Advent calendar's and other holiday traditions.
Yesterday was the first day of December, as a child this was always a highly anticipated day, the same for my own children when they were younger too. We were finally allowed to open the first door of our advent calendar's. The first advent calendar I remember enjoying had pictures of the nativity scene behind the doors or other Christmassy themed pictures such as decorations, trees, stars etc. The front of the calendar appeared magical to my little girl's eyes, covered in tiny pieces of gold or silver glitter which shimmered in the lights and often sprinkled in tiny pieces to the floor or got stuck on my fingers as I carefully pried open the miniature doors. As my two brothers grew old enough to open their doors without ripping them we would have a calendar each, lined up on the closed piano in the front room. Tall enough for me to reach easily while my brothers either struggled to reach or climbed up onto the piano stool. As the holidays became more commercialized the major chocolate manufacturers came up with the best idea ever, now there were tiny chocolates behind every door. It took a few years before my parents agreed to these as they were much more expensive and generally we were only allowed "sweets" on the weekends. Now of course they are almost expected in households today.
I always bought them for my boys as I knew how much I had enjoyed them. Once my youngest climbed up to where they were on display, yes on top of our piano, traditions seemed to be observed even here. His brother was in playschool (kindergarten) I was somewhere else in the house no doubt trying to catch up with a household chore or twenty in the short few minutes when the house was quiet. In that short time my son had climbed up, eaten not only most of his chocolates but his brother's too. The doors were ripped off, strewn on the floor, tiny chocolaty fingerprints were everywhere. Needless to say it took sometime to clean up the mess. He was too young to really understand his actions and any consequences at the time so off we went, him strapped into the pushchair (stroller) into the chilly wet day to buy new calendar's before the stores sold out. Fortunately it was just the beginning of December, even so Woolworth's only had the most expensive calendar's left on the shelves. Both brothers did pretty well out of the incident and I can still laugh at this memory even all these years later. I imagine most families have a similar story somewhere in their history.
I do still like to spoil my guys, even though they are now adults, they are still happy to receive the gift each year of a Cadbury's chocolate advent calendar. Perhaps part of the reason I still buy them is that it is hard to find chocolate we like living here in the States. Our taste buds are acclimatized to Cadbury's and the American version just doesn't taste the same. Perhaps when they go on to have their own families I shall still buy them so the tradition can carry on through the next generation.
Another tradition we had as children was lighting the advent candle each night in December. It was a large thick yellow candle with a push in motive of baby Jesus in a manger in the middle of it. The candle stood in the middle of our dining room table and was lit each evening when it was time for our supper. As the eldest I had the privilege of blowing out the candle each evening. That is until my brothers were older and then we all had to take turns, I am sure there were many fights as to who's turn it was. It must have reached a tipping point as I remember my mum making a chart with our names on for each day of the month. This still didn't always solve the problem as whoever was feeling the bravest or most vindictive in the moment would sometimes dare to lean over the table to blow out the candle, risking my mother's wrath and a wack around the head if she had to relight it for the person officially in line to fulfill the task.
I kept this tradition too, with my own family, it was easier with just two children. I was probably more patient, it was easier with one less child and I allowed them take turns each night, just relighting the candle to allow each child a turn. The competitive element remained as there were still fights to be "first". I debated buying an advent candle this year, but really it would only have been for my benefit. Watching the wax burn down to the next number as December went swiftly by. I decided not too as I already have more than enough candles, fairy lights and sparkly stuff around to break up the dark evenings and make the home more joyful, I really didn't need yet another candle.
I enjoy these small connections to my childhood, to family and belonging to something more than just myself. Traditions to me bring and keep that sense of connection.
However we choose to celebrate the holidays there are traditions built around them.
What holiday traditions from your childhood do you continue today? Why are they meaningful to you? What memories do they bring back? Have you started new traditions? If so why and what? It's not too late, perhaps you could start a tradition in your home this year, or perhaps reading this has triggered a memory of something you would like to continue?
These delicious Cadbury chocolates are ready to be enjoyed, hopefully just one day at a time.