I love holidays. I love family gatherings, I love shopping for gifts (wrapping, not so much), I love making holiday food, I love singing along with holiday music. It doesn’t even really matter what the holiday is – birthdays, Christmas, Arbor Day – whatever. But holidays come with their own self-contained heartbreak: by definition, they only last 24 hours. I think a lot of people feel the same, because nowadays we talk about holiday seasons. We get weeks, if not months, of time to anticipate and enjoy all the parts of holidays we love. As I write this, it’s mid-September and I’m already seeing Christmas merchandise in stores, and I love it. The anticipation, the building excitement, the planning, the fun of that secret stash of presents or decorations or recipes whose unveiling will undoubtedly bring happiness – I’m there for it.
For Christmas specifically, the buildup is just huge, and I think it reveals a truth that many people are only just coming to realize. Having a thing isn’t nearly as cool as getting a thing. This phenomenon explains the rise of the unboxing videos and the proliferation of TikTok and YouTube channels exclusively devoted to innovative ways to wrap gifts. The anticipation, the delightful torment of beautifully-wrapped mysteries under the tree, the urge to shake every box and guess what’s in it – I contend that it’s much better than the actual holiday, where you spend the morning tearing into all that wrapping paper, opening parcels from distant family with the label “Do Not Open Until Christmas,” crack all the crackers…and when the last present has been opened, there’s a little letdown. Wait…that’s it? No more? It’s not the stuff – heaven knows I don’t need the stuff. It’s the opening.
But wait – there’s a great solution! ADVENT CALENDARS! The beauty of Advent calendars is that they’re a chance to have a tiny bit of that joy every day of December leading up to Christmas. Go to Amazon and look up Advent calendars, you will get thousands of results. Chocolate, tea, alcohol, beauty products, toys, ornaments…there’s almost nothing you can’t find a whole bunch of in an Advent calendar.
And because I’m me, if a little is good, then a lot must be great! A typical December comes with at least a dozen Advent calendars (not counting the cheap ones you find in every grocery store with teeny, waxy chocolates in them – we normally have one or two of those as well) of varying sizes descriptions. The star of the show is a wooden box with 24 drawers, each of which I’ve filled with some tiny present and candy. I spend months buying things specifically for the Advent calendars, and watching my adult children open them is as exciting as if I were the one getting the presents.
Everyone should get Advent calendars – even non-Christians. Maybe we should rebrand them as Heathentide calendars, which means we could enjoy them for the entire lunar month between the full moon before Christmas to the full moon after (this year, that would be from December 7, 2022, through January 6, 2023). For Heathentide, you don’t have to buy presents. Pick up stuff from your house – used wire twist ties, empty potato chip bags, dryer lint – and stick it into the boxes. Then experience the unbridled joy of getting to open stuff that you’re never going to think about again and feel no guilt about throwing away.