This star atop the Christmas tree has been a part of my life since childhood. So, it must be well over 65 years old. It’s amazing how something so fragile can last, despite being moved from house to house and from tree to tree. It has survived a serious accident when the tree came crashing down from the top of a chest of drawers when I was four, and a fire when the candles caught light when I was a little older. yesterday, when we went for our family pre-Christmas Christmas – I am going to Poland for the real thing tomorrow to be with my mother in law – I was delighted to see this star on top of the tree again. it brought back so many memories of childhood Christmases – some good, some not so happy, but today I am thinking of the run up to Christmas – the waiting for the arrival of the good news.
When I was a child in the fifties and sixties, the advent calendar was a relatively new thing. and so exciting. It was, as you know, a big piece of layered card with 24 little doors cut out with numbers. You opened the door to reveal a Christmassy picture. At first, they were always biblical scenes and as the years went by there were pictures of toys and snow and Santa. But the basic premise was the same. The biggest picture to be revealed was the nativity. And that was that.
Then one year – I must have been about nine or ten – I received a really beautiful and unusual one. It was cylindrical. You could put a night light or a small lamp in the middle and as the little doors opened the picture shone through like stained glass. It was beautiful. the paper felt and looked like old parchment, and the pictures were so tiny, but so detailed.
For years my mother or my aunt would get me one of these – usually a flat one, I must say – and even when I was at university. I loved opening the little doors and anticipating Christmas itself.
Eventually I had children myself. Of course, they were not going to lose out. Every year I bought advent calendars and gave them to my children and my godchildren and enjoyed the thought of their simple pleasure as they opened the doors. One year, however, the pleasure became more obvious: calendars had begun to have little chocolates inside them. I was a teacher in a special school for a while and we had class advent calendars for the children. But how to stop them from eating the chocolates before time? It was indeed a challenge. and of course, my own children liked them too.
Yet eventually they grew up too and I made the fatal mistake of thinking they had outgrown them. I was soon disabused of this fact and sent advent calendars to universities and abroad, with chocolates inside.
Then last year I thought I would do something different, so I made an advent calendar of my own. I bought a tiny Christmas tree and hung it with 24 little gifts and gave it to my youngest daughter. She was pleased I think but it seemed to set a precedent. Where is mine asked my eldest this year?
No, I didn’t make a tree, but I did wrap 24 little surprises in a little hamper for her. And for the youngest. That was fun though very time consuming. But they were pleased. Some of the presents were, I believe, welcome – some a little more questionable.
But, never mind. the biggest surprise of all was receiving a very grown up advent calendar of my own, from my youngest.
I have had enormous fun opening my little Boots gift every day and letting her know what I have received. Cosmetic companies’ advent calendars may be a wonderful commercial gimmick – but you can’t really go wrong with creams and potions and makeup, no matter how old the recipient is.
I am trying to practise delayed gratification and not open the last three gifts till later this evening – we are leaving at six thirty tomorrow morning – I don’t think I could wait till we come back!
In the meantime, I would like to wish everyone who reads me a very Happy Christmas and a wonderfully peaceful and joyful New Year.