As a child I received many advent calendars from my father’s parents. Every year that I would get one, I would gaze at them reverently, for they weren’t the cheaply made, mass produced items put out in the states. No, these were hand-made more often than not, richly colored in jeweled hues, with beautifully decorated picture work and thoughtful little treats a small child would be able to happily place in a secret box, or drawer and look at from time to time. My grandparents would buy them during their yearly trips abroad, most often in Norway where my grandmother had been born and raised.
As I grew older the giving of the calendars didn’t ebb away but continued yearly. I looked forward to them immensely. After my grandfather suffered a permanently debilitating stroke, the calendars stopped; my grandmother no longer traveled. A few years ago, after she, too, passed away, I found an older advent calendar from C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” on ebay. I ordered it, and we hang it up yearly so perhaps my children will grow up in the same tradition and in the hope of them having a memory like I do one day.
I dreamed of the advent calendars last night, I dreamed that I was a child again, looking at them again, but with more of an appreciation for the ongoing, consistent thoughtfulness of my grandparents who knew of the fascination the calendars held for me. They, truly, became something I looked forward to every year.
They were the one magical part of Christmas that the holiday held for me. My mother had told me from the time I was a toddler that Santa Claus did not exist. I recall my Christmases – they were often boring, dreary days where I would be found reading on the couch, or in my bedroom. As I grew up, I went to the movies on Christmas or out with friends.
After having children of my own, I found a love for Christmas from a place I did not know I possessed. A happiness in picking out thoughtful gifts for my children and husband that I knew they would enjoy. A peacefulness in sharing this time of year with little people who DID believe in Santa Claus. And I realized that Santa exists where you let him. That my husband and I are Santa when we wrap presents, place them under the tree late Christmas Eve, when we sprinkle reindeer dust (uncooked oatmeal with glitter) on the lawn, when we leave carrots for Santa to take to the reindeer, and cookies or chocolate cake for Santa.
Christmas Eve holds magic for me. A night filled with warmth, and the happiness I derive from carefully placing presents under the tree, from filling stockings, and eating the snacks the children leave out for the Christmas travelers. When everything is done I like to put the tree lights on, sit on the couch, sip some tea and look. We don’t go overboard on gifts; we plan a budget out each year and stick to it. I generally like to keep it under $60. per child. For us, although Santa is a presence, Christmas holds a deeper meaning.
I wanted my children to believe in Santa; I wanted Christmas in my house to be a joyous day, full of surprise and appreciation.