Anyone who knows me well might be wondering why I’d be writing about advent calendars. Words like Advent, or thoughts about Advent, aren’t part of my usual routine. But when I came across a poster of a reverse advent calendar the other day, I took notice. I was impressed.
I admit to having to look this up (aka google it), but Advent is the 4 week period leading up to Christmas. Advent calendars were first used by German Lutherans in the 19th century as a method for keeping track of the number of days until Christmas. Families would light a candle for each day of Advent. This I can understand. People started making more elaborate calendars, with a little door one could open each day, where the family would find images and/or religious phrases anticipating the arrival of Christmas. This makes sense as well.
Neither Advent or advent calendars have ever been part of my life, but it’s pretty well impossible to miss the advent calendars for sale in nearly every store, from the grocery store to Canadian Tire. And, boy, have they changed from their original intent.
You can buy advent calendars that give you a new piece of chocolate behind every little door on the calendar, one piece of chocolate for every day until Christmas. There’s a whole wall of them – Lindt Chocolate Advent Calendars – to tempt shoppers at my grocery store while we stand on line waiting for the self-checkout.
Believe it or not, you can buy any one of a choice of Lego advent calendars that hide a small but expensive full Lego set behind a door every day. Just think, Lego Advent Calendars! I wonder what the German Lutherans who started the advent calendar tradition would think of this interpretation of their simple idea.
And just today there is a piece in the New York Times entitled The Pleasure of the Luxe Advent Calendar, revealing five opulent advent calendar options for the 2022 festive season. It describes deluxe advent calendars where you can get a new perfume every day, or scented candles, fancy food items, etc. As the author says, “Every holiday season I buy multiple Advent calendars. I’m not so moved by counting down to Christmas as I am excited by the idea of getting a present every day.” And there’s the rub. I’m pretty sure that’s just not the intent of Advent.
From the NYT article, Harry and David’s classy food Advent Calendar:
Some people are counting down the days until Christmas because they’re kids and they can’t wait for Santa to come and bring them something special. On Christmas morning. Some people are counting down the days until Christmas because they’re looking forward to making special memories with family and/or friends. And some people are using each day of Advent to think about the meaning of Christmas for them, the birth of Jesus. All of these reasons are good ones, and if an advent calendar helps, go for it. I can imagine that it’s fun to open a little door on a calendar every day and think about one of these reasons.
But there can be no doubt that, at least in our society, advent calendars clearly have just become one more target of commercialism, and that’s kind of sad. Giving kids a Lego present every day leading up to Christmas, which is mostly about kids getting presents anyway, certainly has nothing to do with the spirit of an advent calendar. And getting a new perfume every day is – I’ll be honest – completely beyond my comprehension.
But … the other day I happened to notice a poster from our local food bank of a reverse advent calendar. I googled “reverse advent calendar” and it was exactly as it should be, instead of getting something every day leading up to Christmas you give something every day leading up to Christmas. Now this captures the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving.
This is the kind of advent calendar I can relate to. It ticks off all the boxes on what Christmas should be all about, regardless of how you personally celebrate Christmas – or don’t celebrate Christmas. A chance to help others, and being given good ideas for what is really needed to boot. Count me in. It turns out that there are reverse calendars being used by food banks in many places, so check out your local food bank to start having your family become involved with your own local reverse advent calendar.
While I was investigating this topic, which as you can see is something I’ve managed to ignore for an exceedingly long period of time, I came across another kind of reverse advent calendar, the Kindness Reverse Advent Calendar. A kindness advent calendar gives you a kindness suggestion for every day leading up to Christmas. There are kindness advent calendars for preschoolers, for school-age kids, and people of all ages.
Here’s a sample Kindness calendar for you to fill in yourself. Even filling in the boxes as a family might be fun.
I’m going to be checking off each day on our local food bank Reverse Advent Calendar. It’s never too late to get with the program! I’ll try for kindness at the same time. I hope you might find something that speaks to you in a reverse advent kind of way. 🙂