The advent of tradition
By Pam Melyan-Bratton
I grew up with a traditional Advent Calendar, and by traditional I mean a cheap cardboard calendar with tiny Christmas-themed chocolates behind perforated doors marked with a December date. The dates were scattered haphazardly around the calendar, making me hunt and drool for my sweet holiday season treat and also making me think that after looking for December 12th for 3 minutes, someone definitely forgot to add it to the calendar.
My husband and I bought this kind of Advent Calendar for our son for the first few years of his life, even when he was all gummy and toothless, because it was tradition and we, as his loving parents, could help him out and eat the chocolate. Then I had a realization last year. While one could argue that chocolate in any form is good just for the simple fact that it’s chocolate, I have to disagree. The chocolate in cardboard Advent Calendars is not quite fit for human consumption. This chocolate is more like a brown crayon smashed up and molded into an angel. Not all chocolate should be treated equally, and this is coming from a woman who would probably eat chocolate that was melted in my purse or car seat if my hormones were not wired right that day.
Last year, I decided to change things up a bit and start a new holiday tradition. We used our cute Christmas countdown calendar that is made from felt, has a jolly Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty on it, and is adorned with pockets for December 1 through December 24, all in perfect, numerical order. There is a small satin candy cane tied to a ribbon that we put in the pocket of the day to mark getting closer to the arrival of Santa...I mean Jesus’ birth. Yes, yes, the birth of Jesus. I had dreams of putting a treat like a Hershey’s Kiss or some other small chocolate morsel into the pocket each night. And who did our son think was delivering those treats? An elf of course! Because it’s only natural to continue to lie to children about strangers and little men and giant bunnies coming into their homes in the middle of the night. I must have also had dreams that an actual elf would be doing all of this work for me because the amount of forethought and labor that was involved was exhausting.
So, I would like to blame the following mishaps on someone who I will call Elf. Elf must have been overworked by the Head Honcho or he was out partying all night. And I can tell you, since I know Elf pretty well; he was definitely not hitting the party scene. Elf can’t party like she, ahem HE, used to. Just two weeks in, a total of 14 days, and Elf forgot to put a treat in the pocket 8 times!
Each morning, our son sprinted to the countdown calendar in hopes of eating chocolate at 7 a.m. But one morning I heard, “Mom! There’s nothing in the pocket!” Grrr, I thought. So I ran to the cabinet, grabbed a Hershey’s Kiss, and asked – “Are you sure? Look around, like over there (far from where this calendar is),” while desperately trying to divert his attention. Mommy Elf walked over to calendar, Kiss cupped in hand, looked in pocket, slipped Kiss in. “Hey, that Elf stuck it waaay down in this tiny, one-inch pocket where a Kiss could possibly get stuck,” I said in my most surprised voice. And with that, my son pulled out the Kiss, smiled and exclaimed, “Yay!” - while shoving chocolate in his mouth before he had a crumb of breakfast. Crisis averted!
Another morning, our son flew his jolly little self to that calendar and I heard, “Mom! There’s nothing in the pocket!” Repeat above scenario. Get another big smile from my son. And think to myself, seriously, Elf, get it together. And on another bright December morn I heard, “Mom! There’s nothing in the pocket AGAIN!” And I think I heard him whisper under his breath, “What is wrong with this elf?” Oh for the love of Chocolate Kiss! So I told my son to go into another room to get something for me while I placed a chocolate kiss on the bench beneath the calendar. “Hey, buddy! It looks like it fell! It’s right here on the bench!” One would wonder why I give myself yet another stressor during the holidays! But I do; and I do it for the smile. I do it for the simple joy of a child at Christmas time. Even if he remembers back on this little tradition and thinks, what was that Elf on?