Chocolate? Advent calendars? Keep them separate, say I

Advent calendar

This is the 2014 advent calendar at the Manse, and I am less than thrilled by it. Why? Because it’s all about chocolates – and to my mind, it should be about the real meaning of Christmas. I guess I’m old-fashioned. Like Linus.

Well, it is Sunday – the third Sunday of Advent, if you want to get all precise and Christian about it – and so I just think I’m going to get a bit preachy for a moment. On the subject of advent calendars, if you must know.

Long story short: what’s with the chocolates?

When I was a wee child in the very Manse where I am writing this post, we had a lovely fold-out (i.e. three-dimensional) nativity-scene advent calendar that my mum brought out every Christmas season. There were, of course, 25 windows for little children – my mother had four of same (little children, that is) – to locate and open, each in its turn. And behind each numbered door was a pretty symbol of Christmas: a tiny drum; a sheep; a French horn; a star. As one moved closer to Christmas, an angel; perhaps there was a donkey. And finally, on Christmas morning, one among us four kids was lucky enough to be the one to open the big window, the one that showed the Christ child in the manger. I still can remember the anticipation and the joy in finding and opening those little windows. And how, even though we used that calendar year after the year, the pictures that were the surprises behind the windows really were a surprise, and happy ones at that. It was very – well, it was very Christmassy.

I think I was in my late teens when I first heard of an advent calendar that had chocolates in it. Chocolates! I couldn’t even imagine it, or picture it. There were no cavities where chocolates could be hidden in our old, beloved and well-worn Manse advent calendar; and besides, who needed chocolates anyway? Wasn’t the anticipation of Christmas, and the day-by-day recognition of the symbols around it, enough of a treat? Chocolate seemed to me like ridiculous overkill. But as I got a little older, I got used to the fact that we live in a world of ridiculous overkill.

Which is perhaps why I succumbed to the temptation to buy a chocolate-filled advent calendar when I spotted one not long ago at the checkout of a fancy grocery store in Montreal. Not because I wanted the chocolate – though I know Raymond would like it; he likes sweets of a morning, and morning is when you open the windows of an advent calendar. And the calendar was a gift for him.

But really I bought the chocolate-filled advent calendar just because I wanted to have an advent calendar, period, at the Manse once again. That old nativity-scene one that my mum used to bring out is almost certainly long gone, and so a person has to make do. Apparently with Santa’s workshop as the theme, and Lindt chocolates behind the doors.

Well, it’s better than nothing. But here’s what I say: come Dec. 25, bring on that magical and miraculous – and chocolate-free – nativity scene. Because, you know, that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

6 thoughts on “Chocolate? Advent calendars? Keep them separate, say I

  1. You’ve hit a nerve! When I was in university, my friends got an Advent calendar with chocolate for our shared house, and I was astonished–they’d never heard of anything else, of course, and I had no idea that the rest of the world associated the season with little moulded chocolates. When our boys were younger, I used to search high and low for Advent calendars that didn’t have chocolate (I remember one kind of dismal one that only had seasonal quotations behind the doors, which struck my as less than a thrill for kids to open.) because I made the mistake one year when Yannick was very small of getting a chocolate version, and he became obsessed with opening it first thing to get at the sweets. As they grew up, they’d see Barbie or Spiderman Advent calendars and laugh at the combination of the Christian tradition of counting down the days to Jesus’ birth and, you know, terrible-quality “chocolate.” Anyway, Valerie (my sister and your cousin for non-family reading this) saved the day several years ago by sending them a stunning quilted wall hanging she’d made–it’s a train in which each car is a pocket that can hold stickers or candies or ornaments or whatever. And when I found a Lego candle divided into layers with the flame on top for Christmas day, we had the perfect Advent calendar!

  2. I like that your family Advent Calendar included a french horn as part of the Christmas season! Alas, so does The Nutcracker and I find myself away from home a good part of December. I found a Canadian artisan who has created an Advent Box that has a cover with assorted Christmas scenes available that conceals 24 compartments of about 2″ x 2″ x 3″ deep. I fill these with a variety of little ‘treats and treasures’ (sounds like a slogan for a store I know) to share with Lillian while I am away. It helps when I can’t be there for so much of the season.

    • As it happens, Nicole, this past weekend I found a non-chocolate advent calendar in the very shop (the Old Hastings Mercantile) run by previous commenter Gary and his wife, Lillian. I am thrilled! Too late for this year, but next year (and thereafter) it’s the one for us!

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