Countdown to glad tidings

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The Independent Online
You know what an Advent calendar is, don't you? Yes, of course you do.

It's one of those things that was probably invented somewhere snowy, like Germany or Sweden, where you open one window excitedly every day before Christmas and there's a picture of a robin inside, and you say to your crestfallen children, "Well, perhaps there'll be something interesting tomorrow", but you know there won't be?

That's it! Well, this is something entirely new in journalism. It is an Advent Article! Here's how it works.

Listed below are a number of things which have to happen in the next month, before Christmas Day finally arrives. By each one there is a little box. Tick the box as and when it happens. When all the boxes are ticked, it's time for Christmas! Here we go, then:

q You get the first Christmas card.

q You look guiltily at your partner and ask, "Are we sending cards this year?"

q Your partner says, "Did we send cards last year?"

q You say, "Well, I remember we made a big decision about it, but I can't remember what the decision was."

q Your partner says, "Oh, let's be brave and not send cards this year!"

q And you agree: "Spot on, partner!"

q Next morning you get six cards and your partner says, "Maybe we ought to send cards, you know."

q Your partner says, "I can't think what to get you for Christmas this year."

q You say, "I haven't even started thinking about yours yet."

q You say, "We mustn't leave it too late to get a tree this year."

q Your partner says, "Gosh, yes! Do you remember the year we left it until Christmas Eve and you went down the Portobello Road just as the market was packing up; and all they had left were either 20ft or 2ft high trees, so you bought a 20ft one to trim down a bit, and by the time you had got it evened out, it was down to 2ft!"

q And you say, "No, I don't remember that."

q You buy some wrapping paper from the place near the bus station where it is tremendously cheap, and you feel that at least you have done something towards Christmas.

q Your partner says, "I've just remembered that Aunt Joan doesn't like figs."

q And you say, "So?"

q And she says, "Well, I was thinking of having kumquat, fig and apricot stuffing in the turkey this year."

q And you say, "So?"

q And she says, "Well, Aunt Joan will be here for Christmas Day ..."

q You say, "Will she?"

q And your partner replies, "Oh, for heaven's sake! Don't you remember anything? Don't you remember our discussion about Christmas lunch and who to invite?"

q And you don't.

q But you say, "Yes, of course!"

q And after a frosty silence between you, your partner says, "By the way, I found some dreadful wrapping paper left over from last year in the cellar, which I've thrown out - we really must get some good stuff this year, the trouble is, it's so expensive ..."

q And you can't quite bring yourself to admit that the wrapping paper she threw out is the stuff you thought you were so clever to buy cheaply at the place near the bus station.

q One day you think you ought to raise with your partner the question of where you are going to spend New Year's Eve.

q But you don't.

q Because it suddenly occurs to you that you may well have discussed this with her already, just like Christmas, and you have forgotten all about it, and she couldn't take the idea that you have forgotten TWO vital


q The next day your partner suddenly says, "I suppose we ought to have a serious talk about where we spend New Year's Eve this year."

q You are so relieved that you haven't forgotten another vital conversation that you are tempted to answer, just as a joke, "But darling, we discussed this all years ago - don't you remember?"

q But some sixth sense tells you not to.

q You get a Christmas card from Pat and Bob.

q It says, "Hi! See you in the New Year?"

q But you don't know anyone called Pat and Bob.

q You know someone called Pat and someone called Bob, but you don't think they've ever met.

q This shouldn't worry you, but it does.

q So during the next few days both of you keep saying things like, "Might it be Pam and Bob?" Or "Could it be Pat and Rob ...?"

More of our Advent article tomorrow!