child has a perfectly vintage little calendar with a nativity scene, glitter and slightly obscure little drawings behind each window. Usually made in Germany, my favourite type of advent calendar. To be found in charity stores and those little Church shops in the City.
And then to share, a giant, beautifully illustrated snowy village scene, where each door and window opened lets you peek inside and see the Christmas goings-on. This was always my favourite type of advent calendar as a child.
I should note that my brothers were more in The Chocolate camp but I can't bring myself to buy one for the girls (yet). It's not that I particularly object to the daily dose of chocolate (although I can think of better breakfasts). It's more that the calendars are usually so boring looking - lazy TV tie-ins, completely lacking in magic (and glitter). And the more doors you open, the more empty plastic moulds you reveal and the more horrible the thing looks.**
The Ostentatious category is admittedly broad. Some very generous parents spend the last weekend in November stocking up on treats and trinkets to hide in beautifully painted wooden boxes or hanging embroidered pockets. There are also those fabulous playmobil and lego options that I can definitely see us trying one year. The closest we've got to this category (although hardly expensive) are the beautiful online calendars by Jacquie Lawson. Every day brings a different animation or game - snowflake making, tree decorating, pelmanism. The artwork and music is Christmassy perfection. I'm tempted to buy one even now and spend a happy half hour opening the first nine windows.
And finally the homemade. For the authority on homemade calendars I'll hand you over to Skin and Blister. Skin and Blister is the clever blogger who came up with #shareadvent but even if you're not a social media butterfly, her idea of having a calendar which gives you a little festive prompt every morning is a brilliant family tradition. You'll see Skin and Blister's beautiful sweet filled calendar and links to see some wonderful creations by other bloggers. This is our version (I confess picture is recycled from last year). Easy as pie (once you were in the swing of it) and a rather handsome addition to the Christmas decorations.
Note 2: Radio Times
Clearly the new flexibility in TV scheduling is a good thing. We can watch whatever we fancy, whenever we like and pop to the loo at our leisure. Nighttime breastfeeding is vastly improved when catching up with Strictly rather than watching Open University. But these advances have cancelled out a much-loved element of the Christmas build-up. Was it just our family or did you get ridiculously excited about the Radio Times and TV Times arriving on the coffee table? My brothers and I would paw through the pages circling the programmes and films we didn't want to miss. I saw an advertisement for the Radio Times the other day and so it must still exists but in days of Netflix and recordable TV, I can't see my girls getting too excited about what time BBC2 is showing The Snowman.
Note 3: The Prairie
|Customer Lola shows everyone how to rock a Prairie dress in winter,|
*I am perfectly aware that readers of a more self-controlled disposition might take the view that giving a whole month over to Christmas is slightly indulgent. In mitigation, (a) we are usually overseas at Christmas and so need the tree up early if it's going to be worth the bother, (b) it appears that nothing goes on in schools in December aside from Christmas (nativity costume instructions replacing Biff and Chip in book bags) and (c) I just can't help myself, I blooming love Christmas.
**Note, I would be very happy to break with tradition if anyone would like to buy me the Montezuma advent calendar next year. Please.