What was behind your door this morning? Was it two turtle doves? Or a piece of chocolate embossed with something Christmassy? Advent is upon us, and across the land children - and a surprisingly large number of grown-ups - are counting down to the big day by peeking behind cardboard flaps each morning to spot a little bit of Christmas.
I say a large number of grown ups, but I’m basing my assumption on people I know, and on some of the calendars I’ve spotted this year. How else to explain the whisky advent calendar, with its dram-a-day, yours for £149.99 from Firebox.com? Or the Yankee Candle advent calendar, with a scented tea-light each day until Christmas? Not one for little Timmy, unless he has a thing for open flames. There’s a mini-mani calendar, with 24 pots of nail varnish for festive fingers, or there’s the gluttons’ special: Hotel Chocolat’s Truffles for Two advent calendar, where there’s no need to fight with your partner over who gets to guts down a luxury sweetie each day, you both can.
People, I think it’s time we took a long hard look at all this, and ourselves (not least because you’ve got a bit of truffle on your chin). Crass Christmas consumption is something many of us rail against, but many more of us get wrapped up in each year. The ads for sofas delivered in time for them to get covered in mince pie crumbs. The “must-have” gifts. The outfits, the prawn rings, the works. I fear that’s all gone too far. But we can still hold firm against the calendars. Repeat after me, with Christmas just three weeks away, a little present every day is greedy nonsense, especially if you are old enough to know better.
I’ve always taken a hard line towards advent calendars because when I was growing up, I had two paper ones that my mum carefully tucked away with the tinsel each year and brought out every December. There was the A4 woodland scene that she Sellotaped with ceremony to the hall cupboard, then there was the rather more grand nativity scene for the lounge. I didn’t care that I’d seen the pictures behind each much-flattened door before. These were decorations and a way of marking the festive excitement that was ratcheting up, not a snacking opportunity.
By the time I received a standard-issue, chocolate calendar, high on moulded plastic and soapy confectionary disks, low on cautiously celebratory etchings of Christmas (a bauble! A donkey!), the magic (like my parents’ marriage) was over. But that’s another story. I’ve mellowed slightly towards chocolate calendars, having seen how much children love them, but my feelings towards the lavish, luxurious and ludicrous calendars have hardened. They can jolly well shut the door on their way out.