When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait for December 2nd. Not December 1st, not December 25th, but December 2nd.
That was my day to open a window on the Christmas Advent Calendar.
For my heathen readers and fellow atheists, Advent Calendars have numbered windows. On the first day of December, you open window #1. You might see a Bible verse, or the first line of The Night Before Christmas. There’s a window to open every day until Christmas Day, when you will have plenty of presents to open instead.
Advent Calendars or “clocks” first appeared in the mid-1800s in Germany. Lutherans counted down the days until Christmas by using chalk marks or lighting 24 candles. Once paper and cardboard became common, modern Advent Calendars were mass-produced — until World War II rationing took effect. After WWII, Advent Calendars took the United States by storm, because the U.S. has yet to meet a Christmas tradition it won’t appropriate.
Some astute reader is already thinking, “Wait. This is messed up. Why did Autumn have to wait until December 2nd to open an Advent Calendar window? What happened to December 1st?”
My little sister happened to it. As the youngest (for a brief time), she got to open the very first window on December 1st. We kids would gather in the living room, next to a dark blue Advent Calendar. Our calendar featured a large, brightly lit clock tower above a picturesque village square, decorated in snow and evergreens. Future Lawyer Sis hunted for window #1, while her older siblings either made fun of her for not knowing her numbers or tried to guess what picture would appear when the window was opened. After she finally found and opened window #1, Big Brother said, “Only 24 days left to Christmas!”
We girls nodded like we also understood subtraction (we didn’t) and whisper-yelled “Only 24 days left!” Then we scurried off to fight over Crunchberries for breakfast, albeit more cheerfully than on non-December Days.
As the second youngest, I had to wait until December second to open the next window, but the ritual was the same: gathering before breakfast, some teasing, a little guessing, an ending of magical math. Future Doctor Sis opened the window on the third, followed by Big Brother, and then we started over again.
The biggest window was #24, of course, in the center of the clock. It featured a nativity scene. Big Brother always got to open that biggest and best window, which surprised us every year until Future Doctor Sis learned multiplication. She quickly figured out that Big Brother’s yearly, magnanimous offer to go last when opening the windows was actually scam to ensure that he got to open the big window.
There was rioting that year. Though that may also have been because our parents got divorced. Our battered Advent Calendar was torn, or perhaps lost, either that year or in subsequent years, Lost, too, was the window opening tradition that made the countdown to Christmas magical.
I’d forgotten about Advent Calendars until Andy and I were Christmas shopping in Los Angeles years later. I spotted one and scooped it up. “Oh my God, honey! Look!”
Andy was unimpressed. I rattled on about how I used to have one, and how cool they were, even though I had to share mine with my siblings.
Andy asked, “You guys shared? Really? No one snuck down and ate all the chocolate from the other windows? Not even Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister?!”
“Chocolate? There’s no chocolate in an Advent Calend- ahhhhh!” I finally read the label on the Advent Calendar I was holding. “They have CHOCOLATE Advent Calendars now?!”
Author’s Note: There have been chocolate Advent Calendars since 1951. There have also been cheap parents who refused to buy those calendars since 1951.
I spent several minutes exclaiming over the awesomeness of a chocolate Advent Calendar before putting it back on the shelf.
“What?” Andy exclaimed. “You’re not going to buy it?”
“No. It’s for kids, honey.”
“Who cares? It’s only a few dollars!”
“That’s because it’s cheap chocolate. Not even up to Hershey’s standards.” I sighed. “But oh, how great would it have been to have one of my own when I was a little girl. ”
The FedEx guy would not stop banging on the door. The dog howled and growled. I yelled at the dog to stop. When I started to open the door, the FedEx guy yelled at me to stop.
“Don’t open the door with the dog right there! You gotta sign for this!”
I wrestled the protesting dog into the bedroom, signed for my package, and carried the massive box into the dining room. The box was addressed to me. The return address was Vosges. For those non-chocoholics, Vosges makes amazing, unique, EXPENSIVE high-end chocolates. They are probably most famous for their chocolate bacon bar, which I’ve never been brave enough to try, not when there are pink Himalayan salted caramels to fill up your calorie count.
I wondered if someone had sent me a bunch of chocolate bacon bars as a joke.
And then I opened the box.
Turns out, Vosges now makes an Advent Calendar — for adults. There’s a different pair of truffles, miniature chocolate bars, or caramels to open every day until Christmas. I happy danced around the dining room as I called my husband to thank him.
“It’s my very own calendar! And it is awesome! And I don’t have to share! It’s mine, all mine!!
“Glad you like it, honey.”
“It’s the best! My favorite present ever, only it’s like a little present every day!”
“Good. I’m just bummed I couldn’t use a coupon.”
“You paid FULL PRICE?!”
“To my shame.”
“Wow. You must really love me,” I marveled. “But cheer up, honey! The this calendar has little drawers and it’s reusable. You can fill it up for me next year for half the price.”
“Or less,” Andy mused. “We always have leftover Halloween candy. Especially candy corns–“
“Don’t even think it.”