When I was a little girl I didn’t know we, my family, were poor, I never applied that label to any of us. Indeed it was only through the passage of time and being exposed to what other girl’s family had – in terms of comforts and material possessions – that I realised slowly how woeful we were.
I just accepted, as the nature of things, that there were lots and lots of items out there to buy, but we didn’t because these things were too expensive. The lesson I learned innately growing up was, possessions were expensive rather than we were poor.
I don’t recall feeling I was deprived generally – and my family, my Mum and my Grandma, were both very good at making little go far and Christmas was a magical time of small miracles.
There was a ritual about Christmas that meant that as the month of December progressed, things would arrive that would mark out that special season.
Chrismas Carols – I loved them, I would sing my heart out in all my off tune glory, and I didn’t care – in fact my sister and I loved them so much, we started practicing them in bed before December even came, so we were verse ready. My Gran would buy a few bottles of BabyCham (dear Lord you can still buy it!) which we were allowed a small glass every Christmas Eve. My sister and I made paper chains, and hung them all over the house – they must have looked hideous, but it was all part of the charm and it was Mum who decorated our tree – I thought it was huge, but as I sit here now, I recall it used to stand on top of the telly, so it must have been quite small in reality- it was was silver and adorned with green and gold baubles – I knew each bauble as if it were an old friend and used to dread the New Year when they would have go away again – there were no lights on our tree but lengths and lengths of streaming tinsel.
But the kick off to the Christmas season was the advent calendar. Of course Mum couldn’t afford them, so it was down to my Gran to work her magic. I loved the advent calendar.
My sister and I often got one each, although sometimes if Gran bought a particularly large one, then we would share – opening a box a day. I liked having my own – I loved the cheesey Santa picture on the front and glitter, my Gran always bought glittered calendars – and I would be physically excited to find out what was behind each and every door – a sleigh, a snowman, an elf – and of course the largest, double door delight on Christmas Even itself, and the nativity scene. Honestly, as I live and breathe, I would quiver in anticipation of opening each door.
Of all the traditions we enjoyed as children – very few have found their way in to my adult Christmas count down with my own children.
None of us could face a BabyCham – but I do like a nice sherry – <this one is a particular favourite>; we have a real tree with lights, and there are NO paper chains to be seen anywhere in the house.
But the Advent Calendar – well that is a strange one. Because try as hard as I might, I could never ever convey the thrill of having one to my own kids – each year I would trot out this very story, edited differently, but the same overally theme – and the elder two would roll their eyes and go ‘here she goes again’.
I spent quite a bit of money looking for new and novel advent approaches, but to my eldest kids – it was just another ritual Mum sort of imposed – and I always got the impression they participated just to pacify me. Worse was to come in my youngest son, (13 this year) he didn’t want glitter, or santa scenes – he wanted playmobil or lego calendars (that will set you back about £20 before you even get in to December!).
I lamented this to work colleagues one year, telling them I intended to buy a normal, open the door-type calendar whether he liked it or not. But instead of the out pouring of support I expected – the buggers clubbed together and bought him a Cadbury’s chocolate calendar and threatened me with the NSPCC.
That was a revelation to my youngest – you get chocolate in these things? And so the deal was sealed – chocolate it is, with no glitter and no pretty pictures or scenes. Indeed he barely checks it as he’s busy stuffing the chocolate in his face.
Should I buy my own?
Sadly, the advent calendars I see – beautiful though some are, don’t seem to fill me with the same joy, excitement & anticipation – I would love to be that innocent and simplistic again, but it has gone the way of everything, and I eye the commercialism that is Christmas now with a jaundiced eye.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, spend spend spend – and all the crappy tat they bring out that no one needs.
Today I stumbled across a blog – http://maketodayhappy.co.uk/act-of-kindness-24-kindness-advent-calendar/ – and I have subscribed, because ‘make today happy’ – seems an especially lovely sentiment whatever the time of year. And I have down loaded her kindess calendar 🙂
And I liked the idea of a kindness advent calendar – in fact it dovetails very nicely into my last YouTube video where I talked about trying to become kinder – so the timing is perfect.
And even if I am forced to buy a chocolate calendar for youngest- this other one is going to be included alongside – because if they can’t be excited by simple things, they can be kind to the world at large instead.